Posted on Friday, May. 7, 2021 at 9:00 am
As of March, legislators in 47 states have introduced 361 bills to restrict access to voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The Washington Post has characterized this unprecedented stampede as “the most sweeping contraction of ballot access in the United States since the end of Reconstruction, when Southern states curtailed the voting rights of formerly enslaved Black men.”Wisconsin is no exception. Legislators have introduced dozens of bills that make it harder -- not easier -- for voters to cast their ballots.Bills have been introduced in the Wisconsin legislature that would bar many of the best practices that Wisconsin cities, towns and villages developed to keep voters safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and would create a swath of new criminal penalties impacting voters and voting officials in the complete absence of any evidence of fraud or misconduct related to the 2020 elections.
Just one example - SB 209/AB 177: Last year, in preparation for a huge influx of absentee ballots due to the pandemic, Madison installed permanent ballot drop boxes at 14 locations on city property, predominantly at fire stations. Instead of making funds available so that every community could similarly make voting safe and accessible, SB 209 would force Madison to rip out its 14 ballot boxes and only have one at the City Clerk’s office. There is no explanation for this absurdity. Communities across the nation have safely utilized drop boxes for years, not just during a pandemic.
In the middle of the worst pandemic in modern American history, the Wisconsin state legislature failed to take any action to aid localities charged with administering elections. When election workers quit by the thousands, the legislature did not provide funds to help clerks with absentee ballots, postage, drop boxes, PPE, Plexiglas or masks. They stood by as election official across the state struggled to do their best and preserve election integrity under extraordinary conditions.
Now with no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of any election official, the legislature is inappropriately attempting to pass bills containing a series of new felony charges applying to Wisconsin’s respected clerks and election officials.
I believe that our state election officials and our intrepid poll workers are among the heroes of this pandemic, who worked tremendous hours to protect our democracy and voting rights in a time of crisis in a nonpartisan and professional manner. Make sure you let your state legislators know how you feel about all these bills.
Below you can find more detail about a number of these bills:
Senate Bills 209, 203, 206, 212 testimony