Nursing Home Voting Bill Advancing in Committees

MacIver News Service | October 29, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] A bill that aims to end voting irregularities in Wisconsin’s nursing homes took another step forward on Tuesday.

The Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections held a public hearing on Assembly Bill 396 on Tuesday, which would put safeguards in place against voter fraud in nursing homes.

Conservatives are concerned that political operatives are taking advantage of a vulnerable segment of the population. Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) co-authored the bill and said that he’s been overwhelmed with anecdotal tales of election irregularities in the state’s nursing homes. Sometimes it’s a result of poor oversight and other times it seems deliberate.

Grothman told a quick story about a woman, who “voted once at home, once at a facility and she’s out of it. She shouldn’t be voting at all.”

Rep. Kathleen Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) worked with Grothman on the bill that would require nursing home residents vote only through Special Voting Deputies (SVDs). Municipalities would be required to dispatch two of these SVDs to every assisted living facility in their jurisdiction and they would have to post notice of upcoming visits five days in advance.

“I think this will be helpful and create more confidence in our elections,” Grothman said.

Representative Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) pressed Grothman for names of people who provided stories of abuses. The senator said people tell him these personal stories not expecting to be put out in public over them. However, he said there is no shortage of these anecdotes among conservative circles.

Grothman offered another story of “a woman with Alzheimer’s that voted twice; once under her legal name and once under her maiden name.”

Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison) pointed out that the state does not require a competency test in order to vote. She went on to say it was wrong to focus only on these vulnerable individuals who live in nursing homes.

“I think it happens at the polls too. So I think this is a discriminatory issue,” she said.

The Senate held a public hearing for the bill on October 3rd. The next step for these bills will be an executive session where committee members will vote whether or not to move them onto the Assembly and Senate floors. The Assembly Speaker’s office told MacIver News it plans to move on election integrity bills in November, but was not specific as to which ones.