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GOP Lawmakers Propose Restricting Absentee Voting

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Following a surge in absentee voting across the country last year, Republican lawmakers in several state legislatures have introduced bills voter advocates describe as restrictive. (Adobe Stock)
Following a surge in absentee voting across the country last year, Republican lawmakers in several state legislatures have introduced bills voter advocates describe as restrictive. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
February 24, 2021

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin Republicans have proposed a host of changes to absentee voting following last year's election, but they'll face a veto threat from the governor as well as pushback from voting-rights advocates.

The bills, newly introduced this week, would, among other things, require an ID for voting absentee for every election. Current law requires identification only when voting absentee for the first time. They'd also place more restrictions on who can drop off a ballot.

Shauntay Nelson, Wisconsin state director of the nonpartisan group All Voting is Local, said it's clear these bills weren't drafted to help marginalized residents take part in elections.

"When you draft laws," she said, "you have to always think through, 'How does that limit or create access?' And these particular laws limit more than they create access."

The bills' GOP sponsors say they want to restore faith in the election system after former President Donald Trump challenged Wisconsin's results over certain absentee-voting methods, in lawsuits that were rejected by the courts. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has pledged to veto the measures.

One proposal would add requirements for voters younger than age 65 who are confined to their homes, prompting concerns from advocates of people living with disabilities. Nelson said it's time for lawmakers to step out of their comfort zones and their districts, and consult with a variety of voters when drafting these types of laws.

"It becomes really challenging," she said, "because the people are no longer, in some ways, at the center of our activities."

Many other states are seeing similar bills, also filed by GOP lawmakers and viewed as restricting access to voting. There have been other proposals to expand access, including one from Evers to provide funding for automatic voter registration. But it isn't expected to go far in Wisconsin's divided government.

At deadline, the bills had not yet been assigned numbers.

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Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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