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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Republican lawmakers introduce bills to restrict voter registration laws in Wisconsin

Republican lawmakers are attempting to change voting laws in Wisconsin to make it more difficult to vote absentee, following a record number of mail-in ballots during the 2020 presidential election.

The bills, led by Republican state Sen. Duey Stroebel, would require absentee voters to provide an ID for every election, limit who can automatically receive absentee ballots and create more paperwork for those who vote early in clerk’s offices for every election, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

President Joe Biden won by just about 21,000 votes in Wisconsin, where over 1.9 million absentee ballots were cast.

The proposals would also limit when voters are considered indefinitely confined because of disability or age. 

Under current laws, which have been in place since 2015, voters do not have to use an ID to reapply for ballots regularly. Instead, voters have to provide an ID the first time they request an absentee ballot, but not after that, as the local clerk keeps a copy of their ID on file to verify their identity.

Stroebel said the bill's purpose is to seek restoration of confidence in the election process, using a 2019 Gallup poll that showed that 59% of those surveyed said they had little confidence in the honesty of U.S. elections.

“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.

While Stroebel plans to implement these changes, Assembly Speaker Vos cast doubt on whether all the changes in the bills would make it to Evers’ desk in a press conference Tuesday. 

"Some of [the bills] have good ideas. Some of them have problems," Vos said

While Gov. Tony Evers is most likely to veto the bills if they pass the Republican-controlled legislature, it is unknown what would happen in the future for the absentee voting process if a Republican replaces Evers in 2022. 

“The idea that we’re going to solve [voting] problems by making voting more difficult — I just can’t accept [that],” Evers said in December. 

Under one bill, confined voters and overseas voters would no longer automatically have absentee ballots sent to them for every election. Under another, a voter could reapply to claim indefinitely confined status only if they receive a medical professional’s endorsement. 

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Requiring disabled voters to get signed statements from their healthcare providers means they would need to go to the doctor, which may not be covered by insurance, according to Director of the Milwaukee office of Disability Rights Wisconsin Barbra Beckert.

“If the goal is to reduce the number of people with disabilities voting in Wisconsin, this bill will do it,” said Beckert in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Another bill would not allow local governments to accept private donations to help them conduct their elections. These donations would need to go through the state and be distributed equally to local governments based on population. 

That bill could be in response to the $6.3 million in grants provided to Milwaukee and four other Wisconsin cities by the Center for Tech and Civic Life last July to conduct their elections, which is funded by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. 

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