The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Statement on the Wisconsin Primaries
Today is a sad day for democracy. Asking Wisconsin citizens to stand in prohibitively long lines to vote at the few open polling locations amid a global pandemic is nothing more than voter suppression. It is also stunningly irresponsible and dangerous. We are deeply disturbed that Wisconsin’s Supreme Court overruled the Governor and a lower court to mandate that to participate in the democratic process, citizens must put their lives at risk. By congregating in large numbers, standing in long lines, and exposing themselves to equipment and surfaces touched by thousands of people, they are violating every CDC guideline created to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
More alarming, hundreds of thousands of college students were disenfranchised in today’s election. These students were asked to leave their campuses with very little notice and minimal clarity around navigating the absentee ballot process. Students in Wisconsin already face significant challenges accessing the ballot box as a result of our country’s strictest voter identification law, which subjects student IDs to more restrictions than any other form of ID. The heartbreaking result is that many of their voices will be missing from today’s election.
We condemn this act of partisan politics over public safety. The Wisconsin legislature and judiciary have risked the lives of its citizens with a primary election that could have been easily postponed or could have done more to expand early voting and absentee voting opportunities in light of the current public health crisis. If Wisconsin is a litmus test on the health of our democracy, then we’ve failed miserably. With seven months remaining before the general election, it is imperative that Wisconsin audits today’s shortcomings and adequately prepares for November 3.
States with upcoming primaries 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, diverse poll workers, 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 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.