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Proposed Changes to Voting Laws Has Some Upset

State Capitol
Justin Kern, Flickr

Another move is afoot in Wisconsin to change the state’s election laws. There will be a public hearing in Madison Tuesday at 10 am on the Republican plan. As WUWM’s LaToya Dennis reports, the author uses one word to describe his legislation: omnibus. Among things it would do:  prohibit local recalls – unless an elected leader broke the law. It would limit early voting hours. That change would affect the City of Milwaukee.  It has extended early voting opportunities during high turnout elections. And the bill would, in some cases, discard ballots.

GOP Rep. Jeff Stone says he wants to improve the security of Wisconsin elections. For instance, he wants to make sure voters sign the poll book. The legislature approved that requirement a couple years ago. However, Stone has a plan, if voters don’t comply.

This would allow those ballots to be challenged if there were not signatures in the poll book,” Stone says.

Under Stone’s plan, the number of signatures at the end of the election would have to match the number of ballots cast.

“How are they going to know which ballots belong to the people who didn’t sign the poll book?”

That’s Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters in Wisconsin. It opposes the assemblyman’s plan.

Well how are they going to do that?” Kaminski says.

The answer is that poll workers would toss out random ballots, until the number of signatures matches the number of ballots cast at each location.

Kaminski says the state should not punish random voters for errors poll workers make. She predicts Stone’s bill would make it tougher for people in Wisconsin to vote.

Rep. Stone says his plan does address photo ID concerns. Court challenges have held up the mandate that voters present photo identification.

Critics say it would discourage people from voting if they don’t have a photo ID or the means to obtain it.

Stone says his bill would allow exceptions.

“A voter who cannot obtain a photo id for some specific reason because it would have a cost to them or they have a religious objection, something like that, they could affirm that and they would be able to cast a ballot.”

Wisconsin isn’t the only state changing its voting laws.

Some have made news for adopting photo ID and limiting early voting hours – such as Alabama and Florida.

However, others are trending in the opposite direction, according to Diana Kasdan. She’s with the Brennan Center.

It’s a think-tank and advocacy group in New York.

Kasdan says a few states are moving to modernize their voter registration systems.

“Through things like online registration, making sure that when you move within a state you’re not kicked-off the rolls, and instead your registration moves with you,” Kasdan says.

Kasdan says among the states creating online voter registration, are Colorado and Illinois.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.