GOP Voting Changes Set for Approval by Wisconsin Legislature

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature was prepared to pass a package of fast-tracked bills this week that would make it more difficult to vote in the presidential battleground state, election year measures that are all but certain to be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

The proposals are part of a nationwide effort by Republicans to reshape elections following President Joe Biden's win over Donald Trump, who has falsely claimed the election was stolen.

The Wisconsin Senate was taking up more than a dozen measures on Tuesday, with final passage in the Assembly expected on Thursday.

Evers has vowed to veto anything that makes it more difficult to vote in Wisconsin, which several of the Republican-backed bills would do. Supporters argue they are responding to problems identified with how the 2020 election was run in reports by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

The bills come as the Legislature is nearing the end of its two-year session.

Republicans do not have enough votes to override a veto unless Democrats join them, which has never happened with Evers as governor. Even though Evers vetoes are expected, Republican candidates for governor have voiced support for many of the changes. Evers is up for reelection in November and has made protecting the current election system one of his campaign themes.

All of 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 defeated Trump by just under 21,000 votes in Wisconsin, an outcome that has withstood lawsuits, recounts and reviews. Still, Trump has pressured Republicans to try and overturn the result, something embraced by one state lawmaker and candidate for governor, Rep. Timothy Ramthun, but a move that other GOP leaders and the Legislature's nonpartisan attorneys have repeatedly said is unconstitutional and can't be done.

Other Republican candidates for governor, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and former Marine Kevin Nicholson, support dissolving the bipartisan elections commission and giving election-related duties to others. Evers has stuck up for the current system, which was created and put into law by Republicans.

Kleefisch last week refused to say whether Biden won Wisconsin, after previously saying he had.

One of the proposals up this week, starting Tuesday in the Senate, would give the Legislature control over guidance delivered to local election clerks by the state elections commission. Another would empower the Legislature to eliminate staff or cut funding for the elections commission and the departments of transportation, corrections and health services if lawmakers determine any of they failed to comply with election law. And a third would limit who could claim to be indefinitely confined, which allows them to vote absentee without showing a photo ID.

Another bill would prohibit anyone other than the voter, an immediate family member or a legal guardian to return an absentee ballot. It also would not allow for absentee ballots to be automatically mailed to voters who have a standing request for that, except for those who are indefinitely confined and military and overseas voters. And it would require all voters to enclose a copy of their photo ID when they apply for an absentee ballot.

Another measure would bar special voting deputies from helping residents in long-term care facilities only when there is a public health emergency or a disease outbreak that causes the facility to be closed to the public

Evers has previously vetoed six Republican bills that would make it more difficult to vote absentee.

At least two of the measures would sidestep Evers and instead eventually go to voters to consider. Constitutional amendments up for votes this week would bar donations from outside groups to help run elections and say that only U.S. citizens can vote. Those could be put up for voter approval in 2023, a year before the presidential election.