The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Statement on Postponing Wisconsin Primary Election
What we are witnessing in Wisconsin is a litmus test on the health of our democracy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results are clear—voters are scared and confused—and our election system is broken. Wisconsin’s citizens need clear directives about how, when, and where to vote. They need multiple alternatives to in-person voting. These are particularly important for students—many of whom were given short windows to relocate from their campus homes. These students may no longer be physically located in Wisconsin where they are registered to vote and are being counted by the Census. This is why The Andrew Goodman Foundation supports Wisconsin Governor Tony Ever’s decision to try and postpone the April 7th primary election.
This decision should have been made sooner. It would have avoided exacerbating confusion and fear. Now it is the only safe and realistic step, but a lot has to be done between now and the eventual date of the Wisconsin primary election. This is in light of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of student voters, the strictest student voter identification requirement in the country, the closure of polling locations, scarcity of poll workers, and all of the chaos and confusion surrounding this election. Wisconsin and other states must take the time to establish a clear process and plan for ensuring safe, accessible and inclusive elections with multiple voting options, including expanded absentee voting opportunities, online options, extended voting days, and CDC compliant in-person voting.
The Andrew Goodman Foundation works to increase student voting rates and access to the ballot box. We offer the following recommendations to protect student voting rights and to safeguard the health of our citizens and our democracy.
The Boards of Elections and other governing bodies should be mandated to do the following:
- Create multiple, complementary, and inclusive avenues for voting, including but not limited to expanded absentee voting opportunities, CDC compliant and properly resourced polling sites, and more diverse poll workers;
- Ensure prepaid postage for all election-related materials;
- Mail ballots to all citizens who are eligible to vote;
- Work with colleges and universities to forward ballots to relocated students at the addresses where they are currently living;
- Notify and allow students to request a change of mailing address for absentee ballots, including by phone or online;
- Waive the voter identification requirements for students. At a minimum, students should be able to use the “indefinitely confined” status so that the voter identification requirements are waived in light of the pandemic;
- Implement an extensive, multilingual, and multiplatform statewide public awareness campaign to inform students and the public of how and when they can vote. This includes providing colleges and universities with instructions for students that explain in clear terms how students can vote;
- Extend the deadlines for voter registration, absentee ballot requests, absentee voting, and change of address;
- Expand provisional ballot voting and ballot protection, including when a voter turns up at the wrong polling station;
- In light of studies that show that absentee ballots cast by younger and racial and minority voters are rejected at substantially higher rates, provide notice and cure opportunities for rejected absentee ballots;
- Provide more resources that are allocated equitably across polling stations, particularly where polling places are situated in traditionally vulnerable communities;
- Conduct timely post-election audits that are publicly posted, and that take into consideration factors including but not limited to race, gender, age, location and wealth.