'We don't need sweeping changes': Gov. Evers won't budge on reforming election laws

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Besides getting through the pandemic, Governor Tony Evers said protecting voting rights is a top priority for him heading into the new year.

The Democratic governor has been able to block Republican proposals seeking to change election laws in response to their criticism of how the 2020 election was administered. However, that could change if Wisconsin elects a Republican governor in 2022.

Evers, who's seeking a second term, said if he doesn’t get reelected, "our democracy would be challenged by creating a voting system that discourages people from voting rather than encourages people."

Ending photo ID exemptions for indefinitely confined voters, restricting who can return absentee ballots, limiting ballot drop boxes and banning election officials from filling in missing information on ballot envelopes are among some of the GOP bills Evers vetoed this year.

Some Republican lawmakers continue to cast doubts on the election results more than a year after Joe Biden won. Since then, legal challenges, recounts and numerous reviews have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

A nonpartisan legislative audit did, however, produce dozens of recommendations to improve elections.

Evers said the Wisconsin Elections Commission should consider those, but he doesn't see the need for drastic changes to our election laws.

"I think the commission itself can take care of those issues, we don't need sweeping changes. We need to make it as easy as possible for eligible people to vote," said Evers.

The Republican leader of the Assembly, Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), said next year his caucus will again attempt to pass a host of election bills that aim to change how elections are administered.

"It really feels like undone business, we'll try again this spring because I think we have even more information to try and fine tune some of those proposals to make sure they are targeted at the problems that exist," Vos said.

Vos added it's possible the 2022 spring session may run later than usual to incorporate aspects of Michael Gableman's election investigation when drafting new bills.

Vos hired Gableman to review Wisconsin's 2020 election, which is being prolonged partially due to pending court cases challenging Gableman's subpoenas that seek interviews with election officials in private.

A Dane County judge will issue a written ruling by Jan. 10 as to whether Gableman's subpoena issued to the leader of the state elections commission, Meagan Wolfe, is valid.

Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit seeking to block the subpoena on Wolfe's behalf, arguing Gableman lacks the authority to force officials to testify in private instead of in front of a legislative committee.

In a separate case, a Waukesha County judge scheduled a hearing on Jan. 21 after Gableman requested the mayors of Madison and Green Bay meet with him for interviews or face jail time.

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