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Bipartisan Group To Promote In-Person And Mail-In Voting During Pandemic

Former GOP Attorney General Dismisses Fraud Concerns With Mail-In Ballots

Voters wearing masks
Voters masked against the coronavirus line up at Riverside High School for Wisconsin’s primary election Tuesday April 7, 2020, in Milwaukee. Morry Gash/AP

A bipartisan coalition of high-level Wisconsin politicians has launched an initiative to educate voters about in-person and mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative, VoteSafe WI, supports both in-person voting and absentee voting by mail for the August partisan primary and November general election. Voting by mail has been recently criticized by some Republicans, including President Donald Trump.

Wisconsin saw a record number of voters cast mail-in absentee ballots in its April election. About 62 percent of all ballots were cast by mail.

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Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul and former Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen are leading the group.

Van Hollen, who served as Wisconsin’s attorney general from 2007-2015, often focused on efforts to prevent voter fraud while in office.

Speaking on a call with reporters Tuesday morning, Van Hollen said there has been a lot of “confusion” about voting by mail in recent years, but he believes the public should have confidence in the system.

“In Wisconsin, we have an extremely secure system,” he said.

Van Hollen said a major part of the initiative’s aim is to educate voters about how to vote by mail.

“We need to make sure people understand that, and many people don’t,” he said.

Kaul reiterated the need for public education about voting policies and procedures. He also pointed out the group is making a statement of support for the election system in Wisconsin, aiming to reinforce public confidence.

“We’ve got a bipartisan group of people who are here to say there are safe and secure methods for voting, and we need to make sure we’re encouraging people to exercise those rights,” Kaul said.

The attorneys general said they will not be advocating for any changes to state laws related to voting.

“We have good voting laws on the books that allow us to have safe and secure elections in Wisconsin,” Van Hollen said.

Other members of VoteSafe WI include former Republican Gov. Scott McCallum and former GOP U.S. Reps. Reid Ribble and Tom Petri. Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive David Crowley are also members, as well as Democratic State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski.

The group is part of a nationwide initiative to promote voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. The national VoteSafe coalition is co-chaired by former Secretary of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat.