A bill restricting in person, absentee voting is ready for the governor’s signature after passing the state Assembly Thursday night on a partisan vote. The bill limits times for voting by in-person absentee ballots, but Democrats like Racine Representative Corey Mason said Republicans want to make it harder for certain voters to take advantage of early voting.
“It’s just that you don’t like Democrats voting early in cities,” Mason said. “Particularly minority voters voting early in cities. That’s what this is about. The early voting has been used in places like Racine, Milwaukee and Madison which all have Democratic majorities. “I can tell as somebody who’s gone to the polls to vote early, the diversity in those lines is far greater than the diversity that we see in this room,” said Mason.
The bill restricts in-person absentee voting to between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, for two weeks before an election, and prevents clerks from holding weekend voting hours. “What astounds me is this is not reflective of a democracy,” said Madison Democrat, Representative Terese Berceau. “Act 10 wasn’t, this most definitely isn’t. To restrict people’s right to vote, this is historic.”
Republicans argue the bill is needed for “uniformity” – because rural areas can’t offer extended voting hours. Milwaukee Democrat, Representative Mandela Barnes, asked the bill’s author, Cedarburg Republican Duey Stroebel, whether the bill could be defined as voter suppression. “This bill is equality across the state,” replied Stroebel.
Chippewa Falls Representative Cathy Bernier, the only Republican to speak in support of the measure, cited a 1985 statute that she said compels lawmakers to guard against abuses of absentee ballots. “I want everyone and anyone who is willing and wanting to cast a vote, by mail, in person or on election day to do so, but we shan’t go against this law,” said Bernier, a former county clerk.
“Give me a break. If you want people to vote, you don’t create a ceiling, you create a floor,” said Representative Chris Taylor, a Madison Democrat. “You create some minimum hours that everybody has to abide by, and you let municipalities meet the needs of their community.”
The bill has already been passed by the Senate and is now ready for Governor Scott Walker’s signature.