GOP lawmakers are circulating five election-related bills, including one that would allow the Joint Finance Committee to punish four state agencies if they failed to comply with certain elections laws.
The bills that began circulating yesterday also include one from Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester. The GOP leaders say it would allow the Legislature to block the state from following federal election guidance.
A LeMahieu spokesman said the bills, along with four that Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, circulated on Friday, are part of a GOP package to respond to issues raised by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and the conservative Institute for Law & Liberty.
Meanwhile, former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman continues his review of the 2020 election. Vos has said he wants Gableman to complete a report on legislative recommendations by the end of February.
A Vos spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to messages asking if the bills reflect any of Gableman’s work so far.
Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, knocked the bills as “yet another blatant attempt to impose a political agenda and partisan control over our nonpartisan elections process.”
“Wisconsin’s elections are free and fair, and the GOP’s continued attempts to undermine confidence in our democratic process needs to end,” she said.
The bill that would open agencies to sanctions for failing to follow election laws would apply to the Elections Commission and the departments of Corrections, Transportation and Health Services.
Under the bill, the four would have to submit annual reports to JFC and the DOA secretary describing their failures to follow certain election-related laws. The DOA secretary would then have to ask JFC to consider taking away position authority from the agencies or lapse money from their appropriations. The lapse could be up to $50,000 for each day of noncompliance.
See the bill draft:
In an accompanying email, LeMahieu and Vos said it would give the Legislature the power to block the state from accepting any federal funds designed to entice Wisconsin to follow federal guidance on election requirements.
Under the bill, the guv would have to submit to the Joint Finance Committee plans to spend any federal funds designated for the Elections Commission. The committee would then have the opportunity to oversee the funds through the 14-day passive review process.
Meanwhile, state agencies would be required to submit to the Legislature any federal election guidance they receive or any communications from the federal government and the U.S. Department of Justice related to that guidance. State agencies wouldn’t be allowed to take action on that guidance without the approval of JCRAR.
The bill also would require local clerks to submit a report to the Elections Commission within 30 days of an election that detailed things like how many registered voters resided in their municipality on the day of the election, the total number of absentee ballots cast by mail or in person, and the number of ballots cast by residents of facilities that used special voting deputies.
It also would change state law to give the legislative leaders of the two major political parties the power to appoint legal counsel to the Elections Commission. Now, all agency employees must be nonpartisan.
See the LeMahieu and Vos bill:
The other election bills would:
*require the Elections Commission to submit to the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules each week all documents and communications issued to municipal clerks that generally qualify as guidance documents. If the committee determines the document or communication qualifies as a rule under current law, the commission would have to withdraw the guidance.
*institute various changes to election procedures including requiring: the Elections Commission to prescribe a uniform absentee ballot request form that must be completed prior to receipt of an absentee ballot; an end to automatic mailing of absentee ballots with the exception of indefinitely confined and overseas military voters; all voters to enclose a copy of their photo ID with an absentee ballot except for military overseas voters and victims of domestic abuse; an end to ballot harvesting; and the Elections Commission to maintain a voter’s electronic signature.
*require the Elections Commission to compare a voter’s personally identifiable information against DOT records within 10 days after registration. According to the Elections Commission, there were 101,000 more registrations at the end of October 2020 than there were at the beginning of the month.