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Republicans propose voting changes in battleground Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in battleground Wisconsin have introduced a series of bills designed to make it more difficult to vote absentee, a push that comes after former President Donald Trump made unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud after his narrow loss to President Joe Biden.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, is all-but certain to veto the bills should they pass the Republican-controlled Legislature. But the measures released on Monday show the priorities of Republicans and what they may try to enact if a Republican is elected governor in 2022.

The bills, spearheaded by Republican state Sen. Duey Stroebel, would require absentee voters to provide an ID for every election, limit who can automatically receive absentee ballots for every election and create more paperwork for those who vote early in clerk’s offices, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The proposals would also put new limits on when voters are considered indefinitely confined because of age or disability. Under a long-standing law, confined voters do not have to show ID to receive absentee ballots and do not have to regularly reapply for ballots.

Stroebel said the bills seek to restore confidence in the election process.

“We must ensure uniformity of process and transparency of conduct so all voters, regardless of political belief, trust the final outcome,” Stroebel said in a statement.

Under one bill, voters under the age of 65 who say they are confined to their homes could no longer claim the status without a medical professional’s endorsement. It would also clarify in state law that the threat of a pandemic may not be used to apply for the status — advice clerks in Dane and Milwaukee counties briefly gave to voters last spring amid voter anxiety over voting in person. The state Supreme Court later ordered the advice banned.

About 215,000 Wisconsin voters identified themselves as indefinitely confined in November, up from about 67,000 in the 2016 presidential election. While confined voters are not required to provide a copy of an ID, about 80% of them have an ID on file or have shown an ID at the polls in recent years, state data shows.

Another Stroebel bill would require nursing home administrators to tell relatives of their residents when clerks known as special voting deputies will be on-site to deliver ballots. The bill would also make it a felony for nursing home employees to try to influence residents’ votes.

Another proposal would bar local governments from accepting private donations to help them conduct their elections. Private donations to the state would have to be distributed to local governments equally based on their populations under the bill.

Under another measure, state law would be modified to allow in-state family members or a designee of absentee voters to return ballots on their behalf.

The bill also would allow municipalities to designate a site other than the clerk’s office as a location to collect absentee ballots. However, the sites could not be used by voters to apply for an absentee ballot or to cast an in-person ballot. That would effectively ban events known as “Democracy in the Park,” which were held in 2020 by Madison election officials to collect absentee ballots and help voters apply for absentee ballots.

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