MADISON - A series of proposals that some Wisconsin lawmakers say would close some loopholes exploited during last November's election will never become law.
The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate on Wednesday passed four plans that deal with voter ID for absentee voters, ballot dropboxes, voting in nursing homes, and the use of outside election grant money.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he will not sign any of them.
“My basic theory is democracy works best when we get as many people to the polls as possible,” Evers told the paper. “I don’t care if they vote for Republicans or Democrats, as long as they vote. Any time that we take a step back from that, I will look with great disdain on those bills.”
Republicans say the reforms simply clarify the state’s election laws.
“No voter should be disenfranchised and every voter’s ballot should count equally. That's why election integrity matters,” Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Cedarburg, said on Wednesday. “[All] four election integrity bills that increase transparency, consistency and uniformity in our election processes.”
Breaking down the four bills:
Voter ID for absentee voters
One proposal would require that anyone who requests an absentee ballot must provide a copy of their identification each time they request an absentee ballot. The plan would also have voters fill out a certification form when they return their absentee ballot.
Wisconsin saw a massive jump in absentee voting last fall. The Wisconsin Elections Commission said 41% of voters in the state cast an absentee ballot last fall in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Just 5% of voters cast an absentee ballot in the 2016 presidential race.
Limits on ballot dropboxes
The Senate’s plan would formally recognize ballot dropboxes for the first time in Wisconsin.
Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said the state’s election code never specifically mentioned dropboxes before. Her plan would allow cities or counties to have drop boxes at their local election offices. Any city or county with more than 70,000 people could have up to three more dropboxes.
“Drop boxes are an added convenience, and voters will still have the option of mailing their ballot,” Darling said, “Having legal and standardized drop boxes will help our elections run smoothly and restore confidence in our system.”
Outside election money
Republicans also approved a proposal aimed at limiting how outside nonprofit groups can finance election efforts. The proposal would ban the groups from donating to local election offices to help with election operations. It is a direct reaction to reports that the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life spent more than $8 million on election efforts in Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay.
Nursing home voter clarification
The final plan from Senate Republicans would create a backup system for poll workers who may be blocked from getting into nursing homes in the state.
That was an issue when nursing homes across Wisconsin closed to visitors because of the coronavirus.