Op Ed

Restore the Elections Commission Staff

GOP legislators supported this until Walker veto cut staff. Our bill restores electoral security.

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Voting Line

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To make our elections run securely and accurately, we need to repair the damage to the Wisconsin Elections Commission caused by Governor Walker’s veto last month, which removed five necessary staff from the Commission.

The simple reality is when government staff positions are eliminated, the services provided by those staff are also eliminated. Whether it is a snowplow driver, daycare license compliance officer, professor, veterans home nurse assistant, or an elections specialist, cuts to staffing or funding cause services to suffer. The Wisconsin Elections Commission has been at the receiving end of many staffing cuts, and with Governor Walker’s veto of five additional staff provided by the Legislature in the budget, our election system will simply not function as we need it to.

Our Elections Commission staff investigate complaints of fraud and misconduct in elections, but they are also in charge of the integrity and security of our elections systems. Among their many responsibilities, the Elections Commission is charged with communicating with and training our local election officials. We have a unique system for elections in Wisconsin: they are run from the local level with 1,853 municipal election clerks and 72 county clerks, and even though we have a statewide voter list, it is the partnership between our local and state election officials that truly makes sure our elections are secure and accurate. The Elections Commission provides all of these local officials need to know every change to the law that impacts elections, and trains these local officials on the process, laws, technology, court decisions and security of our elections.

Governor Walker issued his veto of the staff and told the Wisconsin Elections Commission to hire limited-term employees and contract employees. The Elections Commission will undoubtedly do everything in their power to “make it work” and come back to Legislature to request funding for staff in the next budget, but that doesn’t do much to ensure the integrity or security of our elections in the meantime. The Wisconsin Elections Commission should have the minimum staff they say they need to effectively and securely run elections in Wisconsin.

That is why we are co-authoring a bill restoring five full-time staff members to the Elections Commission—back to where the Commission was before Governor Walker’s veto—a provision that Republicans voted for in committee and on the floor of the Legislature. Yet, most Republicans did not sign onto this legislation despite supporting it mere months ago. We should at least restore the Elections Commission staff to the level provided for in the Legislature’s budget, which ensures election integrity and security in Wisconsin.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton andRep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

2 thoughts on “Op Ed: Restore the Elections Commission Staff”

  1. Jason troll says:

    Election commission board is just another ” non partisan” tentacle of the Democratic party. It’s root favor the political left and fairness in their eyes is conjuring up investigation on Republicans in power and assisting Democrats at election time.

  2. mkwagner says:

    It is hard to conceive how JT can can equate anything “non-partisan” to being associated with the Democratic party, particularly the Election Commission. The objectives of the Commission are to facilitate facilitate Wisconsin voters in the election process and to ensure the voters get the government for which they voted. Wisconsin voters affiliate with both the Republican and Democratic parties as well as numerous smaller parties. There are also some of us who consider ourselves independent and vote for the best candidate regardless of party affiliation.
    Though, I could see an argument for the Election Commission being more partisan if you fail to consider the actions of the Republican dominated state government’s assault on voter rights and access to the polls in districts that lean Democratic; or even that in the 2014 election they garnered 200,000 fewer votes than Democrats yet still won 60% of the Senate and Assembly seats.
    The problem is that the current Republican leadership appears not to support fair elections. They are more interested in maintaining their power. It is sad that they reject the rich tradition of the Republican Party in Wisconsin in favor of a blatant power grab, which they justify by saying they know best. It is this kind of politicking that opens the way for oligarchies (see banana republics) or worse, the takeover by an autocrat/dictator (like what happened in Germany, Italy and Spain in the 1920s and 30s.)
    A government responsive to the people as expressed in free, open and fair elections may not be the most efficient form of government, but its benefits far outweigh its shortcomings.

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