Keith Knutson

Keith Knutson

Wisconsin’s conduct during elections has been closely evaluated by independent observers during the 2010 and 2012 general elections and the myriad recalls during those year. These evaluations have affirmed the integrity of our system.

Through all our intensive electioneering during the past two years, Wisconsin’s citizens can be rightly proud of the system we have in place that facilitates fair, equitable and efficient ballot access for our citizens. The Pew Charitable Research Organization awards us with some of nation’s highest ratings. Three of the 17 criteria evaluated are voter wait time, registration and turnout.

Wisconsin’s voting turnout rate has been high throughout all of the elections, consistently hovering about 70 percent. In November, 88 percent of registered voters in Holmen and Onalaska cast a ballot.

Facilitating voter registration — such as same-day registration — encourages citizens to vote. Ending same-day registration — such as suggested by Gov. Scott Walker in a speech last year in California — would depress our nation-leading turnout rate. The correlation between same-day registration and high voter turnout rates is borne out by the Pew Study.

Wisconsin’s voters don’t experience the six-hour lines some states witnessed in November’s general election. Because we have invested considerable public resources into effective machinery and transparent procedures, our voting experience encourages participation.

We have no horror stories here about citizens giving up in their aspiration to engage in the most basic right a democratic society should ensure its electorate: the opportunity to vote.

Our system is overseen by the Government Accountability Board, working in conjunction with nearly 2,000 local election officials. They have repeatedly performed with great efficiency during these high-turnout elections.

This Tuesday’s spring primary turnout will be considerably lower compared to our recent recall and general election, but we will still compare favorably with the rest of the country in similar elections. And we have excellent resources to educate ourselves about elections with tools on the state election website.

Pew also found that voter fraud is extremely rare, not only in Wisconsin, but around the country. Politicians trying to use the argument that our voting procedures and laws need to be changed because of fraud are not basing their arguments on verifiable evidence.

Because we have a structurally sound set of election laws, producing efficient, high turnout elections, I can’t help but wonder why Republican legislators have recently introduced a bill to diminish voter access. This bill would end weekend and evening in-person absentee voting, as well as restrict the number of hours during which voters could cast early ballots at their municipal offices.

In our state we have a solid basis for confidence in our elections system. We should be rightfully proud of our election officials who have taken us to the forefront of the nation in the foundation of our democratic governance.

Those who propose changes that would diminish this record of accomplishment may have ulterior motives that are not intended to improve our elections system. May they actually be interested in limiting some of our fellow citizens’ right to vote?

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Keith Knutson is an associate professor in the history department at Viterbo University.

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