Breaking down the two statewide referendum items in Wisconsin’s spring primary election

(WLUK) — Tuesday marks two weeks until Wisconsin’s spring primary election on April 2.

In-person absentee voting kicked off across the state Tuesday. On everyone’s ballot are two questions that could change how future elections are run in Wisconsin.

One of those questions asks if using private funds to administer an election should be made illegal.

“If we don’t pass these constitutional amendments, the ultimate result will be that there will be billionaires and outside organizations that selectively pile in, get out the vote efforts into cities themselves, in a battle for control of the state,” said State Sen. Eric Wimberger (R-Green Bay).

The measure stems from grant money awarded to cities in Wisconsin by the Center for Tech and Civic Life. It happened in 2020 to help run elections during the pandemic. The group is funded by Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg.

Democrats say the measure will make it more difficult to hold elections.

“We have over 1,000 clerks in this state who do a great job conducting our elections in accordance with our laws, and this would really tie their hands and give them less resources to do the work that they need to do,” said Joe Oslund, Communications Director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Green Bay was one such city to receive grant money. City clerk Celestine Jeffreys says her office will comply with whatever the public votes.

“However the voters choose, we will go with how their choice is, and the consequence — if the referendum passes and it becomes a constitutional amendment — the consequence is that, of course, voters will fund elections fully,” said Jeffreys.

The second question on the ballot asks if only designated election officials should administer elections. Each measure was brought forth by state Republicans and are opposed by Democrats.

“This really was, at the end of the day, a way to get around a potential veto from Governor Tony Evers, because had these been put forward in regular bills, the governor would’ve almost surely vetoed them, right?” said UW-Green Bay Associate Professor of Political Science David Helpap.

Both questions will ask you to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If the majority of voters approve, the amendments will be added to Wisconsin’s constitution.

Back in 2022, Green Bay’s city council voted to change its policy for accepting private grants and services for administering elections.

Source: Breaking down the two statewide referendum items in Wisconsin’s spring primary election

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