Intent of Republican’s Early Voting Restriction Bill Revealed: Target Urban Voters

MADISON, Wis. — A staffer for the author of the bill to limit access to early voting in Wisconsin indicated in media reports that changes will be made to the legislation to give “flexibility for small communities”. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted that the comments reveal the true intent of the bill, target more restrictive voting laws to those living in urban areas.

Ross commented, “The comments of Rep. Stroebel’s staff have, intentionally or not, laid bare the outrageous true intent of this bill — make it harder for certain voters, those in urban areas, to vote.”

Under the provisions of Assembly Bill 54 (AB 54), authored by Republican Rep. Duey Stroebel:

  • Municipal clerks could not allow early votes to be cast outside of the hours of 7:30am to 5pm Monday through Friday.
  • The total number of early voting hours would be limited to 40 hours per week, less than what several municipal clerks report as their normal weekly business hours.
  • Local election administrators would be statutorily banned from offering extended hours so that working people could cast early votes after normal work hours or on the weekends – something that would end the traditional “Souls to the Polls” non-partisan voting effort by African American churches.

“Republican legislators continue to do whatever they can to make it harder for voters to make their voices heard. Whether it’s rigging election districts or manipulating state law, there’s apparently no level to which they will not stoop to gain partisan political advantage,” Ross said.

In November 2012 nearly 400,000 Wisconsin residents took advantage of early voting and roughly one in four ballots cast in 2008 were cast early. Several local clerks, including those in the City of Milwaukee and Madison, responsible for administering elections offered extended hours for voting to allow working people to participate in democracy and cast their vote after work or on weekends.

By providing for disparate treatment for rural and urban voters in access to early voting, Ross raised concerns that Stroebel’s bill has gone from being undemocratic to unconstitutional.

He concluded, “Every legal voter in Wisconsin, whether they live in a city or a rural community, has the right under the Wisconsin State Constitution to make their voice heard by casting their vote and having that vote counted, even if Duey Stroebel and his Republican colleagues don’t like it.”

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