If Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels wins on Nov. 8, the GOP is poised to introduce a raft of “election integrity” bills that were vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. (Angela Major / WPR)
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If Democratic Gov. Tony Evers loses on Tuesday — and Republican Tim Michels becomes governor — Wisconsin’s Republican Party has a laundry list of voting and election changes it would like to enact.  

The party’s election integrity web page lists 28 election-related bills. Many of them did not make it through the Legislature. Almost all of the rest were vetoed by Evers. Only one of them, requiring the Wisconsin Elections Commission to publish meeting minutes within 24 hours, was signed.

Madison resident Jay Roberts votes in the election at the Olbrich Gardens polling location in Madison, Wis., on April 5, 2022. Republicans have a long list of “election integrity” bills they would like to pass if Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is defeated on Nov. 8. (Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch)

Evers’ office noted there were two other election-related bills the governor signed this past session that aren’t listed on the GOP website. They allowed 16- and 17-year-olds in home school, not just public and private school, to serve as poll workers, and required public notice if an incumbent decides not to run for re-election.

The bills that didn’t pass because of an Evers veto — but likely would pass if Republicans control the governor’s mansion in early 2023 — would:

  • Prohibit outside funding of election administration. The bill was in response to a nonprofit funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that distributed millions of dollars to assist more than 200 Wisconsin municipalities with COVID safety and voter turnout during the 2020 election;
  • Make it a felony for someone working in a nursing home to coerce a resident to request an absentee ballot;
  • Streamline the state process for handling election complaints;
  • End the practice of indefinitely confined voters automatically receiving absentee ballots; require them to provide a photo ID to vote;
  • Require nursing homes to notify next-of-kin when special voting deputies will be visiting;
  • Require state election officials to check the immigration status of registered voters and to check voter records against state Department of Motor Vehicles records;
  • Give the Legislature oversight of federal election funding;
  • Ensure the Wisconsin Elections Commission has bipartisan legal counsels, rather than nonpartisan;
  • Have the elections commission report any failures by state agencies to follow election laws;
  • Allow juror information to be used to correct voter rolls;
  • Limit who is allowed to deliver a completed absentee ballot;
  • Reduce the maximum distance poll observers can be positioned in polling places from 8 feet to 3 feet;
  • Expand legal jurisdiction for prosecuting election-related crimes from the county where an alleged incident occurred to any prosecutor within the same election district.

Retiring Sen. Kathleen Bernier of Chippewa Falls, who was one of the first Wisconsin elected Republicans to acknowledge President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, has been a staunch defender of the state’s election system. She’s frustrated that Evers didn’t sign more bills to clarify election laws that are now being sorted out through court decisions. Some of the bills that passed included both favorable and unfavorable provisions for Democrats, she said.

“Fraud prevention and election administration starts with the Legislature with laws that are signed by the governor,” Bernier said at a WisPolitics luncheon in September. “And so that was one of the challenges on the legislative side to get everyone off the ceiling down to the floor and talk about what we can really do in a responsible manner.”

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Matthew DeFour started in September 2022 as Wisconsin Watch's first statehouse bureau chief. Previously at the Wisconsin State Journal he covered state and local government for 16 years, including four years as state politics editor. He has a BSJ and MSJ from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He was honored by his peers as the 2020 Wisconsin Watchdog of the Year.