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Wisconsin Senate Approves Election Changes, Including for Absentee Voting

Cities, such as Milwaukee, would have to scale back the hours they've offered early voting, under one bill the Senate advanced Wednesday.

The bill directs communities to offer early or absentee voting for 45 hours a week during the two weeks prior to elections and only on weekdays

Supporters of the measure say it's only fair to have uniform absentee voting hours statewide. Critics say each community should decide how to enable a maximum number of residents to vote.

The Senate vote was 17 to 16.  Republican senators cast all the 'yes' votes. Democrats plus outgoing GOP Sen. Dale Schultz voted against.

Schultz also sided with Democrats in opposing two other election-related items.

One would allow observers at the polls to stand three feet from people registering to vote or picking up their ballot. The right, the distance required is several feet farther.

Another bill would allow lobbyists to start giving political candidates campaign donations, seven weeks earlier than current law allows, although not during a legislative session.

All the Republican-sponsored changes now head to the Assembly, where passage is expected because of its strong GOP majority.