When Wisconsinites went to the polls last week, it was not a happy celebration of democracy with smiling faces proudly sporting “I Voted” stickers. Instead, our state was a national embarrassment and a cautionary tale to the rest of the country. We have a public health crisis on our hands that may have gotten even worse.
In March, the state issued a Safer at Home order because the best way to mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak and save lives is to keep people at home and avoid mass gatherings. Yet while the 16 other states with April elections postponed due to the global pandemic, Wisconsin Republicans challenged every route to postpone the in-person election and even fought small legal changes to make voting safer.
Many people had to choose between voting and risking their health, even folks across the state that requested mail ballots and simply didn’t receive them in time. I am still in shock that this was allowed to happen.
I know the last thing you want to read about in this unsettling and uncertain time is another round of partisan bickering. Believe me when I say, I absolutely agree. So let’s lay out some fundamental things that most of us, Republican and Democrat, can agree on:
- During this global pandemic, we should do everything in our power to prevent unnecessary deaths.
- Everyone who can legally vote and wants to should be able to without significant barriers.
- We should work together and come to an agreement that satisfies both of these without overwhelming our village, town and city clerks.
I believe our answer is actually pretty straightforward — we need to mail a ballot to every registered voter. I signed onto legislation last week that would do just that, while also providing the necessary resources to municipalities to make it happen.
Currently, five states vote entirely by mail. This does not mean you can’t vote in person, but when all registered voters are mailed a ballot, most people take advantage of this option.
Despite claims of this idea costing too much, states that have switched to vote by mail actually save money. In Colorado, costs decreased an average of 40% across 46 of Colorado’s 64 counties (the only counties with available data).
More important, voter turnout has also increased in these states. Convenience is not a small thing — when people have work, school, limited transportation options and other obligations, voting in person on a Tuesday can be a burden. And of course, a flourishing representative democracy works best when more people vote.
Another important note — despite what you may have heard, evidence shows that vote by mail actually doesn’t give an advantage to either political party. There is also no evidence for an increase in fraud in states with vote by mail.
For all of us living in the 7th Congressional District, we have a special election coming up May 12. I do not want a repeat of last week where voters either took a chance with their health or were disenfranchised. I know it’s just a month away, but I believe if the state provides adequate resources and we get started soon, we can pull this off.
However, if we can’t get this passed in time, we have to do the next best thing. Go to myvote.wi.gov right now and request your mail ballot for May. You can also select the option to get all your ballots for the calendar year.
But don’t stop there — share this information with your family, friends and neighbors — anyone who will listen (from at least six feet away, of course). The sooner we request these ballots, the less work for our clerks.
As your representative, I will continue to advocate for your safety and your right to vote. You can count on it.
Beth Meyers represents Wisconsin’s 74th Assembly District that covers all of Ashland and Bayfield counties.