The U.S. Supreme Court in June gutted key components of the Voting Rights Act, which became law on Aug. 6, 1965. Before the ink was dry on the high court’s ruling, several states announced they will implement restrictive laws that have been on hold or introduce new voting restrictions. Wisconsin was not covered by the voting act’s “preclearance” requirements, which now cannot be enforced until Congress acts to update the law. However, we have had our share of unneeded and unfair voting laws proposed and, in some cases, enacted in the past couple of years. For example, a new proposal from Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, would severely limit the hours when municipal clerks may offer in-person absentee voting for their constituents to no more than 24 hours a week, during business hours, for a two-week period prior to an election. This would reduce the opportunities for voters across the state who have daytime jobs or family commitments.
Proponents claim the proposal would create uniformity around the state, but it would not. By treating all municipalities equally, it would favor voters in small communities where a clerk serves a couple of hundred residents rather than 100,000. In addition, the proposal does not say that all clerks’ offices shall be open 24 hours per week; rather, it says they shall be open no more than 24 hours per week. Thus it sets a maximum level at which a clerk may serve her constituents, not a minimum level.
Limiting early voting to business hours would complicate the lives of the many part-time municipal clerks in our state who have “day jobs” and perform their clerk duties off-hours. How will they serve their constituents, who also may work during business hours? This proposal would impose a statewide, cookie-cutter solution to a nonexistent problem.
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