GOP Lawmakers Try to Tighten Grip on Election System

(Illustration by Morgaine Ford-Workman)



By Jonathon Sadowski

February 2, 2022

Top Assembly Democrat says “partisan politicians shouldn’t be rigging the rules of our elections.”

Republican lawmakers are trying to give themselves greater control over elections in a flurry of at least 10 bills introduced in recent days.

Some of the bills would allow Republican-controlled committees to defund several state agencies and fire their staff, control guidance given by the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission, and block the governor from distributing federal election funding to state agencies, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Other measures, meanwhile, would introduce new restrictions for “indefinitely confined” voters and implement recommendations made in a nonpartisan audit of the 2020 election. That audit found few major issues with the election and confirmed there was no widespread fraud, but members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission criticized parts of the report as inaccurate and politically motivated.  

The new legislation comes after GOP leaders have for more than a year tried to undermine the public’s faith in elections and make it harder to vote following Donald Trump’s defeat in 2020. 

RELATED: What To Know About Wisconsin Republicans’ Fake 2020 Electors

“These bills are part of a coordinated, national effort to help Republicans execute their political agenda by inserting partisan staff into our elections’ administration,” Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) said in a statement. “Partisan politicians shouldn’t be rigging the rules of our elections.”

Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls), who in December publicly shamed those in her party who promote election conspiracy theories, is among the sponsors of some of the new proposals.

“After every election, we figure out what didn’t work as planned and we fix it. These bills will fix the problems that have led to unprecedented questions about the last presidential election,” Bernier, who is not running for re-election, said in a press release.

Bernier denied any of her bills would disenfranchise voters or make it harder to vote, but one of her proposals would restrict the use of the “indefinitely confined” status that saw much greater use in the 2020 election due to people’s concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Another Bernier-authored bill would deregister Wisconsin voters if they are flagged by a multi-state database as having moved. Right-wing groups sued to deregister as many as 234,000 such voters in the leadup to the 2020 election, but it was discovered thousands of those voters had been wrongly classified as “movers.” 

Other lawmakers behind the bills include Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg); Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester); Sens. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), and Alberta Darling (R-River Hills); and Reps. John Macco (R-Ledgeview), Barb Dittrich (R-Oconomowoc), and Cindi Duchow (R-Town of Delafield).

If the bills pass the Legislature, Gov. Tony Evers is almost certain to veto them. He previously vetoed six Republican-authored election bills and has made protecting voting rights central to his re-election campaign.




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