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MADISON — A decade after Wisconsin became the sixth state to require a photo identification to vote, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill strengthening the state’s photo ID law.

Senate Bill 204, which passed Wednesday along party lines, makes a number of changes to the laws relating to absentee ballots in Wisconsin — including making clear that voter ID is required for all forms of absentee voting.

Current law exempts certain “indefinitely confined” voters from having to show a photo ID, as well as overseas voters and those who have shown an ID in receiving an absentee ballot in a previous election. SB 204 eliminates those exceptions.

Indefinitely confined status, which allows voters to apply for an absentee ballot without providing photo identification, soared from about 70,000 requests in 2019 to nearly 200,000 in the April 2020 election. While COVID-19 was the driving force, the broadening of the original definition of indefinitely confined created voter integrity concerns.

“As much as possible, voting at the polls and voting by absentee ballot should follow the same process with the same rules. You show your voter ID, you receive your ballot, and you cast your vote,” Stroebel said.

Stroebel’s bill reforms Wisconsin’s indefinitely confined voter law, a move aimed at eliminating abuse by those who falsely claim the status. And the measure tightens accountability for absentee ballot counting on election night.

The bill passed 18-14, with two Republicans, Sens. Kathy Bernier of Chippewa Falls and Rob Cowles of Green Bay, joining Democrats in voting against.

Stroebel’s SB 205 also passed on a party-line vote. It requires nursing homes and other long-term care facilities and the Wisconsin Elections Commission to train facility staff how to legally assist residents in casting an absentee ballot. They will only play a role in the election process when Special Voting Deputies are unable to enter the facilities, as was the case over the past year when the Elections Commission locked them out because of COVID-19.

There were several concerning reports of assisted-living residents who either were pressured into voting for a candidate or had involuntarily had their ballots filled out by a facility employee.

SB 205 makes it a Class I felony for any long-term care facility employee to coerce a resident into casting or not casting a ballot.

Other provisions of the bill include robust reporting requirements for absentee ballot counting on election night, and reforms the state’s indefinitely confined voter law to eliminate its abuse by people who falsely claim indefinite confinement.

The Senate also passed Assembly Bill 173, banning the use of private grant funds in elections, like the millions of dollars handed out by the left-leaning Center for Tech & Civic Life underwritten by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. A Wisconsin Spotlight investigation showed how CTCL’s network of left-wing activists infiltrated elections in the state’s largest and Democrat-heavy cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine.

Bernier and Cowles again sided with Democrats in the the mostly party-line vote.

The bills are expected to be vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers.

A decade after then-Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed Wisconsin’s voter ID measure into law, a total of 36 states have some form of voter ID requirement on the books. And the left has stepped up its assault on the voter integrity safeguards. Congressional Democrats are pushing a bill that would prohibit states from enforcing their voter ID laws.

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