Evers vetoes GOP election measures, exempts precious metals from sales tax.

Madison — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vetoed Republican proposals to let election monitors closer to poll workers and demand a new post-election audit on Thursday, while signing a bill to increase the punishment for attacking an election official.

Evers, a Democrat, also signed a bipartisan bill exempting gold and silver from the state sales tax and mandating political TV commercials using artificial intelligence to include a warning. Jewelry, works of art, and scrap metal are not exempt. But it would exempt from sales tax coins, bars, rounds, or sheets with at least 35% gold, silver, copper, platinum, or palladium.

The AI bill passed bipartisanly. Backers said the warning is required for commercials using fast evolving AI technology to help viewers distinguish fact from fiction.

Evers also signed a bill allowing youngsters to sell crafts and other non-food things in parks without permits. Children can run lemonade booths on private property without government permission under current legislation. Under-18s can now sell products in parks under the new regulation.

Assaulting an election official is a felony punishable by 18 months in jail under a bipartisan bill he signed. In response to rising election worker threats, the law bans the release of clerks' personal phone numbers and addresses.

Evers also signed a bill banning municipalities from closing more than 50% of polling places 30 days before an election. When the COVID-19 outbreak hit in 2020, many polling sites were closed. Milwaukee has 182 voting stations, but only five were available in April 2020. Evers vetoed four GOP election bills.

Evers vetoed a post-election audit because of Republicans' “ongoing efforts to interfere with and usurp control over election administration and undermine Wisconsin’s election administration system.” Evers said post-election audits assure fair and proper elections in the state.

Another vetoed law would have let election watchers within 3 feet of workers. They cannot be closer than 3 feet from workers by law. Republicans have fought for years to empower election observers. In his veto message, Evers warned that increased proximity would increase intervention and voting intimidation.

Early Thursday evening, the state electoral commission announced preparations to write observer conduct rules. The commission did not specify the regulations' restrictions. Wisconsin's rule-making process can take years, and drafts may be changed several times. Two bills to strengthen nursing home absentee ballot regulations were vetoed. Republicans proposed them after criticizing nursing home voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When vacancies arise for secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general, and Department of Public Instruction secretary, Evers vetoed a bill that would have required a special election or Senate approval of his nominees. After Doug La Follette resigned, Evers appointed Sarah Godlewski secretary of state, and Republicans pushed the measure.

Evers opposed the Legislature's attempt to limit his appointment powers. He stated if passed, the idea could cause protracted job openings.

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