Though Governor Evers played a significant role in protecting voting rights for eligible voters in the state of Wisconsin, the Legislature repeatedly attempted to restrict voting access two years in a row and succeeded by taking the first step to amending the state constitution to enact a private funding ban on elections.
Wisconsin became the target of repeated and baseless claims of election fraud, which impacted the legislation elected officials put forth during the last two sessions. This has put a damper on any pro-voter measures the state desperately needs. We expect much more out of a middle tier state, and due to the repeated attacks on voting rights from the Legislature, Wisconsin received a D on this year’s progress report.
Where Wisconsin Started in 2020
- Automatic Voter Registration: No
- Online Voter Registration: DMV ID
- Same-Day Registration: Yes
- Restoration of Rights: Parole and/or Probation Disenfranchisement
- Vote by Mail: No-Excuse
- Electronic Registration Information Center Member: Yes
- Early Voting Opportunities: In-Person Absentee
- ID Requirements: Strict Photo ID
Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for Wisconsin as of 2020, we considered the state a middle tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2021-22 activity against other middle tier states.
How Our Tier Compares:
2021: Two Years Ago
The legislature passed several anti-voter bills during the 2021 session. However, they were all vetoed by the governor.
- Governor Evers stood up for voters and successfully vetoed all of the legislature’s anti-voter bills.
- A173 attempted to ban cities and counties from accepting private funds for election administration.
- S 203 would have severely limited who could return a ballot for a voter, made it a felony for the wrong person to return a voter’s ballot, and restricted drop box locations.
- S 204 would have required voters to provide a copy of their ID with every absentee ballot application and to resubmit applications for every single primary or general election.
- S 212 would have allowed election workers to reject an absentee ballot if the voter accidentally left something minor off the voter certificate.
2022: This Past Year
Again in 2022, the Wisconsin legislature attempted to pass numerous anti-voter bills during the 2022 session. All but one of the anti-voter bills were vetoed by the governor.
- SJR 101, the first in a series of steps, attempts to amend the state constitution to enact a private funding ban on elections.
Governor Evers remained a stronghold against a wave of anti-voter bills that passed out of the Wisconsin legislature during the 2022 session.
- Several bills attempted to erode the Wisconsin Election Commission’s authority to oversee elections in the state, yet again, he successfully vetoed all of the unnecessary election restrictions the legislature attempted to implement.
- S 213 attempted to strip away the duty of the Wisconsin Election Commission to oversee election authorities’ actions and would instead have sent all complaints about election worker actions to the courts.
- S 936 similarly attempted to change the WEC’s complaint process for alleged election law violations and allow individuals to sue the WEC directly.
- S 938 would have required the WEC to attempt to reverify all registered voters’ citizenship information 60 days before absentee ballots go out through DOT and DHS databases, but the bill failed to provide necessary detail on exactly what data would need to be matched to verify citizenship.
- S 940 would have required the WEC to purge voter registrations if a check of DOT database info against existing voter registration list information indicated minor discrepancies.
- S 943 would have allowed a legislative joint committee to review WEC’s guidance documents on a weekly basis and require the WEC to rescind any guidance the legislature decided did not qualify as guidance.
- S 935, similar to S 212 from 2021, would have allowed election workers to reject absentee ballots for minor errors on the voter certificate.
- S 937 very narrowly redefined the “indefinitely confined” absentee voter excuse to only allow the excuse in very limited circumstances.
- S 939, similar to S 203 from 2021, would have required all early in-person voters to complete absentee ballot applications at the polls before casting their early ballot, limited who could return a ballot for a voter, made it a felony for the wrong person to return a voter’s ballot, and restricted drop box locations.
Over the past few years, Wisconsin became the target of repeated and baseless claims of election fraud. Unfortunately, this has led to numerous lawsuits being filed against the Wisconsin Election Commission. As a result, instead of concentrating on future elections and pro-voter improvements, the Commission has been forced to focus on litigating grievances from past elections and rescinding helpful guidance to local clerks.