Judges in Wisconsin have recently heard cases that could affect elections for us all. Municipal clerks make decisions about voting that affect where and how you vote. Yet when it’s time to cast ballots for judges, clerks and other local elected officials, many voters choose to sit out the election, under the mistaken belief that only presidential and statewide elections matter. The reality is that the outcome of local elections can have a powerful impact on our lives.
Spring primaries are coming up next month and the spring election will take place in early April. These contests will determine who makes many critical decisions where you live. Your elected officials can make getting around town easier and safer, make schools more accessible for students, and make your community more equitable.
Electing people committed to making decisions that benefit you, your neighbors, and the community of people with vision impairment is a critical step in making your advocacy more effective. Now is the time to find out about the elections taking place in your community, learn about the candidates, and begin making your plan for voting.
Learning About Local Elections
The spring primary is on February 15 and the spring election will be held April 5. This is the time to find out whether there’s a primary in your area.
Local offices that may be up for election where you live include school board members, judges, municipal councils and county board seats, municipal clerks, and mayors or town chairs.
In addition, important local referendum questions on issues specific to your community may be on the spring ballot. Referenda often seek public input on community planning measures, such as raising revenue for school building projects or where to develop a new hospital.
Making your voice heard on these issues will help raise awareness of the need to locate schools, hospitals and other key facilities in spots that people with vision loss can reach using the transportation options available in your community. You can also help make your community safer for everyone by educating your local officials on nondriver transportation issues.
You can learn about your local elections and verify your registration at the MyVote Wisconsin website. This site provides information from the Wisconsin Elections Commission on where you vote, what’s on your ballot and how to vote absentee. You can also access this information by calling your municipal clerk.
Find Out About Candidates
The League of Women Voters Vote411 website will have information on candidates and issues. Your local clerk will also have this information, as will news outlets covering your area, many of which print and post candidate profiles closer to the election.
Advocating on issues important to you during a local election is a great way to raise awareness and build relationships. Many local officials will go on to run for statewide or even federal office. For example, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin started her political career in 1986 by filling a vacant seat on the Madison Common Council while in law school, and she was then elected to the Dane County Board of Supervisors that same year. She has since gone on to win election to the Wisconsin State Assembly, the U.S. House of Representatives, and finally, her current seat in the Senate.
Even if a candidate is running unopposed, take the time to know them and introduce yourself. Let them know how important it is to have practical transportation options and a safe, walkable community. Then, when it’s time for them to take a position on funding for an accessible pedestrian signal, they may recall what you taught them about pedestrian safety for all.
Make a Voting Plan
Thinking through how you will cast your ballot is an essential step and can be the difference between voting and not voting in these elections.
The Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition website provides helpful information on how to make your voting plan. Their comprehensive guide includes advice on checking your registration status, registering, completing an absentee ballot, and more.
Decide whether you’ll vote in person and how you will get to your polling place. If you want to vote absentee, find out if an accessible ballot is available, and if it is not, decide who you can ask to help you fill out your ballot. Currently, the only accessible types of ballots are large print and, in some rare instances, braille. You will need to request an accessible ballot well in advance of the election to allow time for your request to be fulfilled.
If you plan to vote absentee, request your ballot as soon as you can. You can request absentee ballots for either a specific election or for the full year. Under current law, voters who register as “indefinitely confined” can vote absentee without providing a copy of their photo ID and will receive an absentee ballot for every election. Learn more about qualifying on the Wisconsin Election Commission website.
If possible, leave yourself up to eight weeks to make your voting plan. Why not start today?