September 18, 2014

Election bills raise concerns

Legislation proposed by a Republican lawmaker is raising some issues for groups that seek to promote voting rights in Wisconsin. Andrea Kaminski with the League of Women Voters says under terms of one of the bills from state Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), if a busy poll worker forgets to ask a voter to sign the poll book, another ballot could be “drawn down” in the case of a recount.

“You could sign the poll book, do everything right, but nontheless, if a poll worker forgot to ask someone else to sign the poll book, your ballot could be removed,” Kaminski says. She says if, for example, five people at a given location don’t sign the poll book and five ballots are pulled, “it’s very unlikely that those five ballots will be the five people who didn’t sign the poll book.” The bill from Lazich is SB 266.

“The problems we’ve seen in Wisconsin elections have often been a case of poll worker errors on a busy day,” Kaminski says. “So let’s reduce errors.” The League has recommended increased training for poll workers.

The bill from Lazich is one of eight elections-related measures that she originally introduced in April and is now hoping to advance this fall. Another bill proposed by Lazich would double the number of nominees the governor could consider to serve on the Government Accountability Board — the G.A.B. — which is composed of six retired judges.

“The board has made decisions that I think have equally antagonized both Republicans and Democrats,” says Jay Heck with Common Cause in Wisconsin. “It is something that really doesn’t need to be fixed, with regard to the composition of the six member board.”

Heck says the G.A.B. is “far removed from partisan politics,” and this would make it easier for a governor to select members based on ideology. “This is another attempt to extend executive power into an area where it really doesn’t belong.” The bill from Lazich is SB 268.

Other bills from Lazich deal with absentee ballots, same day registration, and election inspectors.