Campaign donors could contribute twice as much to their favorite candidates and voters could register online under a dramatically reworked election reform bill the state Assembly’s election committee approved Monday. In a rare compromise, Republicans and minority Democrats removed language designed to reinstate voter photo identification requirements. They also dropped provisions banning in-person absentee voting on weekends and limiting local recall elections. The elections committee approved the changes 8-1, setting up a vote in the full Assembly on Wednesday. Democrats on the panel still called the bill troubling, but they thanked Republicans for changing it. The committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, still signaled the GOP plans to return to voter ID this fall.
“(The compromise bill) doesn’t mean we’re not going to address other things in the future,” she told the committee.
Rep. Jeff Stone introduced a bill a little more than a week ago that laid out a multitude of sweeping changes to Wisconsin election law. Chief among them was a provision allowing people to opt out of showing photo identification at the polls if they swear they’re poor.
Stone, R-Greendale, said the provision was designed to address a Dane County judge’s ruling striking down Wisconsin’s voter ID requirements last year. The judge found the mandate, which Stone wrote, impaired poor people’s right to vote because they would have to pay to obtain documents they lack to get an ID.
The bill also would have prohibited in-person absentee voting in clerk’s offices on weekends; allowed corporations to make political contributions; limited local recalls to instances in which an official has been accused of criminal or ethical wrongdoing; and extended the period of time lobbyists could contribute to candidates.