The National Guard via Flickr (Photo by Capt. Cassandra Mullins) CC BY 2.0
A pack of election bills authored by legislative Republicans — who have been holding public hearings, hiring investigators, taking field trips to Arizona to watch its audit and calling into question the validity of the election process — have passed through the Legislature over objections from Democrats.
A week ago, Gov. Tony Evers called for all of those bills to be sent to him “without delay.” He noted that the Wisconsin Republicans’ bills mirror measures that GOP-controlled states are taking up across the country. His spokesperson had stated he would veto any bills that make it harder to vote.
On Wednesday he vetoed the first of those bills he received. In a press release, his office stated that the Legislature has “declined to present the remainder of the requested bills to the governor.”
The vetoed bill would have prohibited counties, municipalities and the state from accepting private grants or donations for administering elections, except under circumstances that distribute it to every entity in the state with the Joint Finance Committee’s approval. It also created new requirements for serving as a poll worker — a position that was particularly difficult to fill during the pandemic and resulted in election sites closing.
The bill — and a series of hearings held on it that were generally by invitation only — targeted money that was given to more than 200 municipalities by the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which Republicans called the “Mark Zuckerberg” money as the Facebook founder was a donor to the group. The Republican election committees in the Senate and Assembly were concerned about grants and help that went to Green Bay, and four other cities (Milwaukee, Madison, Racine and Kenosha).
Evers had an extensive message explaining why he vetoed the bill.
“I am vetoing this bill because I object to restrictions on local governments potentially using supplemental funding for election administration,” he wrote in part. “During the coronavirus pandemic, our state and local election officials performed admirably to ensure the 2020 elections in each of our communities were conducted freely, fairly, and in accordance with our election laws.”
He noted that big and small, urban and rural communities got the money, which helped them to conduct safe elections in the pandemic. The resources purchased equipment, paid poll workers and bought protective equipment and supplies.
“Regardless of the source of additional funding for election administration, election administrators must always run elections according to state and federal law,” he continued. “Our election laws are robust and lay out clear procedures for how municipal and county officials must administer an election, a process that is not threatened by a municipality applying for and accepting additional resources.”
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