2019 - 2020 LEGISLATURE
April 11, 2019 - Introduced by Senators Smith,
Miller, Hansen, Carpenter,
Johnson, Larson, Ringhand, Risser, L. Taylor and Wirch, cosponsored by
Representatives Emerson, Anderson, Brostoff, Hebl, Meyers, Ohnstad,
Riemer, Sargent, Shankland, Sinicki, Spreitzer, Subeck, C. Taylor and
Zamarripa. Referred to Committee on Elections, Ethics and Rural Issues.
1An Act to renumber
5.07; to amend
5.05 (1) (e), 5.056, 5.06 (2), 5.25 (4) (b), 5.35 2
(6) (a) (intro.), 5.35 (6) (a) 5., 5.35 (6) (b), 5.35 (6) (c), 6.33 (2) (a), 6.35 (3), 6.86 3
(1) (b), 6.86 (3) (c), 12.09 (1), 12.09 (3), 12.60 (1) (a), 12.60 (4) and 85.61 (1); and 4to create
5.07 (2), 5.25 (4) (c), 5.35 (6) (a) 4c., 5.35 (6) (d), 6.256, 6.29 (2) (e), 7.08 5
(3) (d) to (g), 7.08 (13), 7.08 (14), 7.10 (11), 7.15 (16), 12.17, 12.19, 12.60 (1) (am), 6
12.60 (1) (an), 12.60 (1) (ap), 12.60 (1) (bn) and 343.14 (2p) of the statutes; 7relating to: automatic voter registration, deceptive election practices, voter
8intimidation and suppression, voter rights, polling place posting and language
9requirements, election manual requirements, granting rule-making authority,
10and providing a penalty.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
This bill makes various changes to laws relating to elections and voting,
including the following:
Automatic voter registration
The bill requires the Elections Commission to use all feasible means to facilitate
the registration of all eligible electors of this state and to maintain the registration
of all eligible electors for so long as they remain eligible, except as the law specifically
requires electors to take some action to continue their registrations. Under the bill,
the commission must attempt to facilitate the initial registration of all eligible
electors no later than July 1, 2023. To facilitate the initial registration, the bill
directs the commission and the Department of Transportation to enter into an
agreement so that DOT may transfer specified personally identifiable information
in DOT's records to the commission. The bill requires the commission to maintain
the confidentiality of any information it obtains under the agreement and allows a
driver's license or identification card applicant to “opt out" of DOT's transfer of this
information to the commission. Once the commission obtains all the information
required under current law to complete an elector's registration, the commission
adds the elector's name to the statewide registration list. The bill also permits an
individual whose name is added to the registration list or who wishes to permanently
exclude his or her name from the list to file a request to have his or her name deleted
or excluded from the list or to revoke a deletion or exclusion request previously made.
A deletion or exclusion request or revocation of a deletion or exclusion request may
be made in the manner prescribed by the commission. In addition, the bill directs
the commission to notify an individual by first class postcard whenever the
commission removes his or her name from the registration list or changes his or her
status on the list from eligible to ineligible.
The bill also directs the commission to report to the appropriate standing
committees of the legislature, no later than July 1, 2021, its progress in initially
implementing the registration system created by the bill. The report must contain
an assessment of the feasibility and desirability or integration of registration
information with information maintained by the Departments of Health Services,
Children and Families, Workforce Development, Revenue, Safety and Professional
Services, and Natural Resources; the University of Wisconsin System; and the
Technical College System Board, as well as with the technical colleges in each
technical college district.
Under current law, a qualified elector with a current and valid driver's license
or identification card issued by DOT may register to vote electronically on a secure
Internet site maintained by the commission. To register electronically under current
law, a qualified elector must also authorize DOT to forward a copy of his or her
electronic signature to the commission. The authorization affirms that all
information provided by the elector is correct and has the same effect as a written
signature on a paper copy of the registration form. Finally, current law requires the
commission and DOT to enter into an agreement that permits the commission to
verify the necessary registration information instantly by accessing DOT's electronic
Deceptive election practices
The bill prohibits any person from intentionally deceiving any other person
regarding the date, time, place, or manner of conducting an election; the
qualifications for voting or restrictions on the eligibility of electors to vote in an
election; or the endorsement of candidates by specified persons. Any person who
violates that prohibition with intent to prevent any person from exercising the right
to vote in an election may be fined not more than $100,000 or imprisoned for not more
than five years, or both.
The bill also permits any person who is aggrieved by an alleged violation
described above to obtain a court order restraining the violation and to file a sworn
complaint with the Elections Commission. If the commission finds that the facts
alleged in the complaint, if true, would constitute a violation, it must promptly
investigate the complaint. If the commission finds that a violation has occurred or
is occurring, the commission must take all measures necessary to provide correct
information to electors who may have been deceived by the actions of the alleged
violator and must refer the matter to the appropriate authority for prosecution.
The bill directs the commission to promulgate rules concerning corrective
measures that may be appropriate whenever violations occur. In addition, the bill
directs the commission to report biennially to the appropriate standing committees
of the legislature with regard to violations and actions taken in response to
Voter intimidation and suppression
The bill provides that no person may make use of or threaten to make use of
force, violence, restraint, or any tactic of coercion or intimidation in order to induce
or compel any person to vote or refrain from voting at an election, to refrain from
registering to vote at an election, or to vote or refrain from voting for or against a
particular candidate or referendum question at an election. Violators may be fined
not more than $100,000 or imprisoned for not more than three years, or both.
Current law contains similar but not identical prohibitions, and under current law,
violators may be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than three
years and six months, or both.
The bill also provides that no person may knowingly attempt to prevent or deter
another person from voting or registering to vote based upon fraudulent, deceptive,
or spurious grounds or information. Violators may be fined not more than $50,000
or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both.
The bill also permits any elector of this state to sue for injunctive relief, a court
order requiring or prohibiting certain action, or any other appropriate relief, to
compel compliance with the bill's prohibitions and requirements relating to voter
intimidation, suppression, and protection. Currently, an elector may be required to
pursue administrative relief before filing suit and in some cases must petition a
district attorney or the attorney general to file suit on his or her behalf.
Voter bill of rights
The bill creates a voter bill of rights that municipal clerks and boards of election
commissioners must post at each polling place. The bill of rights informs voters that
they have the right to do all of the following:
1. Vote if registered and eligible to vote.
2. Inspect a sample ballot before voting.
3. Cast a ballot if in line when the polling place closes or, if voting by in-person
absentee ballot on the last day for which such voting is allowed, when the municipal
clerk's office closes.
4. Cast a secret ballot.
5. Get help casting a ballot if disabled.
6. Get help voting in a language other than English as provided by law.
7. Get a new ballot, up to three ballots in all, if the voter makes a mistake on
8. Cast a provisional ballot as provided by law.
9. Have the voter's ballot counted accurately.
10. Vote free from coercion or intimidation.
11. Report any illegal or fraudulent election activity.
Polling place posting and language requirements
Currently, municipal clerks and boards of election commissioners are directed
by law to post specified materials at each polling place. Currently, the Elections
Commission is also directed to ensure that in any jurisdiction in this state that is
required under federal law to provide voting materials in a language other than
English, the voting system used in that jurisdiction is in compliance with federal law.
This bill permits the commission to authorize another means of providing
notice to electors of the information required to be posted if the commission
determines that the alternative means of providing notice is at least as effective as
The bill also requires that at each polling place located in a jurisdiction that is
required under federal law to provide voting materials in a language other than
English, all required postings must be made in that language as well as in English
unless otherwise permitted by the commission. In addition, the bill directs the
municipal clerk or board of election commissioners of any such jurisdiction to contact
and coordinate with organizations that advocate for the rights of individuals who
speak that language to ensure that each polling place in the jurisdiction adequately
serves the needs of these individuals, and to endeavor to ensure that at least one of
the election officials who serves at each polling place in the jurisdiction speaks that
Under current law, the Elections Commission is required to publish an election
manual explaining the duties of election officials. The election manual is subject to
periodic review and revision and must emphasize that election officials should help,
not hinder, electors in exercising their voting rights.
The bill provides a number of additional requirements for the election manual,
including that the election manual be written in clear, unambiguous language; be
indexed by subject; contain specific examples of common problems encountered at
polling places on election day and detailed, specific procedures for resolving those
problems; and include an explanation of the laws and rules governing solicitation at
polling places, the rights of voters, and security procedures and other procedures to
be followed at polling places.
Withholding of voluntarily provided elector information
Currently, the Elections Commission and municipal clerks must provide public
access to information in their records unless otherwise provided by law or unless the
custodian demonstrates that the public interest in withholding public access
outweighs the public interest in providing that access. This bill provides that
whenever the commission or a county or municipal clerk or board of election
commissioners has the telephone number or electronic mail address of an elector that
is voluntarily provided by the elector to the commission or to the clerk or board, the
commission and the clerk and board are prohibited from providing access to that
information except to election officials and employees to be used for the
administration of elections.
Because this bill creates a new crime or revises a penalty for an existing crime,
the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties may be requested to prepare a
For further information see the state and local fiscal estimate, which will be
printed as an appendix to this bill.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
5.05 (1) (e) of the statutes is amended to read:
(e) Issue an order under s. 5.06, exempt a polling place from 3
accessibility requirements under s. 5.25 (4) (a), permit a municipality to provide
4notices required at polling places by alternative means under s. 5.35 (6) (d),
a municipality from the requirement to use voting machines or an electronic voting 6
system under s. 5.40 (5m), approve an electronic data recording system for 7
maintaining poll lists under s. 6.79, or
authorize nonappointment of an individual 8
who is nominated to serve as an election official under s. 7.30 (4) (e), or review and
9investigate complaints received under s. 12.17 (4) and order corrective measures
10under s. 12.17 (5) (a)
5.056 of the statutes is amended to read:
125.056 Matching program with secretary of transportation.
commission administrator shall enter into the agreement with the secretary of 14
transportation specified under s. 85.61 (1) to match personally identifiable 15
information on the official registration list maintained by the commission under s. 16
6.36 (1) and the information specified in s.
ss. 6.256 (2) and
6.34 (2m) with personally
identifiable information maintained by the department of transportation. Subject
2to s. 343.14 (2p) (b), the agreement shall provide for the electronic transfer of
3information under s. 6.256 (2) to the commission on a continuous basis, no less often