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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

 12:50 PM 

Senate approves moving September, presidential primaries

The Senate easily approved changing Wisconsin’s presidential primary back to the April general election, but split on moving the September primary to the second week of August.

The state has to move its fall primary because of federal rules for how military ballots are treated. With the current September primary, the state can't meet the deadline for sending absentee ballots to them.

Under the legislation, the Government Accountability Board would have to create a system that military members could receive absentee ballots electronically. That ability would not be afforded to other voters.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, complained that created an equal protection problem and sought to amend the bill so all voters would be able to do the same.

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin and a co-author of the bill, said clerks weren’t equipped to handle requests for anyone other than military members.

Erpenbach complained that wasn’t a good enough reason.

“You have to treat everyone equally, no matter what,” Erpenbach said. “So far you just simply haven’t done it. This is just another classic example of rolling more voters in the state.”

Lazich countered military voters are a distinct group of voters that doesn’t have equal access to absentee ballots and she’s been advised the bill does not create an equal protection problem.

“They’re just not able to do it at this time,” Lazich said of clerks providing absentee ballots electronically for all voters.

The bill passed 19-13 with Dem Sen. Tim Cullen joining Republicans and GOP Sen. Pam Galloway absent for the vote.

Moving the presidential primary passed on a voice vote, with Lazich noting some lawmakers were reluctant to move the date back from its current February slot so Wisconsin is more relevant in picking the presidential nominees. But she said the state had to in order to comply with national party rules.


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