MADISON, WI -- Senate Bill 214, authored by Sen. Rob Stafsholt (R - New Richmond), relating to processing absentee ballots passed the State Senate. The bill will now need to be passed by the Assembly.
“After hearing concerns from voters across my district following the 2020 election, it became clear public confidence with regard to the integrity and transparency of our elections was being questioned and that’s why I drafted this bill. The people of Wisconsin deserve to have confidence that our elections are fair, accurate, and transparent."
Voting by absentee ballot has increased dramatically over the last few years. According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, about 1.9 million people in Wisconsin voted by absentee in the 2020 General Election. That is more than double the number of absentee ballots cast in 2016 General Election. The large number of absentee ballots can be overwhelming for some communities. As we experienced last November, canvassing thousands of ballots on Election Day delays election results into the next day.
“The current process of canvassing the large number of absentee ballots no longer works. Election results in Milwaukee and Dane County cannot continue to be released in the middle of night while most people are sleeping. Requiring large central-count municipalities to process their absentee ballots under the secure process of this bill will prevent large late night ballot dumps. This will be another step in restoring confidence in the outcome of our elections.”
Current law requires all absentee ballots to be processed and counted on Election Day. Senate Bill 214 would make processing absentee ballots on the day before an election mandatory for communities that use central count canvassing and absentee central count canvassing locations. Communities that do not use a central count location will have the option of processing ballots the day before an election.
The language in the bill does not allow ballots to be tabulated until after the polls close on Election Day. In addition, it guarantees the public has access to the location where absentee ballots are canvassed, provides safeguards and security measures for storing ballots, requires multiple progress reports to be posted publicly, and includes criminal penalties for anyone who intentionally provides results before the polls close on Election Day.
“Since being elected into the Senate, I have authored and supported multiple pieces of legislation focusing on election integrity and reform. We looked into the 2020 election and passed legislation that placed restrictions on ballot harvesting, included early voting security procedures, and fixed abuses of the indefinitely confined voter status. Unfortunately, Governor Evers has already vetoed those bills and others that could have addressed some of the audits findings. However, I am still hopeful the Governor will have the opportunity to sign this bill into law.”