Wisconsin’s Ethics and Elections Watchdogs Are Widely Respected – Why Are Partisan Politicians Trying to Fire Them?

Story Date: 
Jan 15, 2018

By Chris Ott

Last month Wisconsin legislative leaders suddenly demanded resignations from the widely respected administrators of the Wisconsin Elections Commission and the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.

That’s right: heading into an election year, partisan politicians are brazenly attempting to fire the independent watchdogs who help hold them accountable.

We have to fight this.

Michael Haas of the Wisconsin Elections Commission and Brian Bell of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission have faithfully enforced our ethics laws and protected the integrity of our elections – and they have bipartisan support from the commissioners they report to.

In the case of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Michael Haas and his staff oversaw the Wisconsin recount of the 2016 presidential election and have successfully implemented measures such as online voter registration.

Yet in December, Wisconsin’s state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos demanded their resignations. And if they do not resign, Senator Fitzgerald claims the state senate has the authority to fire them.

As we head into a midterm election year, this looks alarmingly like a Trump-style political move to replace public servants who have acted as evenhanded referees. Wisconsinites deserve better.

Politicians who don’t want to follow the rules shouldn’t be able to fire the referees.

Wisconsin needs evenhanded public servants. We should let these bipartisan agencies do their jobs without interference from politicians trying to protect their own political interests.

That’s why we at the ACLU of Wisconsin, along with our thousands of supporters, members and volunteers are calling them out. 

Wisconsinites have had enough of partisan politicians trying to skirt the rules and rig the game in their favor. Everyday Americans are fighting back: calling their representatives, talking to their neighbors, and getting engaged in their communities in unprecedented numbers.

Elected officials who think they can act against the public interest and get away with it are in for a rude awakening. The people of Wisconsin are watching and ready to hold them accountable at the polls.

Related Key Issue: