Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Senate bill aimed at election reform

Over a year after the famous November 2000 electoral controversies, debate about reforming Wisconsin election law resurfaced in the state Capitol Thursday.

State Sen. Gwendolyn Moore presented Senate Bill 110 to the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections; the legislation could radically affect the current Wisconsin election process.

“Senate Bill 110 focuses on the problems identified by municipal clerks and the voting public, such as understaffed polls, overworked and sometimes under-trained poll workers, language barriers for voters not proficient in English and physical barriers for disabled voters,” Moore said.

The component of Moore’s bill that received the greatest support is a stipulation that all polling places, regardless of the size of the municipality in which they exist, be required to provide service from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day, as opposed to opening two hours later.

Currently, many polling places in small villages and other rural communities are not required to open until 9 a.m.

Other provisions of the legislation include increased funding for staffing polling places and requiring elections boards to study the costs and feasibility of a uniform voter-registration system, as well as the creation of multilingual ballots.

“There should be no tolerance for not providing equal access to voting rights,” Moore said. “We should absolutely demand that there be total accessibility.”

Republicans, however, including committee chairman Stephen Freese, R-Dodgeville, feel action with respect to voter identification must go far beyond an empirical study.

“Had Wisconsin been in Florida’s situation, we would have had as many problems [with voter fraud],” Freese said. “Twelve dead people voted for president in Milwaukee.”

Freese was not alone in his sentiments. Several members of the Associated Students of Madison testified in support of many aspects of Moore’s bill, including mandatory voter registration.

“I feel passionate about statewide voter registration,” said David Presberry, UW sophomore and member of ASM’s legislative affairs committee. “One statewide list would go a long way toward preventing fraud.”

Presberry’s opinion was met with approval on both sides of the political spectrum.

“I felt students would have a problem with voter IDs,” said committee member Bonnie Ladwig, R-Racine. “I was pleasantly surprised that they did not.”

Moore’s provision concerning the creation of multilingual ballots was met with far more intense opposition.

“If you want to vote, you need to understand English,” Ladwig said. “You have Germans, you have a Hispanic population, you have all sorts of people. How many ballots are you going to print in different languages?”

Moore contends voting can be a difficult process, even without a language barrier.

“English-only ballots are too hard to understand,” she said. “Ballots are tough enough to understand as a native speaker.”

Another aspect of the bill calls for the creation of “satellite voting stations,” vehicles that travel around the state in the weeks before an election in an effort to provide access for all Wisconsin residents.

“I have a real problem with the concept of these ‘satellites,'” Ladwig said. “We have very relaxed standards for absentee ballots in this state. Anyone can vote absentee if they choose to.”

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