Wisconsin Republicans Fast-Track Elections Bills Wisconsin's capital, Madison. (Dreamstime)
SCOTT BAUER Tuesday, 01 February 2022 05:21 PM
Wisconsin Republican leaders are fast-tracking a package of bills released Tuesday that would clamp down on who can obtain absentee ballots, give a GOP-controlled committee the power to eliminate staff and cut funding to state agencies and force the elections commission to get legislative approval before spending any federal money.
The measures are part of a nationwide effort by Republicans to reshape elections following President Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump.
The bills, circulated with a one-day deadline for co-sponsors to sign on, would almost certainly be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers should they pass. But they also show the direction Republicans want to go should Evers lose his reelection bid in November.
Republicans are trying to move quickly on the package of bills because the Legislature is scheduled to end its session for the year in March.
Evers' spokeswoman Britt Cudaback had no comment on the latest proposals, but instead referred to Evers' previous comments in support of the state's current elections system and his veto of six Republican bills that would have made it more difficult to vote absentee.
Many of the bills are in reaction to recommendations made in a review of the election by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and another by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. The proposals come before final recommendations are made by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman as part of his ongoing investigation ordered by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
Biden's win by just under 21,000 votes over Trump in 2020 has withstood recounts, lawsuits and reviews.
A Republican-controlled committee has also ordered the Wisconsin Elections Commission to draft emergency rules governing the use of absentee ballot drop boxes and making changes to absentee ballot envelopes, such as missing addresses.
The commission voted Monday to move ahead with a rule on absentee ballots, but it deadlocked on what to do next on absentee ballot boxes. Republican lawmakers have threatened to file a lawsuit if the Feb. 9 deadline for proposing emergency rules is not met.
One bill circulated by Republicans on Tuesday would require the commission to submit any guidance it issues to election clerks to the Legislature's rules committee, which would have the power to effectively nullify any guidance it felt should instead be a formal rule. Enacting a rule can take months or years and is a more formal process than simply issuing guidance to municipal clerks as the elections commission routinely does currently.