Apr 2, 2017

Madison, Wisconsin Fights Republican Voter Obstruction

Wisconsin votes on Tuesday in the April 4 spring elections.
Wisconsin has seen among the nation's worst anti-voting
rights measures enacted by Republicans. One city,
Madison, is successfully fighting Republican
voter obstruction.
Madison, Wisconsin — Madison municipal clerk, Jean Phelps, offered a training session for new poll workers on March 25 at the Meadowridge Library on the city's southwest side.

Ms. Phelps pointed out to the assembly of some 50 people that their job duties do not include a legal mandate to "interrogate" voters on the coming Election Day, April 4.

Delivering a one-hour PowerPoint presentation, Phelps read several emails from aggrieved voters who say they felt harassed and bullied by election officials, an increasingly common practice committed by the Republican Party of Wisconsin-named poll workers and other citizens carried away with the prospect of serving in an official capacity in an office of public trust.

Phelps' training session comes as numerous Madison election officials implement measures recognizing the powerful, affirmative right to vote in the Wisconsin Constitution, Suffrage - Article III, (Ballotpedia).

City election initiatives notable under the tenure (2006-present), of City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl, reveal an apparent effort to treat voters as human beings and citizens vested with the right to vote.

Voting rights directives by the City Clerk's office come as other city-wide initiatives have been implemented following a federal voting rights decision in 2016 that struck down as unconstitutional numerous Republican Party-passed changes to Wisconsin election law, (One Wisconsin Institute v. Thomsen).

In One Wisconsin Institute v. Thomsen, ((Mal Contends), (U.S. District Court of the Western District of Wisconsin (Case 15-cv-324) (Moritzlaw)), much of the Republicans and only Republicans' transformation of election law was swept away, though the case has been appealed by Wisconsin's Republican attorney general.

Wrote election law expert, Rick Hasen: "[One Wisconsin Institute v. Thomsen] is a pretty sweeping opinion, which rejects many of the state’s arguments for its restrictive voting rules as pretexual, (misrepresentative), and really aimed at giving Republicans advantage in elections. The judge was particularly skeptical of measures which made it harder to vote in Milwaukee, with its large population of minority voters, and to a lesser extent, Madison, a liberal stronghold in the state."

Madison has expanded the number and hours of early voting (in-person absentee voting) locations throughout the city in the nine months following One Wisconsin Now.

In the typically low-turn-out Spring primary held in February, polling places throughout Madison saw record-breaking early voting, (Capital Times).

At the late March training session Madison's Phelps noted that many polling places in February ran out of ballots.

Witzel-Behl's work has gained plaudits from voting rights activists on social media. The Dane County League of Women Voters noted in late March a massive increase in voter turn-out on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, for example, citing figures kept at the city of Madison website.

The non-partisan Wisconsin Election Protection umbrella group similarly has noted Witzel-Behl's work and that of others who are fighting Republican voter obstruction in their official capacities.

Looming is the white, racist and punishing Republican Party which views minority voting as not-quite-legitimate.

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