August 5, 2014
By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Get out and vote!
It’s that time of year again – election season! The fall primary will be held on August 12th across Wisconsin. This is an important primary leading up to the general election, as candidates for offices such as governor, secretary of state, many state legislators, and more will be featured on the ballot. Elections are decided by those who choose to participate, and it’s not only your right – but an important responsibility we have.
As voter turnout has gradually declined over the years, it has become increasingly important to cast your ballot – at every election. During years when the President is not up for reelection (like this November), a phenomenon called “cyclical drop off” occurs. The means that voter turnout drastically decreases when candidates for president are not on the ballot. When that occurrence is combined with even lower turnout in primary elections, we have a problem. Often people will argue that one vote does not matter, but when the collective community makes an excuse – everyone suffers. Take for example the district I represent – the 4th senate district. In 2012, 70.1% of the voting age population voted in the general election, while only 19.4% voted in the primary election. In my district, there are 98,317 registered voters. That means that, if only 19.4% of the registered voter population voted, about 79,243 people did not vote. People often make the excuse that “one vote doesn’t matter,” but what about 79,243 votes? One vote may not be the difference between one candidate or another, but the power of hundreds or thousands can be!
Elections have consequences. The candidates elected end up voting on the policies that affect all of us. One consequence of a previous election, we are now seeing fought in court. Last week the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Governor Walker and his Republican allies’ voter ID bill in two close rulings. In their decision, the court decided that requiring an ID to vote was not an additional elector qualification, nor that this law was an additional burden on potential voters. What the effect of these decisions really amount to is a manipulation of the electorate through voter suppression. There is no doubt that requiring a voter ID will disproportionately affect minorities, low income individuals, the elderly, and students. We have heard countless stories about the excessive burdens this law would cause – from financial difficulties or distant and troublesome trips to reach the DMV. Thankfully for the time being these decisions are on hold, due to a federal court decision in April that the law violates the US constitution. I am hopeful that the federal appeals court will uphold this ruling and ensure that no voter’s voice is suppressed at the ballot box.
These voter suppressive and Jim crow like legislation that Republicans are pushing nationwide is hurting our democratic rights and value. Since we have had the right to vote, especially in places where we were the majority – interference has occurred – this is nothing new. African Americans and other minorities achieved the right to vote in 1869 with the passage of the 15th amendment, but that didn’t stop the use of tactics like the poll tax or literacy tests to prevent voting. And today, even after great stride were made like the Voting Rights Act – the GOP have become more coordinated, and their efforts have become more targeted with help from organizations like ALEC, which has allowed them to expand their scope and the people it effects. They are unfortunately perfecting the “best practices” for voter suppression.
Because of this, it is now more important than ever to cast your ballot. Your vote matters, because your opinions are valuable and you have the right to voice them. We have the power as a community in a democracy to wield great influence when we come together for a cause. This August will be the first opportunity to stand up and make your voice heard. To register to vote, visit: myvote.wi.gov. Here, you can also check your voter registration status, find your polling place, request an absentee ballot, and even see a sample ballot. For more information on the voting process in general, visit: http://gab.wi.gov/voters. Get out and vote!