Yesterday, the Republican-controlled state senate passed seven bills aimed at overhauling Wisconsin’s elections. All of the bills still need approval from the Republican-held state assembly before heading to Governor Tony Evers, who is likely to issue a swift veto to most of the proposals.
Yesterday’s bills are just part of a massive push state Republicans are making to overhaul Wisconsin’s elections — which is itself a part of a nationwide wave of GOP-led election legislation.
Most of the bills, in Wisconsin and across the country, are in response to the misinformation spread by former President Donald Trump before, during and after the November 2020 election.
One bill passed yesterday would bar local governments from receiving private grant funding to administer elections. That comes after the Center for Tech and Civic Life, an independent nonprofit, donated $6.3 million to Wisconsin’s five largest cities last July to cover election-related costs.
Those cities, including Madison and Milwaukee, are also some of the state’s strongest Democratic strongholds. The grants were already challenged in federal court last fall, but that case was struck down in October.
Speaking with WORT in October, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway said that money had gone to supporting voting during a pandemic, funding absentee ballot dropboxes, and additional costs for printing and mailing absentee ballots.
Speaking on the floor, Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) argued that the Republican election bills, as a whole, would disenfranchise disabled Wisconsities.
As part of their election legislation, though not amongst the bills considered yesterday, the state’s Republicans are taking aim at absentee voting procedures — specifically indefinitely confined voter provisions. Indefinitely confined voters are those who are unable to cast a ballot in-person.
“You’re going in with a shotgun to try and solve a problem with some of these elections bills,” Carpenter said. “Instead of going after the very minute number of people that are committing fraud, you’re disenfranchising a whole group of people…marginalized voters that have a more difficult time.”
During last year’s Presidential election about a quarter million Wisconsinites cast their ballots as indefinitely confined — a four-fold increase from the Presidential race in 2016. In Dane county, about ten percent of voters, or about 26,000 people, said they were indefinitely confined during last fall’s election.
Biden won the state of Wisconsin by a narrow margin, about 20,600 votes.
Like most of the Republican-authored election bills, the indefinitely confined legislation is likely to be vetoed by Governor Evers. But, Denise Jess, the Executive Director for the Wisconsin Council for the Blind and Visually Impaired, says the fact that they’re even being considered is problematic.
Said Jess: “We see the veto as the last resort for stopping the bills. The more traction they get, the more attention they get…They lay the foundation for future legislative action. Let’s say the bills pass the houses and they go to the governor’s desk and they don’t get signed, but in a future legislative period we have a different governor who might be more sympathetic to the bill — the groundwork is laid already, so you can move the bills through the houses and onto the governor’s desk much faster.”
In addition to the election legislation passed by the state senate yesterday, lawmakers gave their approval to a series of bills that seek to take control of $3.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds. Currently, that money is at the discretion of Governor Tony Evers.
With their approval in the assembly on Tuesday, those bills now go to the Governor — who will almost certainly veto them. Even if he doesn’t, the nonpartisan legislative fiscal bureau has already raised warnings that some of the Republicans’ spending proposals may not be allowed by federal law.
(PHOTO: WORT News / Flickr)