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Flying from Miami to Milwaukee in October presents some challenges when it comes to packing, and while I certainly noticed the drop in temperature, my welcome to Wisconsin could not have been warmer! It is a true pleasure to meet with so many committed League volunteers as I crisscross the country this fall.
LWV Wisconsin (LWVWI) has piloted a poll observer program that places League volunteers at polling places to monitor the election process and to report any problems they witness. One of the many benefits of the poll observer program has been discovering ways in which the state Government Accountability Board (GAB) can assist elections officials to improve the process. In reaction to the findings LWVWI reported following the recall elections in early June, the GAB designed and implemented a back-to-basics program for both election officials and voters - Voting 101 - with a related website, My Vote Wisconsin. Using every opportunity, the Board has worked with its constituencies to improve the process in Wisconsin. I found the GAB, a nonpartisan board comprised of retired judges, unique and refreshing in election administration. Unlike other states that rely on Secretaries of State, elected in partisan races, or bipartisan boards, Wisconsin's system is truly designed to protect and serve voters.
An interesting fact about Wisconsin is that everyone lives in a municipality of some kind, and elections are run by these municipal entities, however small. In Milwaukee, I met with members of that city’s Election Commission.
Wisconsin has been the focus of much media attention because of recent efforts to require government issued photo ID when voting. In addition, the state’s voters have gotten a lot of practice voting this year, in part because of the closely watched recall elections. Early in the year, ID requirements were in place, and LWVWI observers saw first-hand the confusion they produced. In later elections, thanks to a successful LWVWI legal challenge, voters were no longer required to show ID, but voter confusion continues. The ID requirement remains on hold for the upcoming election. The poll observers will continue to monitor voter confusion around this issue on Election Day.
In both Madison and Milwaukee I taped segments for local news talk shows, For the Record and Fourth and State. I was able to speak about the League’s opposition to voter photo ID and to get needed elections information to voters in advance of the upcoming elections.
As you can see, Wisconsin was a whirlwind trip packed chock full with great meetings and the opportunity to witness the great work the state and local Leagues are doing. Now, I’m in Minnesota, so stay tuned for the next installment!