Uniform Early Voting Hours Bill Passes Assembly, Heads to Governor

Rep. Mason: ‘Mr. Speaker, members, this is the new Jim Crow.’

MacIver News Service | March 21, 2014

[Madison, Wisc…] The Assembly passed Senate Bill 324 late Thursday night, which would create uniform hours statewide for early in-person absentee voting.

The bill, authored by Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) and Rep. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), would allow in-person absentee voting the two weeks prior to the election for a total of 45 hours per week. Municipal clerk’s offices would be allowed to be open any time between 8am and 7pm Monday through Friday. The bill would effectively end the ability to vote on the weekend in person.

The authors of the bill argued it would create standardization and fairness across the state because many small towns do not have the resources to offer as many hours as bigger cities like Milwaukee and Madison.

The bill does not change anything for voting on election day or voting absentee by mail.

During the Assembly debate, Rep. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) said that Democratic claims the bill would reduce voting in the state were wrong. She pointed to New Hamshire, a state that has no early voting, which she said was a state with one of the best voter turnouts in the nation during the 2012 election.

“So, is voter participation completely tied to absentee voting? I would argue it is not,” Bernier said. “It has to do with political efficacy and the fact that [high voter turnout states] were target states for the presidential election. That is what turns out the electors.”

That did not stop Democrats from slamming the bill.

“This is actually one of the most shameful bills I have seen this session,” Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) said during floor debate. “Why would you want to restrict the opportunity for people to vote early? Because you don’t like how they vote, and you don’t like who is voting.”

Mason followed up these remarks with similar statements made during debate on the bill on the Senate floor.

“Mr. Speaker, members, this is the new Jim Crow,” Mason said.

The bill passed the Assembly on a 56-38 vote and now heads to Governor Scott Walker for his signature. Walker has not said whether or not he will sign the bill into law.

See video from the Senate debate below: