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Some state lawmakers vote by e-mail

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Wisconsin State Capitol at night
Wisconsin State Capitol at night

MADISON (WSAU)   A key state Assembly panel has joined the Senate in letting its members cast paper or e-mailed committee ballots without having to meet in public to vote. And it’s raising concerns that the government is trying to do more of its business in secret.

Members of the Assembly organization panel submitted or e-mailed their votes to the clerk’s office last week, when they voted to hire a law firm. That was after Speaker Robin Vos and others were subpoenaed by those trying to dig up alleged hidden documents in the G-O-P redistricting plan. The public notices of those votes are posted at the Capitol, but not on the Legislature’s Web site along with other committee meetings where votes are taken. And those who want to watch a debate before a committee vote cannot do so.

Brett Healy, head of the conservative MacIver Institute, said lawmakers should avoid taking votes that the public cannot witness or record on video. He says technology is great – but not when it’s used to avoid questions by the public or the media.

Kit Beyer of the speaker’s office said the Assembly Organization panel uses paper ballots to deal mostly with administrative matters. But the Senate used them 320 times last session – including major committee votes on restricting abortions, and limits on product liability suits. Senate G-O-P leader Scott Fitzgerald says there’s lots of public debate on such issues before paper votes are taken. But on redistricting, Democrats said it made it easier for Republicans to ignore their amendment to put a limit on new legal fees.

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