Senate Approves Changes to Election Laws

Mar 12, 2014

Wisconsin Senate approves changes to Wisconsin's election laws
Credit Ann Althouse, Flickr

Election reform is underway in Wisconsin. Republicans calls new changes essential, while Democrats are up in arms.

The most divisive piece of legislation would limit in person absentee voting to weekdays between the hours of 8 A.M. and 7 P.M. Clerks would not be able to exceed 45 hours a week and early voting could only take place in the two-weeks before elections. Republicans have said the state needs uniformity, so people in rural areas and those in cities have the same opportunities to vote. No supporters spoke about the measure, but Democrats, including Sen. Lena Taylor had plenty to say. She calls the bill an attack on specific groups.

“I’m trying to speak for the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who are minorities who are students, who are seniors who don’t seem to matter to you. It doesn’t seem to matter to you that the uniformity that you proclaim is going to have a direct disparity on those groups,” Taylor says.

The bill passed by a vote of 17 to 16 with Republican Dale Schultz siding with Democrats.

Another bill the Senate passed, and by the same 17 to 16 vote, would allow poll observers to stand as close as three feet to people registering to vote or picking up their ballot. Democrats argue that the close proximity will lead to shouting matches and police being summoned.  Republican Sen. Mary Lazich spoke to clarify what the bill does.

“The ultimate discretion still rests with the clerk to set the observation area within three feet to eight feet. So it provides adequate flexibility and the clerk’s ability to eject any disruptive observer,” Lazich says.

Another election-related bill the Senate passed would allow poll workers to come from anywhere in the county, not just the specific municipality.

And the majority approved a measure that would allow lobbyists to make campaign contributions as early as April 15 of an election year. The current date is June 1.