This week, Wisconsin legislators will be considering voting bills that will impact the voting rights of Wisconsinites with disabilities.  

Many people with disabilities experience barriers to voting including lack of  transportation, mobility restrictions, inaccessible polling places, limited  access to the internet, difficulty obtaining a state photo ID for voting, and  denial of needed accommodations. As policymakers and election officials  consider changes to Wisconsin law, we ask that they safeguard the rights of  voters with disabilities, including upholding the protections already enshrined  in federal and state law. The goal should be to ensure our elections are  accessible and inclusive of all voters. For our democracy to work, it must  include all of us.  

Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW) is committed to protecting and defending  the voting rights of disabled Wisconsinites. Our perspective on these bills is  grounded in our work supporting voters with disabilities, who have shared  with us the barriers they experience. DRW asks policy makers to consider  our recommendations and to support policies that will make our elections  more accessible, and to oppose any legislation that will create new barriers  and restrictions. More detailed comments are posted here

AB 1002/ SB 937 – Indefinitely Confined Voters. DRW joins other  disability and aging groups in supporting this bill as amended because it will  protect and maintain Wisconsin’s Indefinitely Confined Voter status. It  includes some new helpful provisions to accommodate indefinitely confined  voters. While not all changes we requested were addressed, the bill was  amended to address the most significant concerns raised at the hearing, and  an additional amendment will be offered on the floor. For additional detail,  see the Statement on SB 937 and our comments. 

AB 996/SB 941. -DRW opposes this bill which would impede WEC and  other state agencies from implementing federal election guidance and  procedures without approval of state legislators on the JCRAC.  Concerns: Voting rights are protected by federal laws including the ADA,  the VRA, HAVA, and other civil rights laws. It should not be optional to  comply. Any state action that would impede the operation of the federal statutes (or regulation) would raise constitutional issues, and fall under the  Supremacy Clause, which establishes that the federal constitution, and  federal law generally, take precedence over state laws, and even state  constitutions, and prohibits states from interfering with the federal  government’s exercise of its constitutional powers. 

AB 999/ SB 939: DRW opposes this bill because it would make the process  of absentee voting more difficult. Access to absentee voting is essential to  many disabled voters because of the barriers they face to voting in person. Concerns: DRW opposes this bill. Voters would no longer be able to  request absentee ballots for the year and would need to resubmit photo ID  for every absentee ballot request. Having to repeatedly complete and  resubmit absentee ballot applications and photo ID will create a burden for  voters, especially voters with disabilities such as blindness, multiple  sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy that make it difficult to  complete forms either by hand or on line. The bill would create new  restrictions for voters who need to request assistance with absentee ballot  return. Clerks would be prohibited from sending absentee ballot applications  to anyone who has not requested them. The practice of sending absentee  ballot applications has been very helpful, as so many voters with disabilities  and older adults are isolated and not able to easily obtain or print an  application  

AB 1004/SB 935: This bill includes some positive provisions to address  voting in care facilities during a pandemic or public health emergency when  Special Voting Deputies cannot be admitted.  

Concerns: DRW does not support this bill because we are concerned about  provisions that would prohibit clerks from correcting minor defects on the  absentee ballot certificate. We are also concerned the “personal care voting  assistants” established by the bill are not allowed to assist with voter  registration. 

AB-1005 / SB-934 Voter Registration List. This bill includes some  positive provisions to address lines at polling places, and create additional  requirements for clerk training 

Concerns: DRW does not support this bill because of several concerns. The  bill would require that people who move within a municipality be marked  ineligible to vote. Clerks would no longer be allowed to send the voter a  confirmation notice, and update the information without requiring the voter  to re-register. The bill would require that information received from ERIC be  considered reliable for purposes of changing voter status to ineligible. The  accuracy of ERIC data has been the subject of litigation, because of proven  error rates in the range of 5 – 10 percent. 

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AJR 133 DRW opposes this bill which would advance a constitutional  amendment requiring photo identification to vote in any election.  Concerns. Photo ID is already required in Wisconsin. A Constitutional  amendment is not needed, and is not the right vehicle for this type of policy.  Since it is difficult to change, it cannot be responsive to public need. Many  people with disabilities are non-drivers and have barriers to obtaining an  acceptable photo ID for voting. DRW has recommendations in our testimony  to make changes to the current photo ID law, to expand acceptable photo ID  options to be inclusive of nondrivers. Having a constitutional amendment  requiring photo ID, will create formidable barriers to making changes needed  to provide equitable access to non-drivers.  

Voting rights are the cornerstone of our democracy. Adding more  administrative hurdles and penalties for voters or people trying to help  voters is not fair or wise. Our goal should be to make it easier for our  citizens to participate in elections – not harder. In that spirit, we ask our  state policy makers to work with us to make our elections fully accessible  and inclusive of people of all abilities.  

Disability Rights Wisconsin is the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy system for the  State of Wisconsin, charged with protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities and  keeping them free from abuse and neglect. DRW is charged with protecting the voting rights of  people with disabilities and mandated to help ensure full participation in the electoral process  for individuals with disabilities. DRW staffs a Voter Hotline and assists voters with disabilities, older adults, family members, service providers, and others.  

DRW Voter Hotline: 844-347-8684 / 844-DIS-VOTE

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