At a time when our political dynamics during the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to reach new lows, voters in Wisconsin received some good news.
On July 21, Wisconsin officials announced the formation of the VoteSafe Wisconsin Coalition, a bipartisan effort to promote safe voting in the upcoming elections.
The coalition is co-chaired by current Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and former Wisconsin Attorney General J.B Van Hollen.
The coalition points out that they are not able to change the rules for the elections. That is the responsibility of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, state legislators and local government officials.
However, they point out that they can raise awareness, promote preparation among voters and address issues ahead of time for those responsible for running elections. Essentially, they can shine a light on the ways to ensure safe elections. Kaul states, “Nobody in Wisconsin, or in the country for that matter, should have to choose between their right to vote and their safety.”
The co-chairs both admit that the COVID-19 pandemic is a major factor in advancing this effort. Van Hollen stated, “COVID-19 has really upset our lives. It certainly upset some election cycles, but it shouldn’t have to. We want to make sure people know that it doesn’t have to.” The stated commitment from the co-chairs is to promote access, fairness and safety.
Other members of the coalition are:
- Former Gov. Scott McCallum (R)
- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D)
- Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley (D)
- Former Congressman Tom Petri (R)
- Former Congressman Reid Ribble (R)
- State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski (D)
From our view, receiving this news is like a big breath of fresh air given the current stifling, toxic political climate. It is good news that other states are considering joining the VoteSafe effort.
Unfortunately, at this time, many national and state elected officials are actively contributing to political divisiveness regarding something that should be considered a serious, apolitical threat.
Others, (which is just as harmful) are silently sitting on the sidelines while we see increased anger and blaming ... and sickness and death.
LeaderEthics-Wisconsin pointed out in a March 22, 2020, column in the La Crosse Tribune: “Perhaps the most critical element of leadership is the importance of unifying citizens during a time of crisis. Blaming or criticizing during the time of crisis only hurts everyone. Are our elected leaders sincerely trying to unify our efforts to address a common cause?”
We believe the VoteSafe Wisconsin Coalition answers that question with ... yes! The coalition has earned a green light from our organization. But we need to go far beyond offering simple recognition.
We all need to provide encouragement to our fellow citizens to support the efforts of the VoteSafe Wisconsin Coalition as well as other efforts designed to promote integrity in the American democracy. In the process, we can start to break out of the stifling, toxic political environment we are in.
Lee Rasch is executive director of LeaderEthics-Wisconsin.
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