Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Matt Rothschild says a series of Republican-authored election bills would hog-tie the Wisconsin Elections Commission by nit-picking and hyper-monitoring the commission.

Republicans introduced a series of bills they say are aimed at addressing election integrity concerns that surfaced during and after the last presidential election. The legislation would bar election officials from accepting private money to fund elections, fine up to $1,000 those who falsely claim indefinitely confined status on their absentee ballot applications and require WEC weekly to submit all documents and communications applicable to municipal clerks to the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, among other things.

Rothschild during a Senate Elections, Election Process Reform and Ethics Committee public hearing yesterday said requiring such frequent review of WEC communications would unnecessarily bog the commission down with extra work.

He asked committee members: “Are you going to allow the Elections Commission to do its job? Or are you going to kill it by 1,000 cuts?”

But later in the hearing, Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, said clerks in his district want more guidance to help them answer questions posed by voters in their areas.

“I have a whole lot of clerks that are saying ‘we want more transparency, we want better understanding of the process and we want more integrity because we’re being questioned in our communities for some of the issues that have been going on in our elections and we want some clarification there,'” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, speaking in favor of a bill he authored that would require WEC to submit plans for federal dollars to JCRAR for consideration before Gov. Tony Evers can distribute them, said it improves on existing best practices. The Oostburg Republican added SB 941 would give the Legislature more oversight.

“As elected officials, we are charged with providing the finest, most responsive government possible,” he said. “When we identify violations of law and problems within a government agency or program, we have an obligation to fix those problems to deliver the best possible services to every Wisconsinite.”

League of Women Voters’ Debra Cronmiller also at the hearing said LeMahieu’s bill would burden WEC with requirements to report documents not required of other state agencies.

“It would allow inappropriate legislative oversight of an agency tasked with overseeing the electoral activities that impact all Wisconsin voters,” she said. “And voters have the right to expect electoral agency functions to be monitored, but not micromanaged.”

Sen. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, proposed taxing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to fund local election efforts since Republicans keep complaining that much of Zuckerberg’s cash went to Dem strongholds such as Milwaukee and Madison rather than Republican areas.

“So if we don’t want wealthy individuals and foundations to step in and fund key government services, which I agree can create all kinds of problems, why don’t we just tax Mark Zuckerberg and use the money to properly fund our local governments and our elections?”

Chair Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, earlier in the hearing said she plans to introduce a bill to increase funding for local clerks soon, but she said Roys made a “great point.”

“I’m looking forward to Mr. Zuckerberg to be a resident of Wisconsin very soon, and Milwaukee specifically,” she said.

Watch the hearing at WisconsinEye.

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