Wisconsin Governor Vetoes GOP Bills to Restrict Absentees

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -
In this Aug. 27, 2020 file photo, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks during a news conference in Kenosha, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a series of bills passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature that would have imposed new restrictions on absentee ballots in the key battleground state.

The Democrat also said two Wisconsin counties should not comply with subpoenas to turn over ballots and voting equipment as part of an investigation being led by the Republican head of the Assembly elections committee.

Evers’s veto came as Republicans in Texas moved closer to mustering a quorum to pass voting changes stymied by Democrats fleeing the state.

Wisconsin Republicans don’t have enough votes to override Evers’s veto. No Democrats supported the legislation that passed in June.

Republican Senate President Chris Kapenga said the vetoes make elections less “accurate, transparent and secure.”

Biden beat Trump by just under 21,000 votes in Wisconsin. Numerous state and federal lawsuits brought by Trump and his allies after the defeat were rejected.

Still, Wisconsin Republicans have approved a review of the 2020 election by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has authorized a separate investigation led by a former state Supreme Court justice. State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, who leads the Assembly’s elections committee, is also pursuing her own “cyber-forensic” review of the results, with subpoenas to election clerks in two counties that demand they turn over ballots and voting equipment.

Evers said he expected the subpoenas to be fought in court.

Brandtjen said if Evers was confident there were no issues with the election, he wouldn’t fight turning over the ballots or election equipment.

“What are they hiding?” Brandtjen said.

Evers decried the bills he vetoed as “anti-democratic,” saying they make it more difficult for people to vote — particularly the elderly and those with disabilities. He vetoed the bills in the Capitol rotunda, surrounded by Democrats and advocates for the disabled.

One of the bills Evers vetoed would have required most elderly and disabled people who are indefinitely confined — unable to get to the polls on their own — to show photo ID to vote absentee. Such voters would have to apply for a ballot every year, rather than having one sent automatically. And all absentee voters would have had to fill out more paperwork and show their ID every time they vote absentee, rather than just the first time.

Another bill would have blocked the longstanding practice of allowing local election officials to fill in missing information on the envelopes that voters use to return absentee ballots.

A third bill Evers vetoed would have disallowed ballot collection events any earlier than two weeks before an election. It also would have allowed for only one collection site for absentee ballots, located near the local clerk’s office. Republican supporters said the goal was to prevent “ballot harvesting” by disallowing events or locations where ballots could be collected.

Another bill Evers vetoed would have made it a felony for an employee of a nursing home or other care facility to coerce an occupant to apply for, or not apply for, an absentee ballot. It would also require the nursing home to provide notice to relatives when special voting deputies planned to be on hand to assist residents with casting their ballots.