Assembly Floor Session: November 9 (Election Policy)

The Wisconsin Assembly met November 9 and voted to pass 21 bills and four resolutions. Visit the links for coverage of the November 7 and November 14 floor days.

In addition to its regular calendar, The Assembly scheduled a special session floor day to consider the governor’s workforce package, which was amended and passed by the Senate last month. However, the Assembly delayed taking up the measure until the following week, November 14.

The theme of the day was election policy, with most of the bills and resolutions on the calendar dealing with elections in some way. While a resolution to declare the brandy old-fashioned as Wisconsin’s state cocktail passed by voice vote, three other resolutions containing proposed constitutional amendments were passed along party lines with Republican support and all Democrats present voting against.

Amendments to the Wisconsin Constitution must pass both houses of the Legislature in two consecutive sessions and then be approved by a majority of voters on a statewide ballot (the governor is not involved in this process).

Two of the proposed amendments were first approved last session and will go before Wisconsin voters next year. SJR 71 would specify that only U.S. citizens can vote in any election or referendum in Wisconsin. The state constitution currently states that every U.S. citizen aged 18 or older is a qualified elector but does not specify that noncitizens cannot vote in state or local races. The proposed amendment is in response to some municipalities across the country, including major cities like New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections such as those for mayor, city council, and school board.

SJR 78 would prohibit the state and local governments from using privately sourced money or equipment in connection with the conduct of elections and would prohibit anyone other than an election official from performing any task related to an election or referendum. Legislative leaders have indicated that the amendment on private funds will appear on the April 2024 ballot and the citizenship amendment will appear on the November 2024 ballot.

A third amendment, (SJR 73 adopted 62-35) would add a photo ID requirement for voting to the state’s constitution. This is currently required under state law, and the amendment would not change any current exceptions to the law and would retain the Legislature’s authority to create exceptions in statute. This amendment must be approved again by the Legislature during the 2025-26 session before it can be presented to voters in a future election.

The Senate author of SJR 73, Sen. Wanggaard (R-Racine), argued that “we can be sure a lawsuit challenging [voter ID’s] constitutionality is coming to the Wisconsin Supreme Court” since a liberal majority took control of the court in August and lawsuits have already been filed challenging the state’s legislative maps and school choice program. Other issues including abortion, union rights, and other aspects of election law are expected to come before the Wisconsin Supreme Court within the next few years.

The following bills passed by unanimous roll call or voice vote unless otherwise noted:

  • AB 38 Absentee Ballots Absentee ballot request and return confirmation.
  • AB 298 Polling Place Closures Polling place closures.Passed, 95-2.
  • AB 330 Nomination Papers The number of signatures on nomination papers.
  • AB 335 Candidate Violation Judgments Judgments concerning a candidate’s felony violation of certain campaign finance or election fraud laws.
  • AB 396 Voter List Fees Fees for obtaining the official voter registration list.
  • AB 476 Elected Office Vacancies Filling vacancies in elective state offices in the executive branch.
  • AB 493 Counting Write-In Votes Counting write-in votes in the general election. Passed, 52-45.
  • AB 494 Indefinitely Confined Voter Status as an indefinitely confined voter for purposes of automatically receiving absentee ballots and providing a penalty.
  • AB 543 Election Observers Election observers and providing a penalty.
  • AB 552 Max Justice Age Setting a maximum age for serving as a supreme court justice or judge of a court of record. Passed, 53-44.  
  • AB 567 Monday Processing Transmitting and canvassing absentee ballots, use of central counting locations, election night reporting, whistleblower protection for municipal clerks, notifications and verifications concerning citizenship status, court determinations of incompetency and ineligibility to vote, and providing a penalty.
  • AB 570 Election Fraud Certain kinds of election fraud, defects on absentee ballot certificates, returning absentee ballots to the office of the municipal clerk, appointment of election officials, allowing an employee of a residential care facility or qualified retirement home to serve as a personal care voting assistant during a public health emergency or an incident of infectious disease, and providing a penalty.
  • AB 571 Voter List Maintenance of the voter registration list, training of municipal clerks, data sharing agreements, pre-election procedures, lines at the polls on election day, and granting rule-making authority.
  • AB 572 Absentee Voting Absentee voting in certain residential care facilities and retirement homes and court determinations of incompetency and ineligibility to vote.
  • AB 577 Election Officials An election official’s personal information; battery against election officials; whistleblower protection for municipal clerks, county clerks, and election officials who witness and report election fraud or irregularities; harassing election officials; and providing a penalty.
  • SB 98 Citizenship Verification Verifying citizenship of individuals on the official voter registration list and contents of operator’s licenses and identification cards.
  • SB 166 Code of Military Justice Punitive articles in the Wisconsin Code of Military Justice prohibiting certain activities; procedures applicable to courts-martial cases under the Wisconsin Code of Military Justice; treatment of victims of an offense under the Wisconsin Code of Military Justice; defining military offenses under the Wisconsin Code of Military Justice; punishments for violations of the Wisconsin Code of Military Justice; and the removal of gender-specific language from the Wisconsin Code of Military Justice. Passed, 92-5.
  • SB 249 Desert Storm Highway Designating and marking the Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial Highway.
  • SB 283 Election Broadcasts Broadcasting election night proceedings.
  • SB 380 Wisconsin Grants Wisconsin grants and other financial aid for higher education.
  • SB 433 Absentee Ballots Timeline for sending or transmitting presidential preference primary absentee ballots.

Except for SB 380, which was amended by the Assembly and returned to the Senate for further consideration, the Senate Bills (SB) listed above have passed both houses of the Legislature and can be presented to the governor for his signature or veto.

Gov. Evers has stated that he would sign AB 567 (allowing officials to begin processing absentee ballots the day before an election) and consider other bipartisan measures to improve election administration. A spokesperson has also said he “will veto any bill that enables politicians to interfere with our elections or makes it harder for eligible Wisconsinites to cast their ballot.”

For more information about the 2023-24 legislative session in Wisconsin, see the following articles: