2023 Safe & Sound Democracy Package:
Voter Access & Education
Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Today Wisconsin legislative Democrats unveiled the first group of our "Safe & Sound Democracy" bill package, focused on voter access and education. An informed electorate is crucial to the function of democracy. These bills will help educate voters and support local clerks and poll workers. The bills we sent around for co-sponsorship today are as follows:
LRB 0097: relating to: facilitating voter registration for applicants for public assistance
As elected officials and public servants, it is our duty to ensure that voter registration is made accessible to all those who are eligible to participate in our elections. That means making voter registration more convenient for more Wisconsinites. It is vital to our democracy that we empower Wisconsinites to ensure that the will of the people is the law of the land. We recognize that the current process of voter registration can be burdensome for many. This bill takes steps to streamline to process of voter registration for those applying for public assistance by requiring that the opportunity for voter registration be made available during the application process. LRB-0097 requires that the person receiving an application for public assistance determine if the applicant is currently eligible and registered to vote. If the applicant is not registered they must be given the opportunity to do so on-site, as well as be provided assistance in the process. If the applicant does not wish to register, they must be given information about voter eligibility, a voter registration form, and a written explanation on how to register. We must ensure that all those who wish to vote can do so. This bill aims to make voter registration more efficient. It is more important than ever that we take steps like this to reform our voter registration processes and strengthen our democracy.
LRB 0098: relating to: facilitating voter registration for those who have had their voting rights restored
Each year thousands of Wisconsinites rejoin society after being incarcerated. These citizens are expected to once again participate fully in our society after their release. An important part of this process is regaining the right to vote in our elections. The process of voter registration is already confusing and burdensome for many, this is especially true for those who have just had their voting rights restored. LRB-0098 seeks to make the voting registration process easier for those who have had their right to vote restored. The current law requires that the Department of Corrections (DOC) or a jailer of a county provide written notice when a person’s right to vote has been restored. This bill requires that the DOC or jailer also provide a voter registration form, information about the eligibility to vote, a written explanation of how to vote, whether that be in-person or by mail, as well as information about the current election cycle. This bill also requires that the DOC keep a list of every living person who has lost their voting eligibility whose right to vote has not been restored, as well as a list of those whose rights have been restored. All eligible Wisconsinites deserve to have the opportunity to register to vote. Providing formerly-incarcerated citizens with this essential information will empower them to become civically engaged members of our democracy.
LRB 0099: relating to: facilitating voter registration for applicants for a driver's license or state identification card
As elected public servants, it is our duty to ensure that the voices of our constituents are brought into their government. Every Wisconsinite who is eligible to vote should have the opportunity to cast their ballot in each and every election of which they are able. Every eligible voter that does not exercise their right to vote is another voice that is not represented in the duly elected branches of our government. This bill would allow for every eligible voter to have the opportunity to register to vote with the Department of Transportation upon applying for a State ID card, or a Driver’s License. As both of these documents are necessary for voter participation, allowing this process to be more efficient will allow more Wisconsinites to become active members of the political process. In addition, this bill would allow the DOT and Elections Commission to find a reasonable way to ensure that eligible voters that apply for a license or state ID can become registered to vote automatically. This bill is a common sense way to reduce the inefficiencies in our electoral system that make voting difficult for every-day Wisconsinites.
LRB 3074: relating to: requiring certain persons holding a state elective office to serve as an election official
Understanding our election process is the best way to feel confident in that process. Those who administer elections from the county clerks, municipal clerks, election officials/poll workers etc. play a vital and important role in ensuring elections are conducted legally, transparently and securely. To better understand the process and communicate confidence with the process, state elected officials should serve as election officials/ poll workers in their communities. This bill provides a way for elected officials to deepen their understanding of Wisconsin’s electoral process by participating in it first-hand. LRB 3074 would require each non-judicial elected state official to serve as an election official/ poll worker in their first term and once every three years. Elected officials would not participate when they are on the ballot. Election official/poll worker training would be required for all participating elected officials.
LRBs 3092 & 4595: relating to: voter registration forms and information provided to certain high school students
The basis of a healthy, functioning democracy is the ability for all eligible voices to be heard in our free and fair elections, including the youth of our state. By providing voter registration forms in high schools, we can ensure that young people have the tools and information necessary to participate in our state’s democratic process as soon as they are legally eligible to become a qualified elector. LRB-3092/1 specifically denotes that high schools shall provide a voter registration form and nonpartisan materials about the importance of voting to students who have become eligible electors. For many students, this may likely be their first opportunity to participate in the democratic process that is so foundational to being a Wisconsinite and American. By inviting high school students to register to vote, this legislation will set the precedent for a lifetime of voting efficacy. The Pew Research Center identifies one in ten of our current electorate as part of Generation Z, consisting of individuals aged 18 to 23 on election day. Further, the research here explains that this growing voter demographic proves to be more racially and ethnically diverse than our nation’s aging voter population - showing that this initiative to engage our youth voters when they reach an age of eligibility in high school is pertinent not only for young voices, but for equitable participation of people from all backgrounds and communities.
LRBs 3093 & 4594: relating to: voter pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds
The ability to vote in our free and fair elections is a foundation afforded to all eligible voters as part of our democracy. Our elections are directed by multiple thorough and detailed pieces of legislation - this bill seeks to amend one to expand the opportunity to pre-register to vote to 16- and 17-year-olds who will become fully qualified electors at the age of 18 before election day. In expanding voter pre-registration to ages 16 and 17, we seek to empower the youth of our state to yield the opportunity to participate in our election processes as soon as they are eligible. Voter registration should be coherent and accessible for all Wisconsinites - offering pre-registration to these young populations reduces confusion and challenges as they may seek to become frequent lifetime voters. The National Conference of State Legislatures notes that 14 states and the District of Columbia currently permit voter pre-registration at the age of 16, and another four states allow at the age of 17. The passing of this common sense bill in Wisconsin would bring the state in line with other similar, like-minded states in our nation.
LRBs 3094 & 0380: relating to: extending voting rights to certain 17-year-old individuals and requiring a referendum
In our state, eligible electors who turn 18 in between primary and general elections are asked to select officials for public office without being able to participate in the candidate selection process by primary ballot. This bill brings Wisconsin in line with 19 other states, including our neighbors in Illinois and Iowa (for presidential candidates only). By being an active participant in the elections process, we can encourage our youth populations to create healthy and long-lasting habits of participating in the democratic process of elections.
LRB 4200: relating to: automatic voter registration
Increasing political participation starts with ensuring the ability of eligible electors to freely and easily vote. Automatic voter registration would move Wisconsin from an opt-in system to an opt-out system, simplifying the registration process for residents. Implementation of automatic voter registration would eliminate barriers to voting access, increase participation, and foster fair elections in Wisconsin. By adopting this opt-out system of voter registration, Wisconsin would reduce red tape surrounding a citizen’s ability to vote; remove bothersome, tedious, and unnecessary regulation from the registration and voting processes; promote increased engagement; and increase voter turnout. It should be the goal of all elected officials to ensure their constituents are represented as fully as possible, and this bill would do just that. The purpose of LRB-4200 is simple: strengthen democracy in the state of Wisconsin.