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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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The Workers, United, Will Never Be Defeated

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, 04 October 2023
in Wisconsin

working-women-aflcioSenator Smith reflects on the importance of union jobs and fair wages to building a strong middle class and giving every Wisconsinite the quality of life they deserve.


MADISON - This past weekend, I was proud to stand with United Auto Workers in Hudson, who are among those striking for fair wages and better working conditions. I was inspired and galvanized to be there as workers stood up for long-overdue wage increases, cost of living adjustments and job security.

As corporate profits skyrocket, wages for workers have not kept pace. Auto workers, who accepted a wage freeze during the 2008 financial crisis, have seen their wages drop by more than 20% in the past two decades when adjusted for inflation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They also gave up cost of living adjustments, which are increasingly important as the cost of living soars.

Meanwhile, CEOs’ salaries are sky-high. General Motors CEO Mary Barra made nearly $29 million in 2022. That’s 362 times the median GM employee’s earnings, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

With the successful conclusion of the writer’s strike, we’ve seen very recent victories in bargaining for a better standard of living. As automation becomes increasingly efficient, the workforce is changing at a rapid rate. It’s important that worker protections keep pace.

union-workersIn the sixties when I was growing up, union membership was common. I grew up near the Uniroyal Factory, the paper mill was close and Presto was just a couple of miles north. Many of the kids I grew up with had a parent who worked in one of those places.

Their parents could support their families because they earned union wages and benefits. It was an era where working families could depend on an income that sustained a comfortable quality of life.

The union jobs in our community provided our neighbors with a chance to feel secure in their lifestyle and build Eau Claire’s middle class. On union wages, it was possible for a middle-class family to own a cabin up north, to take a couple of weeks off for a family vacation or a week off during deer hunting season. It was common for families to have one parent working outside the home and one inside the home.

This is not necessarily the norm now. These days, it’s increasingly difficult for workers to have that quality of life. Between rising cost of living and stagnating wages, often both parents need to have a job outside the home in order to make ends meet.

Children today deserve the kind of childhood my neighbors had growing up, with parents who are paid fairly for the work they do and have time to devote to their families.

jeff-smithBut decreasing rates of union membership make it hard for parents to have that time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2022, only 11.3 percent of workers were represented by a union. While the overall number of union members went up, the percentage of workers represented by a union went down, as non-union jobs were added at a faster rate than union jobs.

Unionization is about quality of life. By striking for better wages and a higher standard of living, union workers are building back that quality of life we have lost in recent decades. We’ve got to get it back.

Anti-union politicians turned this state upside down and backwards by gutting public sector unions twelve years ago, and their attacks on unions have continued since then. They say they support families, but won’t support the policies that make families thrive. Every worker deserves a good quality of life and the opportunity to make their family prosper.

Work gives us dignity, but only when we are paid fairly for the work we do. We can’t afford to let workers fall by the wayside. Rather than continuing to let corporate profits rise, we should compensate workers for the success they helped create with better working conditions, stronger pay and better benefits. We should stand in solidarity, with fairness and equity our goal.


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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The Shell Game of Politics

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, 27 September 2023
in Wisconsin

shell-game-youtubeThe legislative process should involve deliberation and public hearings on proposals before the body, but it’s easy to manipulate. Sen. Smith writes about the “shell game” Republicans play to divert attention from their true agenda.


MADISON - If you’re not familiar with the phrase “shell game,” it’s a trick as old as the hills. A fast-talking swindler places three shells (or cups) on a table and places a ball underneath one of them.

While they distract you with a lot of talk, they quickly move the shells around, too fast to track. Then they ask you to choose under which shell the ball is hidden. If you pick the correct one, you win the prize.

But often your eye has lost track of the moving shells, the fraudster has already pocketed the ball and there is no longer any chance of winning this rigged game. In many ways, politics can be a shell game. It’s certainly full of a lot of fast talking and a lot of misdirection.

For example, take the recent proposal offered by Republicans to fund refurbishing the publically-owned stadium leased to the Milwaukee Brewers. Keep in mind that the owner of the Brewers is a billionaire and the team itself is worth $1.6 billion.

assembly-wi-robin-vosDespite this, Republicans released a proposal offering nearly $700 million to upgrade the stadium. It sure sounds good that $400 million on that is projected to come from the income tax paid by ballplayers.

But remove the $400 million in revenue from players’ income taxes and Wisconsinites are left on the hook to make up the difference.  That means $400 million not going to pay the state’s financial obligations –revenue for local governments, police, fire protection and more.

The Legislature passed historic changes to our shared revenue formula this year, and authorized cash-strapped Milwaukee County and City of Milwaukee the ability to raise sales taxes.

This deal eats into that progress by forcing taxpayers to ante up for the Brewers beautification project. Despite complaining about “government handouts,” they sure do seem eager to support one.

(Oh – and while you’re distracted by that, the plan also removes the local members from the stadium district board. But don’t pay attention to that.)

Another shell game involves gerrymandering. As I described in last week’s column, the Republicans who have maintained their majority by drawing themselves into safe districts have suddenly discovered the “Iowa Model” of redistricting.

Never mind that there have been considerable innovations since that 2013 model was introduced. Or that nonpartisan groups have spent years gathering public input about our legislative maps and they do not support this proposal.

Using language like “nonpartisan” to distract, Republicans don’t want you to notice that they conveniently and surreptitiously omitted safeguards against politicians manipulating legislative district boundaries to stay in power.

But when a swindler sees that you may be catching onto their act, they get even more desperate.

we_wisconsin_senateFor several years now, Republicans have rammed through legislation without genuine debate or public input. Their redistricting proposal is the latest and best example. They introduced it on a Tuesday, voted it through the Assembly on Thursday without holding a public hearing or asking for any public feedback.

jeff-smithThis is the shell game Republicans have been playing for quite a while. Even when a bill gets a committee hearing, Republican legislators have avoided debate and possible amendments in committee by voting with a paper ballot rather than holding in-person meeting(s).

This is one of the most frustrating parts of my job. The Legislature is a deliberative body. It’s our job to debate and discuss legislation and listen to our constituents’ thoughts about potential laws before us. Reducing public access to this process subverts the very work we are sent to Madison to do.

This process may seem boring, but lulling the voters to sleep makes the Republican shell game even slicker. For the unscrupulous, it’s easy to distract citizens with rhetoric so we don’t even notice when they cast debate aside and pull a fast one without public input.

Keep your eye on the ball and tune out the rhetoric.


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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Continued Gerrymandering Games

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, 20 September 2023
in Wisconsin

assembly-wi-robin-vosSenator Smith discusses recent developments in the fight for fair maps and how we can approach redistricting with an eye to incorporating public comment and lessons learned from other states.


MADISON - The most common question I get as a state legislator is "Can't you all just work together?" In this terribly divided country we're living in, that's a big ask. But it's abundantly clear that people want their elected officials to work things out together.

Last week we were treated to the perfect illustration of why we aren't working together. The Republican Speaker of the Assembly, Robin Vos (R-Burlington) called a press conference in the middle of a floor session on Tuesday for an important announcement. Of course we were all curious what the import ant announcement might be, so I went to the room to find out. As it turned out, Speaker Vos announced he had come to the realization that Wisconsin needed to adopt a redistricting plan like what Iowa had. He wanted us to know that he had been thinking about this over the weekend.

After over a decade of continual opposition, the Speaker's epiphany was shocking to say the least. Wisconsin has gerrymandered political maps that heavily favor Republicans. Only a reformed system of redistricting where legislators don't approve their own maps would cure this problem, and this isn't it.

The Iowa redistricting law was the standard-bearer back when I joined Representative Spencer Black to introduce redistricting reform in 2009. As the Assembly Committee on Elections Chair at the time, I was there when we held our first and only public hearing on the bill. It's common for legislation to take a couple tries and plenty of public input before it becomes law. But sadly, after Republicans took control of the Governor's office and both houses of the Legislature and approved maps heavily lopsided in favor of Republicans, there was zero chance of redistricting reform.

janet-protasiewiczWhile Speaker Vos has been conjuring a path to redistricting reform, he was issuing threats to impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz before she takes any action on the court. Now the Speaker is convening a secret panel of former justices to help justify his decision to start an impeachment proceeding of Justice Protasiewicz, who was elected by an 11% margin (a landslide in Wisconsin politics).

Speaker Vos is using an outdated version of the bill from 2013 for a reason. The bill I authored in 2021 would draw maps and approve them in the most nonpartisan way allowed under current law. If the Speaker and other Republicans cared about redistricting, they could have made a good-faith effort to reach out to those of us who have been working on this issue for years. If they had done so, they would've known that in response to public input and other states' innovations, we are seeking to further update the bill in preparation for 2030. My co-author, Representative Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish B ay) and I are engaging good-government stakeholders to create a new Wisconsin model of redistricting modeled from all the other states that have passe d redistricting reform.

jeff-smith-2022Those constituents who ask why we can't work together might be best answered by pointing out that the powerful majority party isn't interested in what the minority party has to offer. There have been no public hearings and no inclusion or consideration of ideas from anyone else. We used to hold in-person executive sessions during the committee process, a time to introduce amendments and learn about the motivation each senator had for attempting t o fix or change a bill. Now committee chairs send members a paper ballot fo r us to vote either yes or no on bills they choose are worthy in their mind to move forward. You may wonder why we can't work together, but we aren't even given a chance to work together in committee. We hardly know each other.

What you are seeing in the news these days is a direct result of unaccountable legislators who are gerrymandered into power with no concern that they must answer to you. The Speaker's ultimatum - adopt his unvetted bill continuing his Party's control or he will impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz - leaves Wisconsin in a "Vos-tage" situation.


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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Weaponizing Impeachment

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 13 September 2023
in Wisconsin

assembly-wi-robin-vosRepublican politicians in Madison are ready once again to ignore the will of the People and impeach duly-elected Justice Protasiewicz to maintain their grip on power.


MADISON - Impeachment proceedings have become commonplace in our country's political landscape nowadays. I think we all can assume the founders of our country knew human nature – they know people and politicians can be flawed and impeachment was the check they needed to prevent individuals from abusing power. What our founders failed to imagine was the cheap and weaponized way that impeachment would be used to topple democracy and our institution of government.

Early Americans fought so hard to create our democratic republic and furnish it with the kind of protections they thought would best protect the liberty and the voice of the American public. It’s unlikely that they envisioned that impeachment could be used to undo the results of fair and free elections.

We are witnessing the denigration of our democracy with talk of impeaching Justice Janet Protasiewicz. It’s simple: voters overwhelmingly turned out in April to elect a justice who they believed would reaffirm the right for women to choose to have an abortion. Speaker Robin Vos and Republicans are using impeachment to deny women the ruling they need and deserve.

Robin Vos understands that both his Party and the Republican agenda are aging rapidly. Conservatives’ ability to use tricks and tradecraft to serve their fringe ideologies is fading against the inevitability of the People’s will, and so their sleight of hand grows more risky and more desperate.

janet-protasiewiczRemoving duly-elected Justice Protasiewicz would be a coup. Justice Protasiewicz was elected by an 11% landslide. As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, a coup is a “sudden, violent seizure of power from a government.” Justice Protasiewicz has only been serving for 1 month and hasn’t even taken any action yet – sudden is certainly the case. The violence in this agenda may be a little harder to see, but the January 6th insurrection showed just how far Republicans will go for a political win.

georgetown-cryerWhen a political party does not have the People's will on their side, their last resort is to use any and all means to stretch the law. Republicans have determined that their best strategy is to have the Assembly impeach Justice Protasiewicz, then have Senate Republican Leader Devin LeMahieu refuse to hold a hearing. This would leave our Supreme Court in a 3-3 limbo, neutralizing one of the three branches meant to impose checks and balances that protect the People.

Republicans don’t care if they break Wisconsin for the rest of us. They would rather burn it all to the ground than relinquish control.

Republicans are finally paying the piper, and now they’re running scared to grasp at whatever ephemeral strands of power they can grab. Those who have been defrauding Wisconsin’s voters fear that proper oversight will curtail the extrajudicial powers they have accumulated.

The ball, as always, is in the majority’s court. They have the opportunity to run up the score – until they inevitably lose the game when voters show up again next fall.

jeff-smithIf Republicans use procedural hijinks to subvert the will of Wisconsin voters for yet another election cycle, Republicans will pay the price at the ballot box again in 2024. Despite what the numbers in the Wisconsin Legislature may tell you, Republicans’ agenda is supported by a deep minority of voters.

It’s not too late for those elected to represent the People to do so. Now is the time to demonstrate that their priorities align with those of their constituents.

Ball’s in their court.


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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