Thursday, April 15, 2021

CC/WI opposes these additional voter suppression measures being fast-tracked through WI Legislature

Thursday – April 15, 2021

Photo by Michael75 on Unsplash

Testimony of Jay Heck, Executive Director, Common Cause Wisconsin

Wisconsin Senate Committee on Elections, Elections Process Reform & Ethics

April 15, 2021

In Opposition to Senate Bill 204, Senate Bill 205, Senate Bill 211

Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) is one of the state’s largest non-partisan political reform advocacy organizations with more than 8,000 members and activists residing in every county of the state. We have been active in Wisconsin since our founding in 1970.

We oppose these three of the measures being considered by this Senate Committee today and urge members of this committee to vote against their passage. All three would make it more difficult for Wisconsinites to vote and would result in fewer eligible voters being able to express their will at election time. All three measures are extremely partisan and were devised without any consultation or discussion with legislators from other political parties or with the wide array of non-partisan organizations who have been engaged and interested in elections and voting for many years.

Senate Bill 204: This measure would no longer allow voters who are indefinitely confined or overseas to receive absentee ballots automatically. Instead, they would need to fill out an absentee ballot request for every election and they would need to show a proscribed photo ID. In addition, this bill would prohibit the Wisconsin Elections Commission (as well as municipal or county clerk or local elections board) from sending absentee ballot applications en masse, as it did in 2020 to 2.7 million Wisconsin voters.

  • Forcing indefinitely confined voters to fill out an absentee ballot request for every election is extremely burdensome. Wisconsin has multiple elections every year. The mass mailing of absentee ballot applications gives the voters the choice about how and when they vote. Election administrators should have the authority and flexibility to make voting easier by being able to mail absentee ballot applications.

Senate Bill 205: This measure would limit voting rights of nursing home and group home residents. It may conflict with federal law which requires that nursing homes support the right of residents to vote. Under this measure, if staff offered to provide a resident with assistance, this would be a felony crime. This bill would require the administrator of the facility to notify relatives of the residents as to when the special voting deputies will be coming to the facility to assist in the casting of absentee ballots.

  • Most people in these homes and facilities make decisions for themselves every day of the week. They do not need a relative next to them when they are voting and fulfilling their duty in our democracy. They should not have their right to the privacy of their vote violated. This bill goes so far as to make it illegal for employees of a retirement home or residential care facility to even encourage a resident to vote.

Senate Bill 211: This measure would require the Wisconsin Election Commission to create a standard absentee ballot application that must contain certain questions specified by the bill, and must be completed by all absentee voters, including in-person absentee (early) voters. The only people exempt from the new application would be those being served by special voting deputies at certain retirement or residential care homes. The standard application the bill would require all other absentee voters, whether requesting the ballot by mail or in person, to complete must include: the voter's municipality and county of residence; the voter's name, date of birth, and contact information, including as applicable their telephone number, fax number, and electronic mail address; the street address of the voter's legal voting residence; the election at which the voter intends to vote absentee; whether the voter is a military or overseas elector; the voter's confidential identification serial number if the elector has obtained a confidential registration; the lawful method by which the voter prefers to receive the absentee ballot; and whether the elector is hospitalized.

  • While making election administration processes standardized is generally a good idea, this one is not. It makes in-person absentee voters fill out an application for an absentee ballot even though they are present to vote by absentee ballot to verify that they want to indeed vote with an absentee ballot. It is burdensome work for the clerks and does nothing to improve elections. This measure is a response to some who unreasonably claim the envelope where in-person absentee voters place their ballots (and then seal and sign) cannot “double” as a request or application for a ballot. This current system is incredibly streamlined and secure.

🗣 Your voice is needed. 🗣

Contact your state senator and your state representative and let them know that these anti-voter bills need to be defeated! Your legislators need to hear from you that this attempt to restrict election participation is not acceptable. The bills are moving quickly through the State Senate and Assembly. Take action today. (This form makes it easy to make your voice heard.)

Common Cause WI also submitted testimony on April 14, 2021 in opposition to Assembly Bill 173 and Assembly Bill 198. You can read the full testimony here on the CCWI website. 


Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

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