Wisconsin Senate Passes GOP-Backed Election Bills, Including Absentee Voting Restrictions

June 10, 2021 Updated: June 10, 2021

The Wisconsin Senate passed several Republican-backed bills on June 9 that would place more restrictions on absentee balloting—which GOP lawmakers have described as measures designed to safeguard elections in the state, while Democrats claim they’re designed to suppress voter turnout.

A measure approved by voice vote included placing restrictions on ballot drop boxes, which were widely used in Wisconsin during the general election on Nov. 3. The new bill would stipulate that municipalities won’t have more than four drop boxes, depending on population.

“This bill enables the voters to have another option to vote, and it’s in a secure place,” Republican Sen. Alberta Darling said about the legislation, according to WPR. “I think people care about the integrity of elections.”

Another bill passed by the Senate would require individuals who are deemed “indefinitely confined” to provide identification before getting ballots in the mail for future elections. An indefinitely confined voter, according to Wisconsin state law, is someone who is “confined because of age, physical illness or infirmity or is disabled for an indefinite period.” Such a person “may by signing a statement to that effect … [and] require that an absentee ballot be sent to the elector automatically for every election.”

Republican Sen. Duey Stroebel said that a large number of people took advantage of the “indefinitely confined” status during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s important that we accommodate truly indefinitely confined voters, but unfortunately in the last election, we saw other people who weren’t truly indefinitely confined, and they were abusing that system,” Stroebel said, WPR reported.

Republican senators also voted to approve a bill that would prohibit clerks from accepting grant money and equipment from outside groups.

A bill that would place new requirements for voting at nursing homes was also approved. That bill would implement notification requirements for family members of residents about the days that voting assistants could visit.

The measure would create a felony penalty for employees of nursing homes who try to influence a resident’s voting behavior during the election.

Democrats alleged that state Republicans are trying to suppress voters, and claimed that such restrictions were racist. Several GOP senators also joined Democrats on several of the election bills.

“These bills are in seek of a problem that does not exist in the state of Wisconsin,” said Rep. Melissa Agard, a Democrat, The Associated Press reported. “They’re making it harder for our friends and neighbors across the state to vote, especially our seniors, especially our people with disabilities, especially people of color. … Plain and simple, this is voter suppression, and that to me is not OK.”

But Darling said her GOP colleagues aren’t attempting to overturn the 2020 election.

The measures, if approved by the state Assembly, will likely be vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat who has previously signaled opposition to previous GOP-backed election bills. Evers has said he won’t sign anything that makes it more difficult for people to vote.