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Lawmakers weigh slate of election-related constitutional amendments

Lawmakers weigh slate of election-related constitutional amendments

Two of the amendments, if passed by the legislature, would appear on the ballot during next year's elections.

October 24, 2023 12:49 PM CDT

By: Nate Wegehaupt

MADISON, Wis. (Civic Media) – A joint meeting of lawmakers in both the state Senate and Assembly held a public hearing on three constitutional amendments covering voting today. Two of those amendments are on their second consideration, and the other is on its first consideration.

Today’s public hearing was held by both the Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection and the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections.

A constitutional amendment needs to be passed by the legislature two years in a row, when it will then go before voters. If passed by voters, it would immediately be added to the state’s constitution. The governor is not able to veto a constitutional amendment.

Today’s hearing saw a bevy of conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election. Joe Biden won the state of Wisconsin by over 20,000 votes, and there is no evidence of any widespread voter fraud in Wisconsin.

One bill would ban local governments from using private money or equipment to conduct elections. During the 2020 presidential elections, the private Center for Tech and Civic Life gave $10 million to municipalities across the state to help conduct elections. Most of that money went to cities like Madison, Green Bay, and Milwaukee, who used the funding to make voting sites safe during the pandemic, and purchased absentee ballot drop boxes. 

Conservatives argued the money was primarily given to Democratic cities, and that they helped to swing the election in favor of Joe Biden. Multiple legal challenges have affirmed that the use of this money was legal.

Under the constitutional amendment, this use of these funds would not be allowed by state law. If passed by both the Senate and Assembly, it would go before voters during the 2024 Spring Primary Election, as long as it is passed at least 70 days before that election.

Another amendment discussed today would change the language of the state constitution to clarify who is allowed to vote in Wisconsin. Currently, the state constitution reads that “every U.S. citizen age 18 or older who is a resident of an election district in this state is a qualified elector of that district.” The amendment would change the word “every” to “only.” 

Republican Senator Julian Bradley, who helped author the bill, says that this would guarantee that only U.S citizens, and not illegal immigrants, can vote in Wisconsin. He said that some municipalities across the country, including Washington D.C., have passed ordinances to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. 

Sen. Julian Bradley (R-Franklin) explaining why he authored the bill at today’s hearing.

Critics of the amendment say that the bill is unnecessary at the state level, because state lawmakers themselves would have to be the ones to allow non-citizens to vote in state elections. They also say that, on the local level, municipalities should be the ones to decide who can and cannot vote in their elections.

Jamie Lynn Crofts is the policy director at Wisconsin Voices, a non-profit civic engagement organization. She says that, because non-citizens are still a part of their local communities and decisions there more directly affect them, it should be left to the municipalities themselves to decide if they can vote.

Jamie Lynn Crofts talking at today’s hearing

If that amendment is passed by the legislature, it would appear on the ballot during the Fall 2024 Presidential Election.

The final constitutional amendment discussed today would mandate that voters show a photo ID when they go to vote. Most Wisconsin voters already have to show a photo ID in order to vote. This is the first consideration of this amendment, meaning that it would need to be passed by the legislature both this year and next year to appear on a ballot.

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