Acting out of the public eye on controversial measures, Gov. Scott Walker signed asbestos liability legislation Thursday opposed by a number of veterans groups and used a partial veto to loosen new restrictions on early voting opposed by Democrats. Wielding his pen privately on a stack of 31 bills, Walker approved a number of elections bills Thursday, including the absentee voting measure and another one to give lobbyists more time to give campaign donations to state officials. In the early-voting measure, Walker used his partial veto powers — the most powerful in the nation — to nix language restricting early voting hours in Milwaukee and other cities to 45 hours a week while leaving in place a provision to prohibit early voting on weekends.
Democrats and Milwaukee officials have decried those voting limits as the latest effort by the GOP to make it harder for minorities, veterans, the elderly and students to vote, saying it amounted to “fixing elections” rather than problems.
At a news conference at Milwaukee’s City Hall, Mayor Tom Barrett and several aldermen criticized Republican lawmakers and Walker for backing the measure. “This is not about fairness. This is not about fixing a problem. This is about fixing election outcome,” Barrett said. “It is wrong for democracy. It is wrong for this state and the Republicans and the governor should be ashamed with this piece of legislation.”
Neil Albrecht, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, said the legislation signed Thursday will cause longer lines in the city, discouraging voting.