Wisconsin Lawmakers Pass Six Election Integrity Bills

June 24, 2021

Earlier this week, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed multiple election integrity bills that were created as a result of distrust in the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Six of them are headed to Governor Evers’ desk. 

One of the bills, SB 203, would seek to curb ballot harvesting by allowing only family members, legal guardians, or designated voters to return a person’s absentee ballot. A person designated to return a ballot may only return two ballots for non-family members. The bill also prohibits anyone from being paid to return absentee ballots, and requires any event where a voter may return their absentee ballot in-person (like “Democracy in the Park”) to comply with existing early voting requirements. 

Legislators also passed SB 204, which requires all absentee voters to show a voter ID prior to receiving an absentee ballot and makes it a felony to use the indefinitely confined voter status to bypass voter ID requirements. The bill also requires municipalities to provide hourly election night updates on how many absentee ballots they have received and how many they have counted.

SB 205 prohibits employees of long-term care facilities, like nursing homes, from coercing a resident into voting or not voting, and requires all long-term care facilities to admit Special Voting Deputies to assist in the election process, unless there is a declared federal or state health emergency. The bill requires long-term care facilities to have employees trained like Special Voting Deputies in case the Deputies are not allowed to visit for public health reasons.

The Legislature passed SB 212, which requires municipal clerks to return absentee ballots to voters if the ballot’s certificate was incorrectly written, and requires clerks to make note of the improperly completed certificate on MyVote. The bill also prohibits election officials from causing invalid ballots to be cast or valid ballots to be tossed. 

SB 292 says that, if a municipality broadcasts or livestreams their election proceedings, then they must keep their recording of the event for 22 months after the fact.

Finally, the Legislature passed AB 173, a bill which prohibits governments from making contracts or taking revocable, conditional grant funds for election administration from a private group. The bill would require any funds from an elections grant to go through the Wisconsin Elections Commission before being distributed per-capita to municipalities statewide. The bill also prohibits local election officials from abdicating election administration responsibilities to workers from private groups.

One more bill, SB 209, still has yet to be passed by the Assembly, but has been passed in the Senate. The bill creates a new law about returning ballots through a drop-box and sets specifications for the boxes. The box must be attached to the same building as the municipal clerk’s office and prohibits the use of any other drop boxes for delivering absentee ballots.

These six bills, along with one that awaits a vote in the Assembly, are almost certain to be met with the Governor’s veto pen. Be sure to follow The MacIver Institute as we keep you updated on the status of these bills.