Backers of two constitutional amendments say they plan to place on the April ballot one that would bar the use of private resources to administer elections in Wisconsin.
Another that would prohibit non-citizens from voting in local, state or national elections is slated for the November 2024 ballot.
Both amendments have already cleared the Legislature once. If both houses of the Legislature approve them again, they will go to voters for a statewide referendum.
Assembly Majority Leader Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, told a joint legislative hearing Tuesday that backers of the amendments decided to separate them to avoid confusion for voters.
SJR 78/AJR 77, which would ban the use of private money or equipment to administer elections, grew out of conservative complaints over the use of grants many municipalities received for the 2020 election from a group largely funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Testimony and questions before the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee and Senate Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection Committee were often a rehash of past debates over those funds. Some 200 communities received private grants to help cover the costs of putting on the election during a pandemic. But the bulk of the money — about $8.5 million — went to the state’s five largest, which typically favor Dems in partisan elections.
Meanwhile, August and Sen. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, jousted over whether the proposed amendment would hamstring local officials if there’s another public emergency.
Spreitzer said the amendment was “aimed at a once-in-a-lifetime experience” and the Legislature failed to pass legislation before the April 2020 election to provide local officials with resources.
August argued if there was a significant expense facing local governments, the Legislature would provide the funds. That prompted Spreitzer to prod August on how many bills lawmakers approved between the spring of 2020 and the November election that year.
“It’s literally what we do here,” August said of addressing needs for local governments.
“It’s literally what we didn’t do in 2020,” Spreitzer said.
August fired back that “Maybe my municipalities handle their finances better than yours.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine told the committees SJR 73/AJR 78, which would add a photo ID requirement to the Wisconsin Constitution, was proposed to safeguard against a challenge of the current requirement with the state Supreme Court.
Voters are now required through statute to show one to cast a ballot, with some exceptions.
Wanggaard noted Dem groups filed lawsuits challenging the current legislative maps and the state’s school choice program shortly after the court’s majority flipped 4-3 in liberals’ favor.
“We can be sure a lawsuit challenging (voter ID’s) constitutionality is coming to the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” he said.