February 10, 2016

Online voter registration heads to Assembly

Wisconsin voters will be able to register online, under terms of a bill passed by the state Senate Tuesday night. The bill also ends the practice of allowing clerks to deputize people to run group registration drives. The Senate voted 19-to-13 to send the Republican-authored package of election law changes to the Assembly.

Opponents said elimination of the special registration deputies would limit voter access. But Senator Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald pointed out that groups can still hold drives where leaders can teach people to use electronic devices to register online.

The bill also allows federal veterans’ I-Ds for voting, and requires absentee ballots to be returned by the time the polls close on election nights.

Bill prohibiting ‘double dipping’ in elected office set for hearing

A bill that would prohibit holding legislative office and a seat in the legislature simultaneously is scheduled for a legislative hearing at the Capitol on Wednesday. The measure’s sponsor, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), has said that the measure is needed to prevent elected officials from “double-dipping” — drawing two taxpayer-funded salaries at the same time.

Democrats have called the timing of the bill suspicious, noting that it comes as Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, a Democrat, is planning to run for an open seat in the senate next fall. Democratic state Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) is also running for Milwaukee County executive this spring.

Several state lawmakers have run for county executive offices in the past, although most have given up their legislative seat shortly after winning those races. Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, a Republican, briefly held onto his state Senate seat after being elected county executive in 2015. Former state Representative Bob Ziegelbauer, a Democrat who later switched to an Independent, served in both the legislature and as the Manitowoc County executive for nearly six years, between 2006 and 2012.

The bill is on the agenda of the Senate Government Operations and Consumer Protection Committee, which meets beginning at noon.

Harris believes GOP ‘very nervous’ about 18th Senate District race

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) wants to prohibit state legislators from also serving as county executives. The proposal comes as Winnebago County Exec Mark Harris — a Democrat — is gearing up to run for the seat being left open by Senator Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac). Gudex has announced that he won’t seek reelection after serving one term.

“It kind of sounds like it’s being aimed specifically at me,” Harris told WHBY. “And that leaves me to believe that they are very nervous about me winning the 18th Senate District.”

Harris wouldn’t be the first person to serve in both capacities. Bob Zeigelbauer served for years in the state Assembly and as Manitowoc County executive. Harris said he doesn’t know if he would run for another term as county executive if he wins the senate seat in November. His term for the county post ends next April.

In addition to Harris, John Lemberger, a member of the Oshkosh school board and a department chairman in the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, has announced he’s running as a Democrat. Winnebago County Republican Party chair Dan Feyen has also announced that he’s a candidate

Gearing up for voter ID in Wisconsin, again

020116VoterIDcardsWith the first statewide election of the year just two weeks away, state officials are ramping up efforts to make sure the public is once again ready to comply with the state’s voter ID requirement.

The law passed by the legislature in 2011 was used in just a single spring primary, before a series of lawsuits put it on hold for much of the last four years. A court decision last spring cleared the way for it to finally take effect though, with the February 16 state Supreme Court primary the first time it will be back in place statewide.

Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy says most voters should be fine when they show up at the polls, because “most people already have the identification that they need – a Wisconsin driver’s license, a state-issued ID from the Department of Transportation, a military ID and a passport are probably the most common forms of ID.”

Some university and technical college ID cards may be acceptable as well, although you will also need documentation showing you are a currently enrolled student.

Those who lack the proper type of ID can also obtain a free card for voting purposes through the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

The GAB has set up a website where voters can go to find out more information about whether their ID is acceptable, along with how to obtain one that will work on election days.

Wisconsin Congressman Reid Ribble not seeking reelection

Rep. Reid Ribble

Rep. Reid Ribble

Wisconsin Congressman Reid Ribble has announced he will not run for reelection this fall.

In a statement released Saturday, the Sherwood Republican said he had accomplished everything he promised to do when he was first elected to represent the state’s 8th Congressional District in 2010. Those promises included rolling back federal discretionary spending to where it was before the recession and making the Bush tax cuts for individuals permanent.

His final promise, Ribble said, was not to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for longer than four terms or eight years, which he will fulfill by not seeking another term. “I’ve always said elected office shouldn’t be a career. I come from the private sector and am anxious to return to it and to a more private life,” he said.

Ribble’s district covers much of northeastern Wisconsin, including Green Bay, the Fox Valley, and surrounding areas. He is the only member of the state’s Congressional delegation to indicate so far that they do not plan to seek another term next fall.