State Republican leaders are defiling democracy

Whatever happened to government of the people, by the people, for the people? Wisconsin’s proud tradition of participatory government has been defiled once again by a legislative leadership that is out to protect its own power despite the people.

The Republican leadership in the state legislature has released their proposal to redraw district lines on a Friday afternoon in July. The timing of the release is notable for more than the obvious cowardice of its sponsors, who might hope the media will not give it the criticism it deserves over the weekend. It also shows disrespect for the local government officials and citizens of Wisconsin who have been working for weeks to draw local community level boundaries, a process that has traditionally and rightfully taken place before the state legislature weighs in.

Most of all, the proposal clearly was timed to add to the confusion of voters just three days before the first of a series of recall elections. While redistricting ultimately will result in new district lines and polling places, it is important to note that these changes will not go into effect immediately. The League has learned that 580 of the 600 municipalities in the Senate recall districts are planning to have all voting sites open in the July elections.

The Assembly and Senate leadership have done everything they can to keep voters away from the polls for the recall elections, from enacting a restrictive election law to releasing new district maps right before the election. They are hoping people will be confused and discouraged and will stay away from the polls. It makes you wonder what they are afraid of.

Founded by the suffragists who 91 years ago won the right for women to vote, the League of Women Voters urges all eligible citizens in the recall districts to seek out reliable information and exercise their right to vote. Too much is at stake to let other people call the shots.

Citizens can learn about the candidates in the League’s nonpartisan Candidates Answers Voter Guide on the League’s website (www.lwvwi.org). You can check your voter registration status, polling place, election dates and a sample ballot on the Government Accountability Board’s Voter Public Access website (https://vpa.wi.gov).

Melanie Ramey is president of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Fund, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that promotes informed and active participation in government.

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