Voting is under attack in America with a spike in attempts to push anti-democracy bills in state legislatures. Forty-seven states have introduced more than 360 bills aimed at restricting access to the ballot. In Wisconsin, legislators introduced more than a dozen bills aimed at restricting how eligible Wisconsinites access the ballot. The bills institute new barriers to voting and target people of color and by reducing hours of polling locations, cutting back on early voting options, requiring new, unnecessary identification requirements and curtailing or eliminating absentee voting.
In Wisconsin, these bills would make it much harder for anyone to vote by absentee ballot.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission could no longer send out absentee ballot applications en masse, like they did in 2020. Nor could any county or municipality. The only way you can get an absentee ballot is if you request one yourself.
Plus, there’d be only one drop box available, and it would be attached to the building where the city clerk’s office is, which isn’t convenient for everyone and in big cities, would result in huge lines to drop off your absentee ballot.
This would undermine all of the work done over the past year to increase the number of drop boxes to make it easier for voters to cast their ballots. Limiting drop boxes would create special barriers for those with limited transportation options, and who were able, during the last election, to find a drop box closer to where they live.
These new Wisconsin bills would make it especially hard for people who are in nursing homes or residential care facilities to vote.
These bills would require extra paperwork for voters with disabilities who are indefinitely confined, forcing them to get a doctor's note about their status. They would subject nursing-home workers who encourage residents to vote to criminal penalties! They would also prohibit people, including caregivers – in fact, anyone but immediate family members – from returning ballots for voters.
First of all, they’d have to show an ID, which they didn’t have to do before.
Second, they’d have to fill out an absentee ballot application for every election rather than having the absentee ballot sent to them automatically, as it has been.
Third, they’d have to sign an oath that they’re indefinitely confined, and if they’re under 65, that oath would have to be signed by their doctor or nurse.
On top of that, before special voting deputies could help them vote in their nursing homes, the administrators would have to notify their family members.
On the contrary Governor Evers is trying to make voting more accessible through his proposed state budget.
Automatic Voter Registration. Whenever someone goes to the DMV, they are automatically put on the voter rolls. It’s an easy and efficient way for people to get registered.
Allow UW campuses and technical colleges to have student ID cards that can pass muster as voter ID cards. Right now, some college IDs don’t qualify. And students need to get a second document showing proof that they’ve paid their tuition. So that’s two barriers they shouldn’t have to clear.
Expanding the period for in-person absentee voting, while the Republicans have limited this period to the 12 days before the election.
Reverting to the old residency requirement, which stood at 10 days for many years. The Republicans changed that to 28 days.
Voting is the powerful tool communities across this country have when it comes to advancing women's heath, safety, and economic security. Barriers to restrict voting access are systematically used to target the same people who would be most affected by negative policies and attacks on women's health and wellbeing — Black and Brown communities, immigrants, LGBTQ+people, people with low incomes, people with disabilities,and young people.
The women's health advocacy community cannot stay silent in this moment. We know that health equity and voting rights and access are intrinsically linked. Equitable access to the vote means better representation of our communities and responsiveness to our basic needs like comprehensive healthcare, including contraception, maternal care, abortion care, and comprehensive sex education. Moreover, equitable access to the ballot box allows us to focus on justice and liberation, which increases bodily autonomy and integrity for many marginalized communities especially Black and Brown people, young people, and queer,transgender, and nonbinary people.
But the Wisconsin women's health movement will continue fighting to for health equity and racial justice - which includes the right to vote! Instead of making it more difficult for the most vulnerable to engage in the democratic process, I want my elected officials to support policies which make voting accessible to all and ensure the voices of marginalized people are heard.
Fair Maps is an independent, nonpartisan district map drawing process that ensures meaningful elections in which all votes cast are counted.
Based on changes in population after every Census, the U.S. Constitution requires state legislatures to redraw voting district lines for state and federal representative districts. District lines are to be drawn primarily based on population equality, compactness and contiguity of districts, representation of diverse populations and recognition of community interests, but gerrymandering is often used in the process.
Gerrymandering is the drawing of district maps to give political advantage to a particular group. In the year maps are drawn, the political party in power often uses gerrymandering to their advantage and to the disadvantage of the other party.
Results of gerrymandering in Wisconsin:
Elected officials do not have to listen to voters, and are more loyal to their party and their donors. Officials in gerrymandered districts are almost guaranteed reelection, making them less accountable to voters.
Polarization increases. Compromise is lost. In gerrymandered districts, candidates are forced into extreme positions of their party and their donors.
Gerrymandering is often used when re-election is threatened. Legislators who are in danger of losing an election can be redistricted by the party to enhance their chances of winning.
Transparency to voters is lost. Wisconsin’s current maps were drawn by lawyers in locked rooms and each legislator had to swear secrecy to see his/her district. Communication among legislators was prohibited.
Gerrymandering is expensive. Millions of tax dollars are spent to hire lawyers to draw the maps and to defend them in court battles. Since the 1980's, Iowa has utilized nonpartisan staff to draw undisputed maps at negligible cost.
To ensure voters pick their elected leaders and not the other way around, Wisconsin leaders can engage an independent, nonpartisan body to draw maps and prohibit the use of political and voting data in their development.