Absentee ballots limited, primary date moved in new GOP version

April 26, 2011- The latest version of a bill requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls would make sweeping changes to Wisconsin elections – moving the September primary to August, tightening rules on absentee ballots and ending straight-ticket voting.

A hearing on the bill is slated for 10 a.m. Wednesday, and Republicans who run the Assembly will meet in private later in the day to discuss any changes to the measure.

Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said his caucus is largely behind the latest version by Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), but may want to tweak it. He said he hopes to pass the bill in May and forward it to the Senate.

Stone's bill leaves in place the ability of people to register at the polls. Some Republicans have wanted to eliminate election-day registration, but Stone said he did not believe they needed to take that step.

"This is going to go a long way to restoring confidence in elections," Stone said of his bill.

Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) decried the plan, saying the photo ID measure and changes to absentee voting laws would make it harder to vote while not preventing voter fraud.

"This is just consistent with what we've been seeing all session – extreme overreach in trying to take away people's rights," she said. "It's another assault on average Wisconsinites, but particularly on those most vulnerable."

For years, Republicans have tried to change state law to require that voters show photo ID at the polls to stop voter fraud, but they have been thwarted by Democrats who argue the change would disenfranchise poor, minority and elderly voters. Republicans swept control of state government in last year's election and now are poised to put the requirement in place.

Under Stone's bill, voters would have to show a Wisconsin driver's license, a state-issued ID card, a military ID, a passport or a naturalization certificate. Students at University of Wisconsin schools and other colleges would not be able to use school-issued IDs.

Those living in nursing homes, retirement homes and the like would be exempt from the law if special registration deputies are sent to their facilities. Elderly and disabled people living in their own homes would be required to show IDs.

Victims of stalking would be exempt from having to show a photo ID, and voters could present an ID without a photo if they objected to having a photo taken on religious grounds.

A voter who did not show a photo ID would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot that would be counted if the voter showed photo ID to an election clerk by the Friday after the election.

Most of the provisions of the bill would take effect with the February 2012 primary, meaning the ID requirement would not be in place for likely recall elections of state senators later this year.

Fitzgerald said the photo ID requirement was not being made faster because lawmakers want to ensure the measure is constitutional, and that means the public needs to have time to understand the new law.



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