Election 2020 Voting Wisconsin

Voters wait in line Nov. 3, 2020, outside a pavilion at Center Street Park shortly before the polling site opened on Election Day in Milwaukee.

(The Center Square) – Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature are building momentum toward a new election reform package.

The Assembly’s Committee on Campaigns and Elections on Tuesday held a public hearing for several proposals lawmakers say will close the loopholes exploited during the 2020 elections.

“If we look at each bill as it is, and how they should develop a consistent intent and consistent process for transparency and accountability,” Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, testified.

The proposals range from very specific plans over who can be an election observer to more broad ideas about reining in the mass mailing of ballots.

One of the plans that saw a lot of debate Tuesday is the proposal (AB 178) to have voters fill out both an absentee ballot application and an absentee ballot certification.

“Having the application, which is a pre-vote activity, and a voter certification, which is a post-voting activity, on the same page is confusing and concerning,” Rep. David Steffen, R-Green Bay, told lawmakers.

Steffen said the proposal also makes it clear that voters, as opposed to election managers or outside groups, are to fill out their ballot requests, certifications, and witness information slips.

“It is a very small move of the meter,” Steffen explained. “But it adds a precision that’ll address the concerns, the ambiguities, and the lack of consistency that exists across the state.”

Republicans have complained since the votes were counted in November that local election clerks in Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay did not follow the letter of the law when it came to incomplete absentee ballots.

Democrats at Tuesday’s hearing said many of the Republican plans make the voting process more difficult.

“I’m certainly not looking to create more documents that get in the way of a process that I want to run smoothly,” Rep. Mark Spreitzer, R-Beloit, said.

Steffen said Wisconsin needs one set of very clear election laws, if for nothing else than to restore confidence in the state’s elections.

“Fifty nine percent of people have a lack of confidence in their elections,” Steffen said. “I’ve seen some [polls] as high as 62%, some as high as 69%, some as low as 48%. Best case scenario, 48% of people don’t believe in the sanctity of their vote. Is that the best we can do?”

It will take some time for Republicans in the Assembly and the Senate to agree on a final election reform package. When they do, it’s likely doomed. Gov. Evers has said for months he will not sign any laws that “make it more difficult” for people to vote.