by Alaina Kennelley, Intern
Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, the Wisconsin elections still took place Tuesday April 7th. This election saw more absentee ballots than in past years and more early voting as well. I recently spoke with Martha Nieman, a candidate for District 17 County Board Supervisor, and Kate Beaton, Eau Claire City Council Member and Organizer for Wisconsin Conservation Voters, about the effect the virus has had on the election and the importance that voting has during this tumultuous time.
Beaton went in depth about the many issues that arose from the election including voters never receiving their absentee ballet in the mail, voters being unable to get their ballots signed by a witness, and voter’s ballets not being received in time by the clerk. “Voters were doing everything right, fighting for their right to vote, and when the system failed them, they were forced to risk their health and their lives to vote in person on Election Day,” stated Beaton.
By continuing with the election despite the virus Nieman said that we “risked the ease of voting as there were more hoops to go through to vote. People had to be more intentional to vote.” This is particularly a problem for more vulnerable communities who are the ones who may have the most at stake during the election and have the least resources to vote.
Both Nieman and Beaton had concern from a democracy standpoint. Nieman believes that still having the election was potentially “interfering with the right to vote which is a democratic right.” As a result of this democratic controversy, Beaton said there are groups launching campaigns that will make it easier for Wisconsinites to access their right to vote in future elections.
In addition to the virus’s effect on voters, this election also had effects on the candidates themselves. Beaton talked about how important it is for candidates to connect with voters and how the virus robbed candidates of the inspiration and energy that comes with connecting with the community.
As the upcoming presidential election is in the near future, it is important now more than ever that we take voting and voter rights seriously. As Beaton said, “What happened against Wisconsin voters is a moral crime and as voter advocates, we should be doing everything between now and November to make sure that never happens again.”
What are your thoughts on the election and the way it was handled? What would make participating in the November election easier for you? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org