The Assembly approved allowing clerks to begin processing absentee ballots the day before an election, but only after Dems and Republicans accused each other of negotiating in bad faith on the proposal.

Meeting for the final time of the regular session, the Assembly broke late Thursday afternoon for nearly four hours of private meetings as the change was discussed.

After they emerged, Assembly Speaker Vos, R-Rochester, slammed Dems for what he called bad faith negotiations. He said Dems earlier in the day called to pass legislation allowing early ballot counting, but backed out after talking to their “masters” outside the room.

“So instead what they’re doing is the typical Democratic tactic we have now seen for almost a decade, which is straw man arguments, false negotiating tactics and ultimately in the end abdicating their entire responsibility to cut a real deal, to try to make something actually happen,” he said.

Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, called Vos a liar who poisoned the well by telling lawmakers that Dems were the ones who could not make a deal with Republicans. The Beloit Dem said Republicans wanted to add unnecessary language that would make local clerks’ jobs harder. He said Dems were trying to reach their local clerks about the proposed changes.

“What does he do? He comes out here and he poisons the well,” he said. “He speaks directly to his side of the aisle and he says the Democrats are bad.”

Under current law, clerks can’t start counting absentee ballots until the polls open at 7 a.m. on election day. In the November 2020 election, Green Bay and Milwaukee didn’t finish counting their absentee ballots until early the next day. Then-President Trump then falsely claimed there was a “vote dump” in Milwaukee as he made various false claims about the election.

The amendment was added to SB 946, which would provide whistleblower protection to municipal clerks who witness and report election fraud or irregularities. The bill then passed on party lines, 55-35. On both the amendment and final passage, GOP Reps. Chuck Wichgers, Janel Brantjen and Scott Allen joined Dems in voting no.

Along with allowing clerks to begin counting absentee ballots the day before an election, the amendment included:

*requiring municipal clerks to provide hourly updates starting at 8 p.m. on election night on the total number of ballots, including absentee ballots, that had been counted, as well as the number that remained to be tallied. Those reports would be given to the county clerk to post online.

*moving up the deadline for independent candidates for president and vice president to June 1. Currently, the deadline is July 1. In 2020, the Elections Commission deadlocked on whether to put the Green Party presidential and vice presidential candidates on the November ballot after issues were raised with nomination papers. The party sued, and the state Supreme Court ruled the Green candidates had waited too long to challenge the decision because absentee ballots had already been printed.

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