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Your Vote, Your Voice

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 11 October 2023 in Wisconsin

voting-dropboxSenator Smith talks about bills that protect and expand access to the right to vote and how they will positively impact the ease of voting.

MADISON - Over the past several weeks, I joined several colleagues in the State Senate and State Assembly in introducing legislation to remove barriers to voting. From encouraging young voters’ participation to allowing voters the chance to override unpopular policies, we believe that the People’s ability to be heard should not be restricted by politicians who choose to ignore the People’s will.

Let’s start with a longtime favorite of mine, automatic voter registration. While the process of registering to vote is relatively easy, some people have a misconception that it is a complex process and decide not to even try.

univ-student-voteOur legislation would eliminate one hurdle by acknowledging that U.S. citizens of a certain age should be automatically registered to vote. If a young man is required to register for the draft when he turns eighteen, he deserves a voice for electing the people who determine military policy. If your life is regulated by actions taken by legislators (and it is), you should be automatically registered to vote in support of the candidate you think aligns with your best interests.

Our Voter Protection Act would make that a reality. Any interaction with a state agency, be it getting a driver’s license, getting a marriage license or registering property, would also automatically register you to vote.

Another barrier to voting is simply not being aware of the times and places you can do so. The Voter Protection Act would require local governments to clearly post voting locations, times and how to vote. It would also severely restrict voter suppression and intimidation, which discourage people from voting through spreading disinformation or threatening voters.

Another piece of the puzzle is voter education. The Voter Protection Act would provide important information about voting to high school students and prepare them for the responsibility they will gain when they turn eighteen.

It’s important we also encourage better knowledge of the voting process itself. Transparency helps all citizens understand the careful security measures taken by election administrators to safeguard the integrity of our elections. Another bill we introduced would require training for election observers so they have a firm understanding of how the process they are observing is meant to play out.

vote-poll-workersAnother bill in the package would require anyone holding elected state office to also work at a polling location during elections in which they are not a candidate. It’s important for those who make the laws poll workers follow have a worm’s-eye view of our voting procedures.

Your voice cannot be heard if you can’t get to the polling place at the designated date or times. Our legislation would make Election Day a legal state holiday. While this would only apply to state employers, we hope this signals to private businesses the importance of ensuring their employees have the opportunity to vote on Election Day.

jeff-smithEvery one of our lives is directly impacted by the decisions elected officials make, and every citizen deserves to have a say. That’s why we believe it’s reasonable to restore the right to vote for certain persons barred from voting while serving their probation or parole sentences. Rehabilitation through community reentry programs should also include the opportunity to participate in our democracy as a voter.

We are also advocating for repealing restrictions imposed on local governments for advisory referenda questions. To strengthen the People’s voice, we have introduced the Power to the People resolution. This gives people the ability to initiate binding referenda, in which voters may advance ballot initiatives to change policies that are popular with voters but for whatever reason have been ignored by the People’s representatives.

Your vote matters. With this package, we hope to help build a Wisconsin in which your right to express your opinion through your vote will never be restricted or withheld.

Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

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