Legislators heard testimony and addressed how recently passed legislation could affect recall elections, as well as Wisconsin voters at the polls at a public hearing Wednesday.
At an open hearing for the Senate Committee on Transportation and Elections, Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the Government Accountability Board, said the date of a possible recall election against Gov. Scott Walker and other members of the state Legislature could influence who may vote in that election because of redistricting.
Since the Legislature passed a bill changing the districts legislators represent that goes into effect for any election held after Nov. 6, 2012, any recall election for a senator that occurs after Nov. 6 could have different citizens voting in it than the people who first elected the senator, Kennedy said.
The bill changing district lines went into effect as soon as it was passed Aug. 24, so legislators currently represent the newly drawn districts. However, the law is being challenged in court, so Kennedy said the representatives who hold the voice for different districts depends on the outcomes of lawsuits that may challenge the new district lines, Kennedy said.
Still, the new districts would first vote in the Nov. 6, 2012, election. Any election held prior to Nov. 6 will have citizens voting in the previous district lines, Kennedy said.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, offered himself as an example while questioning Kennedy. He was elected when his district included Monroe in 2010. However, under the new districts just passed by the Legislature, he no longer represents Monroe. So, for a recall election held before Nov. 6, citizens of Monroe could circulate petitions and vote in the election. For an election held after Nov. 6, citizens of Monroe would not be allowed to host a voice.
However, the district lines are subject to court challenges as are the recall petitions, which could influence whether an election is held after Nov. 6, adding even more complications to the picture, Kennedy said.
“It is a quagmire,” said Committee Chair Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin. “It is an administrative quagmire for [the GAB] and the clerks of the state.”
The committee also heard testimony from county clerks from throughout Wisconsin who expressed a number of concerns with the new laws.
Dane County Clerk Karen Peters said she needs to know the date of the August primary in order for her to train her election workers.
Diane Hermann-Brown, city clerk of Sun Prairie and president of the Wisconsin Municipal Clerk Association, said her ideal request for funding for each election in her municipality would be $50,000, and for having four elections with high voting turnout, she would need $200,000. She only received $95,000 and lacks funding to enforce parts of the voter ID bill.
“As clerks we will do what is needed to get the job done, but we are at the point where we are beginning to think we are not going to be able to meet all the challenges [the Legislature is] placing on us,” Hermann-Brown said. “When we cannot meet those challenges because of fiscal and time constraints, the accuracy of the election process is jeopardized.”
Hannah Somers, Legislative Affairs Committee Chair for the Associated Students of Madison, said United Council asked for a decision on the regulations concerning voting laws to clear up any inconsistencies.
ASM needs a decision as soon as possible on voter laws so they can start voter education seminars on campus, Somers said.