Later this month, the US senate will vote on the “For the People Act.” It’s a bill aimed at expanding voter access and has already passed in the house. It comes as states across the country attempt to pass new voting bills Today the Wisconsin State Senate voted on a suite of bills that will restrict access to absentee voting.
The state senate passed 3 republican authored bills on voting. The bills include new standards for voting at nursing homes and rules on ballot boxes. The bills require ballots be returned directly to the clerk’s office. It outlaws unofficial ballot boxes or initiatives like the City of Madison’s Democracy in the Park where people returned absentee ballots to volunteers ahead of the November 2020 election.
The bills were largely passed along party lines. State Senator Melissa Agard, a Democrat from Madison calls the suite of bills voter suppression. “They are making it harder for our friends and neighbors across the state to vote,” she explains. “It’s making it harder for [disenfranchised] folks to have their voices heard.”
However, Senator Alberta Darling, a republican from River Hills and an author of the bills, says the bills are about consistency across the state. She calls the bills a way to combat irregularities between clerks’ offices.
One bill with sweeping consequences will create standards for absentee ballots applications and eliminate a law that allows voters who are indefinitely confined due to disabilities or age to receive an absentee ballot every election. Under the new bill, these voters will receive an application to return before getting a ballot.
Republicans criticized the use of the indefinite confinement provision during and after last year’s presidential election, during which more than 200,000 voters statewide used the provision to vote without submitting photo ID. A January report from the agency that administers elections in Wisconsin found that 80% of voters who registered as indefinitely confined in 2020 had previously provided photo identification.
During the presidential recount last September in Dane and Milwaukee county, attorneys for the Trump campaign challenged ballots from indefinitely confined voters. Since recounts only occurred in Wisconsin’s two most populous counties, other indefinitely confined voters across the state did not have their ballots challenged.
Despite the passage of a majority of bills on voter access more than a dozen organizations registered against them. Among such organizations is a group of faith leaders.
Before the senate session a group met in Madison to call for equal and free access to the ballot box. Speaking at a press conference on Madison’s east side, outside the S.S. Morris African Methodist Episcopal Community Church, speakers spoke on behalf of the Wisconsin Interfaith Voter Engagement Campaign, a coalition of on 17 faith organizations and 88 leaders.
Leaders spoke on the importance of democracy and the impact on marginalized communities. They urged folks to speak out against the bills.
The bills now head to the republican led Wisconsin State Assembly. If passed by that chamber, they would head to the desk of Governor Evers, who has signaled that he would veto the legislation.