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Wisconsin GOP senators float four new election regulation bills

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A pair of Republican state senators shared Wednesday that they are pushing four bills that would create new restrictions around the use of absentee ballots in Wisconsin elections.

The proposals now bring the total number of election-related bills GOP lawmakers are circulating to 10.

The four bills to become public Wednesday include measures that would ban municipal clerks from correcting or filling in missing information on an absentee ballot application, something that was a point of contention for former president Donald Trump's campaign in its repeated, unsuccessful attempts to throw out hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin absentee ballots.

One of the proposals would restrict the number of drop boxes a city could place for absentee ballots. 

Another bill would create new standards for the access election observers would have, an issue raised by the Trump campaign, which alleged observers were not able to get close enough to see if ballot applications merited a challenge.

The bills would also create a new, standard statewide application for absentee ballots that voters would have to fill out, generating additional paperwork for people seeking to vote early in-person.

The lead sponsors, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg) said their efforts were meant to ensure voters would trust the absentee ballot process was untainted.

“Our right to vote is a shared and sacred right. However, far too many people have sincere concerns about our electoral system,” Darling said via statement. “These bills will help restore trust and make sure our elections are handled fairly for everyone.”

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell on Tuesday labeled the efforts a continuation of Republican efforts to suppress voter turnout.

"That is a made up part of the Big Lie [of a stolen election] that there's some problem with the application," McDonell said. "No one ever said that was a problem until Donald Trump was trying to look for votes to overturn the election in Wisconsin."

A set of six memos became public earlier this week. Those bills would have put new limits on what qualifies voters for "indefinite confinement," a status for homebound individuals who would face hardship in getting a photo ID.

While the use of that provision grew dramatically in the 2020 election amid the pandemic, no one has been able to provide examples of unlawful voters using that status to cast a ballot.

The proposals would require applicants to provide a doctor's note and state under oath they were legitimately homebound. The bill also has language clarifying a pandemic is not reason enough for anyone to claim indefinitely confined status.

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