Senate chamber

Senate chamber (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Less than 12 hours after Democrats used a procedural move to prevent a final vote on a bill the limits early voting in Wisconsin, state Senators were back on the floor Wednesday morning to continue the debate.

The Republican-based bill restricts in-person absentee voting to between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, for two weeks before an election. It also prevents clerks from holding weekend voting hours.

Supporters argue that a standard time frame for early voting is needed to keep elections fair, after several larger cities expanded their hours for recent elections with major statewide races. Democrats argue the proposal is nothing more than an attempt to suppress votes in areas that typically support their candidates. State Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) says Republicans are trying a strategy where “if you can’t win them over with policy, and ideas, and candidates, then what you do is suppress their voter turnout.”

Republicans claim the bill protects fair access to the polls, since voters in rural areas are not being given the same opportunities to cast a ballot that those in urban areas are currently getting. Monona Democrat Mark Miller says that’s an unfair comparison, when you take into account that those rural precincts may have to worry about 400 voters in an election, while larger cities may have thousands of voters who need to cast ballots before an election.

The bill passed on a 17-16 vote, with Republican Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) joining Democrats in voting against it. The measure now heads to the state Assembly.

The bill was among several approved in the Senate Wednesday morning, after Democrats blocked final votes on Tuesday night. The other measures include proposals to limit lawsuit awards against the parents of teen drivers, expanding the time frame for campaign donations from lobbyists, and a bill critics say could slow-down lawsuits related to asbestos exposure.

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