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De Pere state senator co-sponsored bill to prevent repeat closures of polling sites

Election 2020 South Carolina Primary
Posted at 6:52 PM, Mar 21, 2024

MADISON (NBC 26) — A bipartisan bill preventing the repeat closures of polling sites in Green Bay and throughout Wisconsin has been signed into law.

State Sen. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) co-sponsored the bill called the Keep the Polls Open Act.

According to a news release, under the bill, a municipality cannot close more than 50 percent of its polling locations unless voted on by a legislative body more than 30 before an election and after a public hearing is held.

The bill also outlines closing polling places in case of an emergency and posting notice of those closures ahead of election day.

Right after COVID hit in April 2020, Green Bay opened just two polling places due to the lack of poll workers. People voting in person had to wait in lines for hours.

At the time, Mayor Eric Genrich said the city didn't have inexperienced people help work the polls because he and the clerk weren't comfortable having them in dangerous and stressful environments.

Below is the news release from Senator Jacque's office:

"MADISON, WI… With the spring elections just days away, bipartisan legislation protecting our right to vote by preventing local officials in Green Bay and across the state from closing polling places at the last minute with virtually no public notice was signed into law today. 

State Sen. André Jacque (R-De Pere) ... said the measure would prevent a repeat of polling site closures in the City of Green Bay, which made it difficult for voters, and in some cases prevented them from casting their ballots.

“In the 2020 Spring Primary, the City of Green Bay closed all but two polling places at the eleventh hour,” Sen. Jacque said. “Unprecedented long lines and the lack of efficient public notice kept many waiting to vote past midnight, while others were unable to turn in a ballot or could not make it to their proper polling location on time.”

Sen. Jacque said that under the bill:

· A municipality may close no more than 50% of its polling locations unless voted on by its legislative body more than 30 days prior to an election, and after a public hearing on the proposed discontinuation. The municipality is required to provide proper notice to the public in accordance with public notice law.

· The majority of the members-elect of the governing body may also make a finding of emergency. If both the majority of the members-elect of the governing body and the municipal clerk approve the emergency closure, the municipal clerk must take certain steps to ensure that the public is notified about these changes, including posting the notice on line or in a local newspaper, well ahead of Election Day.

“These steps will help prevent officials in cities like Green Bay from disenfranchising their citizens with surprise polling location closures,” Sen. Jacque said. “This bill will protect our right to vote by making sure local officials notify us early about proper polling locations so we can submit our votes on time.”

The measure (Assembly Bill 298 [docs.legis.wisconsin.gov]/Senate Bill 366 [docs.legis.wisconsin.gov]) was into law as 2023 Act 124."