“Ballot Measure May Scare Away the People Who Help Run Wisconsin Elections”


For the past two years, Nick Ramos has volunteered his time to ensure more Wisconsinites can participate in elections: with a mobile printer in hand, he visits polling places in the Milwaukee area to help people who lack proper identification obtain it on the spot, so that they are eligible to vote.

But Ramos, who directs the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, an organization that promotes good government, says he may not volunteer in the future if voters approve Question 2, a constitutional amendment on the state’s April 2 ballot. “This thing gets passed, and I’d be very afraid to do that again,” he told Bolts.

The measure would require that only “an election official designated by law may perform tasks in the conduct of primaries, elections or referendums.” It can easily read as an innocuous codification of existing statute, and it has generated no campaign spending on either side of the issue since Republican lawmakers chose to place it on the ballot late last year.

Among advocates for voting rights and for well-resourced election administration, however, this under-the-radar proposal is alarming. A slew of lawyers, elections experts, and nonprofit leaders tell Bolts Question 2 is written so vaguely as to invite lawsuits over what constitutes a “task” and what, exactly, it means to help “conduct” an election. 

They fear this confusion will have a chilling effect on the many non-governmental groups and volunteers who assist in election administration. If it passes, the measure is set to go into effect this year, ahead of November’s presidential election in which Wisconsin is again considered a critical swing state.

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