Every Vote Matters

  • Ballot Box

This article was previously published in the Wisconsin Professional Employees Council newsletter.  WPEC represents state employees and is an AFT-WI affiliate.

Four months from now will be the next mid-term elections. Mid-term elections have a significant impact in Wisconsin. In the mid-terms, Wisconsinites will vote on every Assembly seat, half of the State Senate seats, and the Governor.

Four years earlier, 2010, over half of the eligible voters in Wisconsin stayed home, and overnight Wisconsin was turned in a very different direction. A traditionally purple state turned decidedly red. With that lopsided shift in power, came a decidedly partisan agenda that, for all intents and purposes, ripped this state in two.

Fifty years of progress, wiped out in under four. Unions busted. Public workers vilified. Funding cut for public education to funnel off to private, for-profit schools. Tax breaks handed out to business while cuts were made to subsidies for the working poor and unemployed. Out-of-state mining companies allowed to plunder our resources and not be held accountable for the damages. Local government authority diminished.

But the biggest injustice of all, was them rigging the system to remain in power with a series of laws that could only be considered Jim Crow version 2.0.

The Legislature used high priced lawyers, secrecy agreements, and technology to gerrymander the district maps to favor their party for at least the next ten years. And they passed numerous laws making it harder for eligible citizens to cast their vote.

The first was a voter ID law, which allowed only a restrictive list of IDs to be used for identification purposes at the polls. Estimates in court testimony claimed that over 300,000 of Wisconsin’s eligible voters do not have the required forms of ID and would be disenfranchised by the law. That number is about three times the number of votes by which the 2010 Governor’s race and 2012 Governor’s recall were won.

Multiple lawsuits were filed against the law both in Wisconsin and Federal courts, and the law has been on hold pending the outcome. The recent ruling by a Federal judge that it violates both the US Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, should be the final nail in the coffin on this law. The Legislature has stated there is not sufficient time to craft a new law that will address the courts concerns prior to the November elections. So, at least for now, there is a reprieve.

But several more laws have been passed that affect polling practices, absentee voting, and early voting hours. They are designed to slow down the voting process so lines will be longer, and to restrict the amount of time available for voting, all intended to disqualify or prevent people from voting.

A recent Senate Bill SB324 reduces early voting hours down to just two weeks, Monday – Friday between 8:00am – 7:00pm, with no weekends. For voters across Wisconsin, but particularly in larger cities, this could mean the difference between being able to vote or not. It was passed and signed the same day as Senate Bill SB655 which expands the amount of time that lobbyists may make contributions directly to candidates, and increases how much they may contribute without having to report it.

The November election is an opportunity to stabilize the ship and get it back on course. And the only way to overcome all of the obstacles to voting that have been put in our path is to make sure the people of this state understand the new rules and turn out to vote. That needs to be our mission for the next four months. To get the most current voting regulations see the Government Accountability Board site: https://myvote.wi.gov/

Spread the word to everyone you know, because Wisconsin can’t afford four more years of this.

By Sue Handrich-Herr