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Here's what election changes Wis. Republicans proposed today & why Dems say there's a 'full-on assault' on voting
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Here's what election changes Wis. Republicans proposed today & why Dems say there's a 'full-on assault' on voting

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MADISON — Republican lawmakers in battleground Wisconsin have introduced a series of bills designed to make it more difficult to vote absentee, a push that comes after former President Donald Trump made unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud after his narrow loss to President Joe Biden.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, is all-but-certain to veto the bills should they pass the Republican-controlled Legislature. But the measures released on Monday show the priorities of Republicans, and what they might try to enact if a Republican is elected governor in 2022.

Duey Stroebel, Wisconsin Republican senator representing Cedarburg area

Stroebel

The bills, spearheaded by state Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, would require absentee voters to provide an ID for every election, limit who can automatically receive absentee ballots for every election and create more paperwork for those who vote early in clerk’s offices.

The proposals would also put new limits on when voters are considered indefinitely confined because of age or disability. Under a long-standing law, confined voters do not have to show ID to receive absentee ballots and do not have to regularly reapply for ballots.

Racine connection

Another bill would limit municipalities from applying for or accepting grants for elections administration in most cases. For the statewide Elections Commission to distribute any private money for elections, the bill would require it be distributed to each municipality in Wisconsin on a per-capita basis, and for the Legislature’s budget committee to sign off first.

This bill specifically targets something that affected Racine, with the City of Racine being one of a handful of Wisconsin municipalities that accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from a foundation connected to Priscilla Chan, wife of Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg. That money was used to promote voting in historically disenfranchised communities, which included setting up ballot drop boxes throughout the city. Although some criticized the practice as unsafe, no fraud has been linked to voting via drop box.

An unsuccessful election lawsuit — one of dozens filed by those aligned with former President Donald Trump and his supporters over the past 12 months — brought by the Wisconsin Voters Alliance attempted to challenge Wisconsin’s election results based on an argument that Zuckerberg tried to circumvent absentee voting laws through grants provided to certain municipalities through a nonprofit he funds.

The legislation would also prevent local clerks from sending voters unsolicited absentee ballot applications, and would bar poll workers who work for candidates or political action committees or other political organizations from doing the same.

Trust or an assault?

Stroebel said the bills seek to restore confidence in the election process.

“We must ensure uniformity of process and transparency of conduct so all voters, regardless of political belief, trust the final outcome,” Stroebel said in a statement.

Three Democrats who serve on the Assembly Elections Committee called the bills a “full-on assault on our elections and the ability for Wisconsinites to vote.” The effort is about restricting the ability to vote because of Trump’s loss, not improving elections, Democratic Reps. Mark Spreitzer, Lisa Subeck and Jodi Emerson said in a joint statement.

Confined voting

Under one bill, voters under the age of 65 who say they are confined to their homes could no longer claim the status without a medical professional’s endorsement. It would also clarify in state law that the threat of a pandemic may not be used to apply for the status — advice clerks in Dane and Milwaukee counties briefly gave to voters last spring amid voter anxiety over voting in person. The state Supreme Court later ordered the advice banned.

About 215,000 Wisconsin voters identified themselves as indefinitely confined in November, up from about 67,000 in the 2016 presidential election. While confined voters are not required to provide a copy of an ID, about 80% of them have an ID on file or have shown an ID at the polls in recent years, state data shows.

Nursing homes

Another Stroebel bill would require nursing home administrators to tell relatives of their residents when clerks known as special voting deputies will be on site to deliver ballots. The bill also would make it a felony for nursing home employees to try to influence residents’ votes.

Under another measure, state law would be modified to allow in-state family members or a designee of absentee voters to return ballots on their behalf.



‘Democracy in the Park’

The bill also would allow municipalities to designate a site other than the clerk’s office as a location to collect absentee ballots.

However, the sites could not be used by voters to apply for an absentee ballot or to cast an in-person ballot. That would effectively ban events known as “Democracy in the Park,” which were held in 2020 by Madison election officials to collect absentee ballots and help voters apply for absentee ballots.(tncms-asset)6ff1ec52-1e2c-11eb-b058-00163ec2aa77[1](/tncms-asset)

Reporting from the Associated Press and Riley Vetterkind of Lee Newspapers contributed to this article.

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