February 13, 2016

Election changes clear Assembly

The state Assembly has approved an election reform bill, although the future of the legislation remains unclear.

The provisions in the bill include doubling campaign contribution limits and allowing some voters to register online. It passed Wednesday on a bipartisan voice vote, after more controversial changes to the state’s contested voter ID law were removed.

State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa praised Republicans on the floor for removing the “divisive issue of voter suppression” as part of the compromise, which she says will give voters greater access to the ballot.

AUDIO: Rep. Zamarripa (:14)

Republicans had initially proposed changes to the voter ID law aimed at clearing up issues raised in ongoing court battles over the requirement. The language was later removed because of conflicting legal opinions on the issue, although leaders say they could revisit the issue again this fall.

One of the major components of the bill is allowing donors to give up to $20,000 annually to candidates for statewide office, up from the current limit of $10,000. The maximum donations for legislative candidates would also double, going to $2,000 for Senate candidates and $1,000 in the Assembly. The bill also allows Wisconsin residents with a valid state driver’s license or ID to register to vote online with the state Government Accountability Board up to 20 days before an election.

The fate of the legislation remains uncertain though. Republicans in the Senate have not yet said if they will take up the bill, although Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Wednesday that the strong bipartisan support for the measure should help move it along. Vos said he would “hope that would be a good indication to the other chamber” that it at least deserves a fair hearing.

AUDIO: Speaker Vos (:14)

If the Senate does not act before the end of the month, when lawmakers are expected to adjourn for the summer, it’s unlikely the bill would receive a vote until at least September.

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