A Dem member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission charged that “a small group of Republicans” is out to seize control of state elections infrastructure ahead of the 2022 elections.
“There’s a small group of Republicans that are willing to make outrageous claims, just to get us to resign, and (WEC administrator) Meagan Wolfe to resign, so they control the infrastructure of who is going to be running the 2022 elections,” commissioner Mark Thomsen said in an interview aired Sunday on “UpFront,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, last week introduced a resolution calling on five of the six elections commissioners to resign, along with Wolfe and her deputy. The resolution also refers to potential charges against the commissioners. Thomsen said Sanfelippo is one of the Republicans trying to gain control of elections.
“UpFront” host Adrienne Pedersen asked Thomsen whether he was considering resigning.
“Not for a minute,” Thomsen replied.
Thomsen also addressed a controversy in Racine County regarding possible illegal voting at a nursing home. The Racine County’s sheriff, who investigated the complaint, referred the matter to the Racine County district attorney for charges. Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said he thought that five of the six WEC commissioners broke the law when they decided not to send special voting deputies into nursing homes to oversee voting during the pandemic.
Thomsen defended the commission’s action in March 2020 during the early weeks of the pandemic when nursing homes were locked down. Thomsen said the commission was trying to allow nursing home residents enough time to get their ballots and return them for the April election.
“They have a constitutional right to vote. We let them vote, and now there are some Republicans who are willing to put their fellow Republicans in prison, for letting old people vote,” Thomsen said.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission is made up of three Republicans and three Democrats and was created by GOP lawmakers.
Pedersen asked Thomsen if he had talked to Racine County District Attorney Patricia Hanson. Thomsen said he has not.
“My theory, I’m sure the district attorney is being pressured, right, somebody is trying to get to her, to do something,” Thomsen said.
“I have full respect for her. I don’t think she will (file charges). But I think she’s getting pressure to do it. But is there an outside chance? Absolutely. I never thought anybody would say that (Republican commissioner) Dean Knudson should go to jail, right, for letting old people vote. We have a sheriff that said it. I know that there’s a small group of Republicans that have crossed the line, and will do anything,” Thomsen said.
Hanson did not reply to an email from “UpFront” asking about the status of the case.
Also on the program, Secretary Karen Timberlake explained the new Department of Health Services recommendation that 16- and 17-year-olds get COVID-19 booster shots. She said evidence shows the vaccinations become less effective over time.
“If you think about other vaccines that we maybe got as children, where we had to get two or three doses to be considered fully vaccinated, what we’re really finding with the COVID-19 vaccines is we really should think of them now as a multi-vaccine series,” she said.
Timberlake also said the Evers administration is optimistic that the federal government will grant its request to send federal health care workers to Wisconsin to help in hospitals and long-term care facilities that are again filling up with COVID-19 patients. She said the delta variant continues to be responsible for most of the serious COVID-19 illness in Wisconsin.
In another segment, Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said a shortage of workers continues to be the biggest challenge for business and the state’s economy.
Bauer said the problem existed before the pandemic, but worsened with the onset of COVID-19. He said the worker shortage will cause some businesses to leave or expand outside of Wisconsin.
“If we don’t have workers to replace retiring baby boomers, you lose that job. You lose the tax revenue, you lose the economic activity. Many of our members are saying, when they expand, they’re going someplace else. They are often moving to southern states, or maybe moving offshore, so we’re losing out on all that economic opportunity. So it’s a real crisis for the workforce and for the economy,” Bauer said.
The WMC Foundation has just issued its “Wisconsin 2035” report. WisBusiness.com said the report provides an outline for policymakers and business leaders to drive economic growth through workforce attraction, retention and expansion.
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