(The Center Square) – Republicans in Wisconsin are all for starting early voting as soon as possible, but say they cannot support expanding absentee voting.

Wisconsin Republican Party Executive Director Mark Jefferson said it makes no sense to change the rules for absentee voting. He said proposed changes effectively toss election safeguards out the window because of the coronavirus.

“The best course of action during elections in times of crisis is to ensure equal access to the polls, not to suspend all common-sense regulations that ensure fair elections in a democracy,” Jefferson said. 

Democrats in Wisconsin are suing to force election managers to expand absentee voting.

Both the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday filed a lawsuit demanding that the Wisconsin Election Commission extend online and absentee voting registration until the Friday before Election Day, stop requiring people to send a copy of their driver’s license and proof that they live in Wisconsin with an absentee ballot, and accept absentee ballots as late as 10 days after the election.

In a statement, the groups called the moves “essential to ensuring that the April 7 elections are free, thorough and safe.”

Jefferson says early voting is one thing, but making drastic changes to the primary election is something entirely different. 

“We call on local election officials to make early-voting available immediately and we are exploring what legal options may be available,” Jefferson said. “Suspending rules that ensure fair elections is simply not an acceptable solution.”

Jefferson said the rules for early voting are different in different counties. For example, Jefferson said, Madison started early voting last week, while Appleton won’t start early voting until next week. 

“We ask our local officials to make voting a priority in their communities and for our supporters to voice their support for early-voting immediately,” Jefferson added. “Other government functions are taking place, and the right to vote should be an equal priority, just as it is in Madison and Milwaukee. All state residents deserve an equal opportunity to have their voices heard, on a level with our fellow Wisconsinites who live in our largest cities.”

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.