Republican Sen. Glen Grothman's bill could mean longer hours for rural communities and fewer hours for cities, including Milwaukee.
Absentee or early voting has become more popular here, especially since 2008. In Milwaukee, thousands of voters have visited the municipal building, in the weeks before election days, to cast ballots. A few told WUWM they didn’t want to wait in long lines on Election Day or find themselves unable to make it. In addition, some groups drove citizens to the polls, to vote absentee - and the city Election Commission expanded its hours to accommodate all the interest, including on weekends.
Senator Glen Grothman now wants the state to set the hours. "I think what this will do is establish some uniformity and make it about the same situation all over the state in-so-far as we can," Grothman says.
Under his plan, Wisconsin would allow absentee voting for 45 hours per week, during the two weeks before elections. The hours must be on weekdays and between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm.
The senator says Milwaukee and Madison might have to scale back what they’ve been doing, while some small communities won’t be able to staff all those hours. "Maybe they (rural communities) will do the 7:30 to 6:00 thing, but at least we won't do something so outrageous, where, in one area, you have it anytime anywhere and in other areas, you have a very limited timeframe," Grothman says.
The bill would allow voters to submit absentee ballots on the weekend, only if they make a formal arrangement with the community clerk.
A coalition of groups voiced objection to the bill Monday at the Capitol, including Martha De La Rosa, director of 9 to 5 Wisconsin. "Voting early is a necessity. It is a necessity in the working class. This process should be simple and readily available, for many working families all across the state. Sometimes the weekends is the only time that 9 to 5 members and other working families and other working women are able to take that moment to vote." De La Rosa.
Several who spoke, call the bill setting uniform voting hours, as an assault on democracy and on efforts to help more citizens vote.
Grothman introduced his plan in October. So far, lawmakers have advanced it along party lines – with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats, against.