Election integrity vs. suppressing the vote: Lawmakers make closing arguments on election bills

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Republican lawmakers took final votes on a host of election bills, sending them to Gov. Tony Evers desk who is likely to veto them.

While the voting bills are unlikely to be signed into law, Republicans are following a national trend heading into the midterm elections by passing legislation to appease former President Donald Trump who has falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen.

"Any bill that makes it more difficult to vote I will veto," Evers said during an event in Madison. "If those bills don't fit that category then I'll look at them."

Election bills that passed:

-Give the GOP-controlled budget committee more say in election guidance to clerks and control over federal election funds

-Allow the Legislature to cut funding from state agencies if they don't follow election laws

-Require the Wisconsin Elections Commission to do checks the state's voter rolls to ensure voters a U.S. citizens

-Limit who can claim indefinitely confined status

-Ban clerks from filling in missing information on absentee ballot envelopes

-Only allowing a voter to return their absentee ballot, instead of a family member of guardian

Republicans also approved a constitutional amendment to ban government officials from using private money or donations to fund elections. The proposal bypasses Gov. Tony Evers since he cannot veto constitutional amendments, but they have to pass two consecutive legislative sessions.

The bills come after a nonpartisan audit found no widespread election fraud, but made dozens of recommendations to improve elections. Most of the bills go beyond the recommendations which is why they've been met with resistance by Democrats.

Republicans have maintained their bills would restore faith and integrity in elections. Meanwhile, Democrats have said the proposals would make it more difficult to vote.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos argued many of the voting bills make "common sense" changes, such as a bill that would make sure voters are citizens.

"That does not seem to be some kind of radical idea, but I guess if you in the Democratic Party then it is," Vos said.

Rep. Mark Spreitzer, a Democratic member of the Assembly Elections Committee, blamed Republicans for not putting forward legislation that would give more resources to local municipalities to improve elections.

"Instead of putting forward solutions that would give clerks and other election officials more resources to minimize the change of having those kinds of mistakes in the future, Republicans just want to be punitive and make it harder for people to vote," Spreitzer said.

The Senate passed the election bills earlier in the week, clearing the way to send them to Evers desk in the coming days. The Assembly took them up on what might be their final day of session for the rest of the year.

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