It was a short-lived sigh of relief after county clerks watched a proposal to move the 2020 presidential primary die in committee.
But now, another hurdle lies ahead for election officials, a bill on Gov. Scott Walker’s desk would reduce early voting to two weeks prior to an election.
It would allow voters to cast a ballot 14 days before an election, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s a move many county clerks don’t think is doable. Current law allows municipalities to open early voted 21 days before a non-federal election and 47 days for a federal election. Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said it could become very complicated.
“I personally do think there is a pattern where state Republicans will try anything to make it harder, not easier to vote,” said McDonell, a Democrat. “It is wrong for democracy.”
It’s a proposal Democrats are confident will end up in court. In 2016, One Wisconsin Now filed a lawsuit after Republican’s tried a similar measure to curtail early voting. A federal judge ruled in unconstitutional.
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) said he doesn’t buy Republicans’ argument that it will allow more flexibility.
“I don’t know anyone who’s going to vote at 3 a.m. on a Sunday for example,” said Erpenbach. “What Republican’s are doing is trying to make it more difficult.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he’s confident this year’s bill will hold up in court.
“They have the right to go to court but we’ve vetted these (proposals) with legal experts who believe they are constitutional,” said Vos.
Republicans said the bill is designed to be more convenient for voters, not a restriction, saying they will have the ability to vote at any time.
County clerks also fear pushing voters into a two-week window will create longer lines which could discourage voters from showing up. It’s also likely there will be twice as many requests for absentee ballots by mail.