Photo by Saiyna Bashir, The Capital Times

GOP guv candidate Tim Michels is calling for removing all current members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission and firing senior staff as part of a package to reorganize the agency and overhaul election laws.

Michels’ plan released Thursday would call for new appointments to be made within 60 days and require all agency staff to reapply to work for the newly constituted board.

GOP rival Rebecca Kleefisch, who has called for abolishing the agency, said the proposal wasn’t enough.

Meanwhile, the Dem chair of the commission said Michels’ call to rescind all previously issued guidance would create havoc if an election were held before a new commission was convened.

But Michels likened his proposal to his work in business.

“My plan is a fresh start, and allows us to bring in or bring back people who are ready to get to work to fix our elections, not make the problem worse,” said the wealthy construction executive.

The plan also calls for repealing all previous Elections Commission guidance and freezing new guidance pending a full reorganization.

Michels vowed on his first day in office to call a special session of the Legislature to consider his plan. If he were to win, Michels would take office in January, about six weeks before the primary in what is expected to be a hotly contested race for control of the state Supreme Court. The general election in that contest will be six weeks after that.

Commission Chair Ann Jacobs, a Dem appointee, called the proposal “craziness.” She wrote on Twitter even if new staff and commissioners were brought on board quickly, they wouldn’t be prepared to begin administering elections right away.

“And if there’s a special election right after this mass firing? While there are no staff? Who will administer the election? Especially if there’s no guidance. Are you going to tell clerks to wing it? Do whatever they want?” Jacobs wrote.

The plan includes a provision calling for the Elections Commission executive director to be confirmed by the state Senate. The agency doesn’t have an executive director. Administrator Meagan Wolfe is the chief elections officer for the state and leads the agency. She was confirmed by the state Senate unanimously in 2019 for a term that ends June 30, 2023.

After Michels released his plan, Kleefisch again called for the Elections Commission to be abolished. She has proposed putting the secretary of state in charge of election administration, with oversight from the Department of Justice.

GOP contenders Kevin Nicholson and Tim Ramthun have also called for abolishing the commission.

“Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the Wisconsin Elections Commission cannot be reformed,” Kleefisch said.

Michels also wants to give guvs the power to remove and replace any election official held in contempt of court for failing to immediately cure a polling place violation, such as a wrongful denial of an observer being able to follow proceedings.

Michels’ plan also calls for:

*banning private money from being used to cover election costs. Wisconsin communities received $10 million in 2020 from a group largely funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to help cover the costs of putting on an election during a pandemic. Republicans have focused on the $8.8 million that flowed to the state’s five largest cities.

*purging dead and inactive voters from poll lists twice a year. The Elections Commission has stressed a number of times that inactive voters aren’t on the voter lists sent to polling sites on election day. Inactive registrations remain in the system to maintain a complete voting history. Meanwhile, the Department of Health Services now provides information to the agency on deaths. The WisVote system automatically compares the information to voter registration records and personally identifiable information provided by registrants. Local clerks then receive notice whenever there’s a potential match. They review the information to make sure it’s reliable.

*banning the use of unmanned absentee ballot drop boxes. The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this year in a case challenging the use of unmanned drop boxes as well as ballot harvesting.

See the release here.

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