A bill that could cut back on the number of hours people could vote absentee in elections is generating heat from voting rights activists.
The measure has been amended a bit since it first was introduced: It now says municipalities have to accept in-person absentee voting applications from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, at the community's discretion. Later in the day and on weekends, individuals can make an appointment with their municipal clerk to submit an absentee voting form. One hotbed of opposition to the bill is Milwaukee, which had evening and weekend hours prior to last fall's presidential election, and had more than 35,000 in-person absentee voters. Attorney Ann Jacobs is member of a group of lawyers that has been observing Wisconsin elections since 2004. She says no one's complained about too much early voting.
"The complaints we received, which included [those] from communities outside the Milwaukee area, were that the hours of early voting are too short or inconvenient for the voters who wanted to take advantage of early voting."
Jacobs says the 1,800 election clerks around the state should be able to tailor their early vote hours to their community's needs, and she says urban areas may need the extended hours. The concerns about the bill trouble the main author, Saukville Republican Duey Stroebel. He says early voting hours need to be standardized.
"Whether you live in Milwaukee, whether you live in Madison, Whether you live in Fredonia: everybody has the same window."
Stroebel says some communities don't have the financial resources to have early voting hours on evenings and weekends. He says he's still circulating his bill for more sponsors, but hopes it will move ahead soon.