Article compiled by MCJ Staff
Two Milwaukee Alderpersons are urging the state Assembly to reject a bill passed by the Republican controlled state Senate last week restricting early voting hours available to Milwaukee residents to vote during non-work day hours.
Calling the legislation --Senate Bill (SB) 324--”shameful and hypocritical,” Alderwoman Milele Coggs and Alderman Willie C. Wade attacked the senate’s actions in a joint press statement. The bill would prohibit local election officials from allowing people to vote early in-person at their municipal clerk’s office via absentee ballot before 8 a.m. or after 7 p.m. on weekdays or for more than 45 hours per week. Weekend in-person absentee voting would be banned. Early in-person voting has become increasingly popular in recent years as a convenient way for voters to do their civic duty and cast a ballot in elections.
Early voting can also help reduce election day overcrowding at polling locations and provide a convenient, accessible option for seniors and persons with disabilities to cast their ballot. The impact of an early voting ban would fall especially hard on urban areas of the state with large minority populations. In the statement, the alderpersons noted the attempt to suppress or limit the right to vote not only negatively impacts city residents, but also hundreds of thousands of other state residents.
“It is obvious that they (Republican members of the Senate) are trying to affect the outcomes of the upcoming fall state elections by creating laws to fix or alter the outcomes of their own elections (including the Governor’s race),” Coggs and Wade said. “Such self-serving actions should not be allowed.”
The alderpersons pointed out current state law allows just one location for in-person absentee voting per municipality which, they say, explains the lines outside the Zeidler Municipal Building during early voting hours. “The limitation of one site per municipality, regardless of size, and the recent further restriction and limitation to the hours of operations, places a cap on the capacity of large municipalities like Milwaukee and Madison to respond to the increased public interest in voting early and the unique needs of residents in urban areas,” they said. As a result, the alderpersons believe the proposed restriction to hours, the percentage of in-person absentee voters in large municipalities like Milwaukee and Madison will likely decrease, while the percentages of other smaller municipalities, not affected by the cap on capacity, will continue to increase.
Both Coggs and Wade say their respective aldermanic districts--the sixth and seventh districts have the highest proportion of in-person absentee voters compared to the rest of Milwaukee. “If the change is approved, it will have a disproportionate, negative impact on voters in (our) districts.”
The alderperson’s claim of senate hypocricy is founded on records of the Government Accountability Board, which reveals 15 of the 17 Republican senators voting to roll back early voting have themselves voted early. In fact, bill author Sen. Glenn Grothman, has voted early seven times in the last decade, including twice in 2012.
“It seems the Republicans are all for equal access to the franchise, just so long as that voter is likely Republican,” said Scott Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now.
“We’re seeing the real fraud in Wisconsin elections on display as partisan politicians try to manipulate the rules on voting to give themselves an unfair partisan advantage,” Ross said.--Sources for this article: The Milwaukee Common Council and One Wisconsin Now.