Wisconsin to vote on prohibiting private funds in elections and a second question related to election officials at the April primary election

The Wisconsin State Legislature voted to send one constitutional amendment as two ballot questions to the April 2, 2024, ballot. The first question asks voters to prohibit governments from applying or accepting non-governmental funds or equipment for the administration of any primary, election, or referendum. The second question asks voters to provide that only election officials designated by law may administer elections.

In October, Louisiana became the first state to prohibit private funding for election administration through a constitutional amendment. It was approved with 72.57% of the vote. In 2022, voters in Michigan approved an amendment that allowed local governments to accept charitable and in-kind donations to assist with running elections as long as donations are disclosed and aren’t from foreign entities.

As of October 2023, 27 states had enacted laws banning or otherwise restricting the use of private donations for election administration purposes. Twenty-one of these states had a Republican trifecta when the law was adopted; the six other states had divided government at the time. No states banned or restricted private election funding prior to 2021.

In Wisconsin, the state legislature is required to approve an amendment by a simple majority vote in two successive sessions for the amendment to appear on the ballot.

During the 2021-2022 legislative session, the amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 101 (SJR 101). The Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 21-11 with one not voting on Feb. 22, 2022. The Assembly approved SJR 101 by a vote of 58-32 with five not voting on Feb. 24, 2022.

During the 2023-2024 legislative session, the amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 78 (SJR 78). The Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 21-10 with two not voting on Nov.7, 2023. The Assembly approved SJR 78 by a vote of 60-35 with four not voting on Nov. 9, 2023.

After the amendment’s passage, Assembly Majority Leader Tyler August (R-32) tweeted, “Today the Assembly passed our election reform package.  This included constitutional amendments that would:

  • Ban “Zuckerbucks” by preventing billionaires from influencing the administration of our elections
  • Ensure only US citizens can vote in elections.”

Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-66), who opposes the amendment said, “Not only are these amendments an attempt to limit access to the ballot box based on misinformation spread by some in this body about the security of our elections. But they’re part of a broader effort by legislative Republicans to circumvent the traditional lawmaking process and enshrine the political agenda in our state’s most important document, the Wisconsin constitution.”

The legislature also passed a photo ID amendment on Nov. 9. It will need to be approved again during the 2025-2026 legislative session.

At the 2024 general election, Wisconsin voters will also vote on an amendment to add to the state Constitution that only U.S. citizens who are 18 years old or older can vote in federal, state, local, or school elections. The amendment also received final consideration by the legislature on Nov. 9.

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