Extended in-person absentee voting hours would be limited, under the terms of a bill debated by the Wisconsin Senate on Tuesday. Democrats used a procedural move to delay final passage of the bill for a few hours. It’s due to be taken up next by the Assembly.
The contentious debate on the bill lasted hours, with Democrats like Senator Bob Jauch of Poplar and Tim Carpenter of Milwaukee comparing Republicans to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“This is a day Putin would be proud of. This is his version of democracy,” said Jauch. “You don’t want to be Putin Republicans,” cautioned Carpenter.
The bill limits voting in clerks’ offices to weekdays between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Its author, West Bend Republican Senator Glenn Grothman, said he wants to “nip this in the bud” before the sort of extended voting available in Milwaukee and Madison spreads to other areas.
Grothman brushed off Jauch’s criticism. “I don’t take a lot of offense at what the Senator from the 25th said,” Grothman said. “There’s a certain amount of boilerplate language that spills out of his mouth, regardless of what bill he’s debating.”
Dane County Democrat, Senator John Erpenbach, charged the bill “tilts the playing field” in elections. “Not so much Democrats versus Republicans, but those who can afford to vote and those who can’t afford to vote, because they’re working three jobs and can’t take off. It’s not fair.”
But Grothmann and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald charged that the sort of extended voting hours offered in Madison and Milwaukee are not fair, because voters in rural areas don’t have anything similar.
“It’s always going to be easier to vote in Milwaukee,” Grothman said. “But when you go out of the way and say in addition to that, we’re going to have in-person absentee voting into the evening, or go 70 or 80 hours a week, it’s just obviously unfair on its face.”