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Voter ID among top issues at Janesville listening session

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GINA R. HEINE
May 13, 2011
— Voter identification and concealed carry were hot topics during a discussion with more than 30 residents that showed up for a listening session with state lawmakers Thursday afternoon at Janesville City Hall.

Rep. Joe Knilans, R-Janesville, hosted the session. Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Reps. Evan Wynn, R-Whitewater, and Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, also participated.


Residents brought questions and demanded answers about the voter ID bill that the state Assembly approved Wednesday.


The proposal requires voters to show photo identification at the polls, along with other changes affecting voter registration and qualifications to vote.


One woman told Knilans she “strongly” objected to the bill, saying she thought voter fraud was minimal and that more errors stem from the computers used in voting.


Knilans referenced a newspaper article detailing voter fraud in Milwaukee, but he did not have details on the article with him.


“So I believe there is some corruption. It may not happen in Janesville or Rock County, but when you have it in the bigger cities in a statewide election, it’s going to wipe out votes in Janesville and Beloit,” he said.


Resident Jeff Kerl wondered about the cost to implement voter ID.


“The state is broke, so where is this money going to come from?” he asked.


Another resident repeatedly asked Knilans if he knew how much it would cost Rock County. Knilans said he did not know.


Knilans and his colleagues used $6 million as the estimate to get the initiative started in Wisconsin, and he said the money would come from a Department of Transportation segregated fund.


Cullen said he attended Thursday’s session to listen but felt obliged to balance the issue against his Republican colleagues. He called the bill a “voter confusion bill,” which has been successfully marketed as a voter ID bill.


There’s no proof of a voter fraud problem, he said, and the bill includes things that have nothing to do with fraud, such as eliminating straight-party voting.


Concealed carry discussed

Republicans are pushing bills that would allow residents to carry concealed weapons either with or without a permit.


Kay Deupree of Janesville said she totally opposes concealed carry and wondered what version Knilans would support.


The version deemed constitutional—carrying without a permit—is important, he said, but he would also like to see a permitting process so people could have training.


Deupree said a recent local example shows the tragedy that can happen when people have free access to guns, referring to motorcyclist James Humphrey, who fatally shot Sam Aegerter after a confrontation in June.


Knilans said if Humphrey would have had some training, he might not have reacted like he did. He added that the law wouldn’t stop criminals from carrying a gun.


Alcohol sales could start at 6 a.m. under proposal

Wilson Leong of Milton questioned Wynn about how much revenue is expected from his proposal to allow alcohol sales to start at 6 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. at stores. Leong also asked why Wynn wants another two hours for people to possibly become intoxicated before work or school.


Wynn said he heard from third-shift workers in his district who do grocery shopping when they get done with work around 6 a.m., and they’re not able to pick up a bottle of wine.


His bill doesn’t change the time for bars or restaurants and the bill also allows communities to decide their alcohol sales hours, he said.


He said his proposal also would keep sales in local communities because people who leave for a trip up north early in the morning end up buying their beverages when they arrive.



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