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Bill would restrict weekend absentee voting

Bill would restrict weekend absentee voting

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - State legislators are looking at a bill that could restrict your ability to absentee vote on the weekends.

The bill would remove opportunities for people to absentee vote in-person at a city clerk's office on Saturdays two weeks before Election Day. Republicans say the bill will even the playing field between cities and rural communities when it comes to resources for weekend staffing. Democrats say this is an attack on access to the ballot. Without support for the measure split along party lines, experts suggest the bill is largely a political move.

"With Republicans in favor of the measure and Democrats against it, it's obviously partisan," said Joe Heim, political science professor at UW-La Crosse.

Absentee voting is a trend catching on in Wisconsin, including La Crosse. City Clerk Teri Lehrke says she's seen an increase in the trend's popularity over the years. Right now, her office is preparing to send out about 600 absentee voting ballots to people in the city for April's upcoming election.

However, that isn't the case for weekend absentee voting here. According to Lehrke, when her office would open the Saturday before Election Day in years past, hardly anyone would come, depending on the election.

"There would be times, say it's a spring primary election, that we would be here for two or three hours, and there would be nobody," Lehrke said.

The city clerk's office now sits empty on Saturdays, closed to the public, as a result of a stipulation in 2011's Voter ID law that prohibits absentee voting to be done the Saturday before an election. As a result, the proposed Senate bill would have virtually no effect on the city of La Crosse.

The Senate was scheduled to vote on the measure late Tuesday.

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