By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate is moving ahead Tuesday with a package of fast-tracked voting changes introduced after former President Donald Trump’s defeat in 2020, measures that minority Democrats don’t have the votes to stop in the Legislature but that Gov. Tony Evers is expected to veto.
Republicans also don’t have enough votes to override an Evers veto, making the votes this week largely about providing campaign fodder heading into November and setting the stage for what the Legislature in battleground Wisconsin may take up again next year.
Evers, a Democrat, is running for reelection and Republican candidates seeking to take him on have said the 2020 election wasn’t conducted fairly, questioned President Joe Biden’s win and called for overhauling how future elections are run in the state.
The proposals are part of a nationwide Republican effort to reshape elections following Biden’s victory over Trump, who has falsely claimed the election was stolen. The measures come in the waning days of Wisconsin’s legislative session and could be sent to Evers by the Assembly on Thursday.
Evers reiterated in a tweet on Monday that he has a dim view of Republican attempts to change state election law.
“I will stop anything that makes it harder for eligible voters to vote,” Evers tweeted. “Our democracy is on the line and I will protect it.”
Republicans argue the bills are a response to problems identified in reports on the 2020 election by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.
Evers wouldn’t have a say in one of the measures before the Senate on Tuesday. The proposed constitutional amendment that would bar donations from outside groups to help run elections needs approval by voters and is not subject to a gubernatorial veto.
It deals with a Republican complaint about grant money that came to Wisconsin in 2020 from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which is funded by Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The state’s five largest cities received $8.8 million but more than 200 communities in Wisconsin received funding as part of $350 million given out nationally.
Republicans were angered that the bulk of the money went to Democratic cities that voted for Biden. He beat Trump by just under 21,000 votes in Wisconsin. His win has withstood multiple reviews, legal challenges and recounts.
Examining how that money was used in Wisconsin is a focus of the ongoing Republican-ordered election investigation being led by former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman. The Wisconsin Elections Commission in December rejected a challenge to the grant funding. Three courts in the last year also dismissed claims that the grants were illegal.
One Republican measure up for approval Tuesday would give the Legislature control over guidance delivered to local election clerks by the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission. Another would give a GOP-controlled legislative committee the final say over how the elections commission spends any federal money allocated to the agency.
Another would empower the Legislature to eliminate staff or cut funding for the elections commission and the departments of transportation, corrections and health services if lawmakers determine any of them failed to comply with election law.
One bill would limit who can claim to be indefinitely confined, which allows them to vote absentee without showing a photo ID.
And yet another would prohibit anyone other than the voter, an immediate family member or a legal guardian from returning an absentee ballot. It would also prohibit election clerks from filling in any missing information on a voter’s absentee ballot envelope.