GOP lawmakers have begun circulating a half-dozen bills that would impose new ID requirements on absentee ballots, create new restrictions on collecting those ballots and explicitly ban employees in assisted living facilities from unduly influencing residents’ votes.
The bills come on the heels of GOP calls for new election measures after former President Trump lost Wisconsin to Joe Biden by less than 21,000 votes. Several of the bills would impact issues that Trump raised in his unsuccessful attempts to overturn Wisconsin’s election results.
The package includes one bill that would impose new restrictions on those who claim the indefinitely confined status, which allows voters to cast absentee ballots without having to show a photo ID.
Trump unsuccessfully sought to throw out 28,395 ballots cast by voters in Dane and Milwaukee counties who claimed indefinitely confined status after March 25, when the clerks there suggested on social media that voters could check that status in light of Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The clerks later pulled back that advice.
“Faith in elections is the foundation of our legitimacy as a government and is a prerequisite for the peaceful transfer of power,” GOP lawmakers wrote in seeking co-sponsors for their attempt to change the rules around indefinitely confined status. “Unfortunately, some of our election laws in Wisconsin are vague and a small fraction of election officials have exploited that vagueness to violate the clear intent of the law.”
Dems were quick to slam the bills as an attempt to make it harder to vote after Republicans lost the 2020 presidential race and 2018 guv campaign.
“The package of bills circulating today will collectively make registering to vote & voting more difficult, expensive, inconvenient, & time-consuming for every Wisconsinite,” state Sen. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, tweeted today. “They’re admitting that they don’t believe in democracy, just further rigging the game for themselves.”
The bill to change the indefinitely confined status would:
*require anyone under the age of 65 claiming the status to fill out a statement under oath with a medical professional’s backing;
*clarify a pandemic or a communicable disease is not grounds to claim the status;
*require renewing the status every two years;
*direct the Elections Commission to remove from the list of indefinitely confined voters anyone who claimed the status between March 12 and Nov. 3 while allowing those who remain indefinitely confined to reapply for the status.
Other bills include:
*A requirement for the Elections Commission to create a uniform absentee ballot request for all municipalities to use. It also would require the form to be completed prior to the receipt of an absentee ballot. The bill also would require voters to include a copy of their photo ID with each application for an absentee ballot. Currently, once voters have provided a copy of their photo ID, the identification is sufficient to receive an absentee ballot in multiple cases so long as the card is still valid. For some cards, they are sufficient to receive an absentee ballot if they’ve expired so long as it’s within two years of the last general election.
Trump’s lawsuit challenged the absentee applications that Dane and Milwaukee counties use for early, in-person voters. That’s because the envelope the ballot is placed in doubles as the application. According to the office of co-sponsor Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, the bill draft is silent on whether the envelope can double as the application for early, in-person voters.
*A bill to allow a voter’s immediate family members to return a completed absentee ballot. The bill also would allow voters to designate in writing another voter who could return the ballot for them if they don’t have an immediate family member in the state.
The bill also would place new restrictions on clerks holding events to collect absentee ballots. That became an issue in Trump’s lawsuits as he sought to throw out ballots collected during Madison’s “Democracy in the Park” events. The bill would restrict such events to the period of in-person, early voting, require them to allow for poll observers, and require them to be staffed by clerk’s office employees.
*One bill would prohibit employees of a long-term care facility from influencing a voter’s decision. It also would require facility administrators to notify next-of-kin of each resident of the time and place that special voting deputies will conduct in-person absentee voting at the facility.
Current law bans using threats, violence or restraint to influence someone’s vote.
*One bill would prohibit local election officials from accepting private funds to administer an election. Instead, such money would have to be transferred to the Elections Commission.
The conservative Wisconsin Voters Alliance unsuccessfully challenged grants that a half-dozen of the state’s largest cities received to cover costs of putting on the election during a pandemic. In rejecting the suit, a federal judge noted there was no explicit ban in state law from accepting the money, though he noted the possibility for abuses.
*A bill requiring the Elections Commission to post detailed minutes within 24 hours of a meeting or hearing. Currently, notes are approved by the commission at the following meeting.