WED PM Update: Lawmakers divided over bill to allow immediate tabulation of in-person absentee ballots

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— Lawmakers today sparred on a proposal to allow in-person absentee ballots to be tabulated immediately rather than on Election Day.

The measure, which passed the Assembly but stalled in the Senate last session, was one of several to receive a joint hearing before elections panels from both chambers this morning. It boasts bipartisan support ranging from rural Assembly Republicans to Senate Dems hailing from north and central Milwaukee, but it came under fire today from an equally diverse and bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Backers — such as co-authors Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, and Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, testified in support of the measure. They say the proposal is a voluntary and simple modernization of the election system that allows in-person absentee ballots cast by voters to be counted immediately.

Under current law, county clerks must count all absentee ballots on Election Day, a system which the bill’s authors say creates delays and confusion when tallying results while overloading poll workers. This proposal would allow those ballots to be counted by voting machines immediately. Counties and municipalities would work with the state Elections Commission to determine the timeframe in which the machines would be available, or they could opt out of the process completely.

Taylor and Brandtjen pointed to a host of other potential benefits, including increased access for disabled voters, reduced numbers of damaged ballots that would have to be recreated by poll workers and large cost savings.

But a bipartisan group of critics expressed concern the proposal could open the floodgates for tampering with voting equipment and potential election interference.

With voting machines available to the public for a much longer period, said Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, the risk that they could be tampered with increases exponentially.

Miller also said he worried that while the bill still encouraged partisan election observers to monitor the process, stretching out the timeline for observation from Election Day to up to a six-week period meant that process was no longer feasible.

“It’s hard enough as it is to get volunteers to monitor the polls on Election Day,” he told this afternoon. “My concern about this proposal is that it opens up an opportunity where people are not as confident about the way the ballots are counted.”

Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe testified for information purposes but did not formally take a position on the bill. Neither did the Wisconsin County Clerks Association, though Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell indicated to that the WCCA opposed the legislation but would support it if several amendments were made. The Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association, meanwhile, registered in support of the measure.

— Wolfe threw her support behind three other bills during the public hearing.

According to Wolfe, the three measures would “fix many technical issues” and “do not include significant policy changes.”

Lawmakers at the joint hearing provided little feedback on the measures. Rep. Ron Tusler, the author of the three bills and chair of the Assembly Campaigns and Elections committee, noted that “there seems to be pretty unanimous support so far.”

See the bills:

— U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, continued to call on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump after special counsel Robert Mueller’s talked about his probe into Russian interference with the 2016 election.

Mueller said he determined a sitting president couldn’t be charged, adding “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

Pocan said Mueller’s public statement didn’t differ from what was in the report he compiled. But he added it “serves as an urgent reminder that Congress must uphold its constitutional duty to act as a co-equal branch of government and conduct oversight of the Executive Branch.”

He added President Trump’s insistence that “there was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent” is incorrect and contradicts what Mueller said.

“As I said last week, we must start an impeachment inquiry to deliver the truth to the American people regarding Russia’s interference in our elections and any attempts to obstruct justice in the investigation. Congress must now do its job,” Pocan said.

— GOP lawmakers are urging the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear oral arguments as they seek to overturn a decision denying them permission to intervene in a lawsuit Planned Parenthood filed challenging abortion restrictions.

It is the first time GOP lawmakers have been denied a request to intervene in a federal lawsuit since approving a law in the December extraordinary session granting them that power.

AG Josh Kaul has indicated he plans to defend the statutes. But Republicans continued to question if the Dem AG would mount a vigorous defense considering his past support from abortion rights groups.

U.S. Judge William Conley last month found that argument unpersuasive in denying Republicans’ request to intervene. He also ruled Republicans had failed to show Kaul wouldn’t adequately defend the law.

But the GOP’s attorneys argued Kaul made a “baffling” decision not to file a motion to have the case dismissed in his response.

“A federal court’s determination that the Attorney General adequately represents the Legislature’s interests notwithstanding a state law that makes the exact opposite determination would inflict a serious sovereign harm on Wisconsin and would nullify its policy judgment about how its laws should be defended,” the brief argues.

Read the brief:

— Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky’s state Supreme Court campaign has retained Nation Consulting’s Sachin Chheda as general consultant.

It’s the same role he served in for Rebecca Dallet as the then-Milwaukee County judge won an open seat on the state Supreme Court in 2018.

Tyler Hendricks, who worked on Lisa Neubauer’s unsuccessful Supreme Court race this spring, is serving as Karofsky’s finance director. The campaign is also using the firm of Patrick Guarasci — G Strategies — for fundraising support.

— Bernie Sanders’ campaign is urging the presidential candidate’s Vermont backers to protest former Gov. Scott Walker’s appearance at a Burlington, Vt. fundraiser tomorrow for the state GOP

The event includes tickets of $125 per person up to $1,000 to attend a VIP reception. Walker is set to speak along with Vermont Gov. Phill Scott, according to details posted at the party’s website.

In the email to his Vermont backers, Sanders’ campaign wrote Walker “made his name busting unions, cutting health care, and gutting funding for public education.”

“Scott Walker’s brand of divide-and-conquer politics has no place in Burlington — the city that sparked our political revolution by electing Bernie Sanders as mayor in 1981,” the email reads.

The AFL-CIO and AFSCME are leading the protest.

Sanders’ campaign noted he has encouraged his backers to attend other union-led events, including a hospital strike in Pennsylvania.

See the email:

See details of the fundraiser:

— Assembly Speaker Robin Vos today announced members of the newly created Speaker’s Task Force on Adoption.

The committee will focus on removing barriers to adoption and will be chaired by freshman Rep. Barbara Dittrich, R-Oconomowoc; Madison Dem Rep. Lisa Subeck will serve as vice-chair.

Other members include: Reps. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva; Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz; David Murphy, R-Greenville; Bob Kulp, R-Stratford; Patrick Snyder, R-Schofield; Rep. Ron Tusler, R-Harrison; Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond; Jon Plumer, R-Lodi; Timothy Ramthun, R-Campbellsport; David Crowley, D-Milwaukee; Dave Considine, D-Baraboo; LaKeshia Myers, D-Milwaukee; Robyn Vining, D-Wauwatosa; and Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska.

See the release:

— State Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, is at home recovering after he was injured over the weekend while working on a landscaping project at his home, the lawmaker’s office said.

Schraa posted pictures on his personal Facebook page showing him with bruises on his arms and back.

Schraa’s office said there was no timetable for his return to the Capitol.


June 13: luncheon: The future of transportation funding in Wisconsin

Transportation funding has become one of the key debating points in the two-year state budget making its way through the Legislature. Gov. Tony Evers proposed an 8-cent-a gallon increase in the gas tax plus while getting rid of the minimum markup on gasoline — something the administration said would more than wipe out the increase. Republicans have removed the minimum markup provision and left in the gas tax increase for now. Where will the debate lead and will it result in a long-term solution?

Hear details from some of the key players in the debate at a issues luncheon set for Thursday, June 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at UW-Milwaukee’s Waukesha campus just off I-94.

Panelists for the discussion: Wisconsin DOT Secretary Craig Thompson, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, state Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville and a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee, and state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin and a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee. subscribers and members receive discounted pricing for WisPolitics luncheons of $20 per person, including lunch. Price for the general public is $25 per person, including lunch.

This event is sponsored by: Kapur & Associates, UW-Milwaukee, Wisconsin Academy of Global Education and Training, ELEVEN25 at Pabst, Milwaukee Police Association, The Firm Consulting, Medical College of Wisconsin and Spectrum.

The Waukesha County Business Alliance is an event partner.

For more information and registration, visit:



LRB-3401/1: Interior design registration. By Reps. Horlacher and Stubbs and Sens. Kapenga and Johnson.

LRB-2654: Examination and licensure of sign language interpreters. Reps. Skowronski, Brostoff and Thiesfeldt and Sens. Testin and Johnson.

LRB-0311 Providing 12-month prescriptions of birth control. By Reps. Shankland and Tusler and Sens. Johnson and Bernier.

LRB-1713: Money laundering. By Rep. Hutton and Sen. Fitzgerald.


AB 248: Eliminating personal conviction exemption from immunizations. Referred to Committee on Constitution and Ethics.

AB 249: Making honorary designations of state highways or bridges. Referred to Committee on Transportation

SJR 41: Honoring the public service of William T. Pound. Referred to Committee on Senate Organization.

Track bills for free:

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State Journal: Wisconsin sexual assault kit initiative created delay in testing of other cases

State Journal: UW-Madison student pleads guilty to sneaking into Mar-a-Lago

Journal Sentinel: Foxconn awards contracts to ‘Wisconsin’ firms based in Connecticut and England

Journal Sentinel: Victims of human trafficking gave testimony of threats, dangerous job conditions, exploitation

CBS: Mueller: If it was clear the president committed no crime, “we would have said so”

CBS: Missouri governor says Planned Parenthood needs to comply with investigation to avoid shutdown

CNN: Mueller: ‘If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so’

CNN: Nadler on impeachment: ‘All options are on the table’

CNN: Trump and supporters downplay significance of Mueller’s statement

POLITICO: Mueller stirs up Democratic impeachment agitation

POLITICO: DNC makes it more difficult to qualify for 3rd debate

POLITICO: McConnell: Republicans would confirm a justice during 2020 election


– 7:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.: BizTimes Media: Women in Business. Panelists include: Deborah Allen, president and chief executive, DNA Network LLC; Maggie Fernandes, software developer, MacGregor Partners; Kathy Thornton-Bias, president and chief executive, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee; and Julie Waterman, owner, Indulgence Chocolatiers.

– 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.: BizTimes Media: 15th Annual BizExpo. Event includes the Women in Business breakfast, the Bravo! Entrepreneur/I.Q. Awards luncheon and a series of seminars.

– 10 a.m.: Assembly Committee on Rural Development informational hearing. The committee is to hear testimony related to workforce housing in the state.

– 10 a.m.: Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety public hearing on AB 171, relating to sexual contact by a law enforcement officer with a person in his or her custody; and AB 198, relating to battery or threat to a probation, extended supervision, and parole agent; a community supervision agent; or an aftercare agent or a family member of the agent.

– 10:05 a.m.: Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety executive session on AB 15, relating to requiring persons accused of violating traffic laws and ordinances related to driving while intoxicated to appear in person in court; and AB 17, relating to the mandatory period of confinement for homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

– 11 a.m.: Assembly Committee on Education executive session on AB 110, relating to developing a guidebook related to dyslexia and related conditions.

– 11:05 a.m.: Assembly Committee on Education public hearing on AB 195, relating to a license to teach based on reciprocity, other bills.

– 1 p.m.: Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions executive session on three appointments.

– 1 p.m.: Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy executive session on SB 31, relating to permit fees for concentrated animal feeding operations; and SB 137, relating to the nitrate testing pilot program.

– 1:05 p.m.: Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions public hearing on SB 67, relating to lease terms and the imposition of sales and use taxes related to a local professional baseball park district; SB 243, relating to requiring marketplace providers to collect and remit sales tax from third parties and reducing individual income tax rates based on the collection of sales and use tax from out-of-state retailers and marketplace providers.

– 1:05 p.m.: Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy public hearing on SB 215. relating to time limits for correcting violations found by the environmental compliance audit program; and SB 212, relating to fee waivers for state park vehicle admission receipts to pupils enrolled in grade 4.

– 2 p.m.: PSC hearing.

– 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Rep. Allen public listening session.

– 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.: Fundraiser for Rep. Tony Kurtz with U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

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