Wisconsin voters to decide on banning private money to help fund elections

Wisconsin Voters to Cast Ballots on Prohibiting Private Funding for Election Operations

Next month, Wisconsin voters face a crucial decision. They will vote on whether to amend their constitution to ban private funding for election administration. This move is part of two Republican-led initiatives. Democrats argue these measures aim to complicate election processes in this key swing state.

The proposed constitutional amendments for the April 2 ballot include a significant change. They seek to ensure only legally designated officials can oversee elections. Approval by a majority will engrain these changes into the state constitution.

Starting Tuesday, Wisconsin embarks on early in-person absentee voting, which will continue until March 31.

Since 2020, Republicans across at least 27 states have moved to ban or limit private election grants. In Wisconsin, these measures have garnered support from Republican and conservative circles. However, they face opposition from various groups. These include the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause Wisconsin, Wisconsin Conservation Voters, and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

Notably, no Democratic lawmakers supported the amendment, now divided into two separate ballot questions for April.

The push for these measures follows unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. These claims, propagated by former President Donald Trump and his allies, suggested the election was unfairly won by President Joe Biden.

State Sen. Eric Wimberger, a co-author of the amendments, emphasized the importance of trust in election fairness and impartiality. He highlighted Wisconsin’s pivotal role as a swing state, underscoring the local, national, and international significance of election integrity measures.

Critics argue these proposals aim to restrict voting rights, undermining democracy. Sam Liebert, from All Voting is Local Action Wisconsin, criticized the measures as attempts to limit electoral access under the guise of election security.

The amendments address Republican concerns over 2020 election grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. This liberal group, supported by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, aimed to enhance voter access. Wisconsin’s largest cities, all Biden supporters, received a significant portion of these funds. Republicans labeled this financial support “Zuckerbucks,” alleging it was an attempt to influence the election outcome.

Kyle Koenen of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty argued for the amendments. He stressed the need for a nonpartisan electoral system, free from external financial influences, to maintain democratic integrity.

Zuckerberg and Chan have clarified their donation aimed to support election infrastructure during the pandemic, ensuring voter access.

The constitutional amendment route was chosen by Republicans to bypass Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who likely would have vetoed a regular bill. Amendments do not require the governor’s approval.

Legal challenges to the grant money’s legality were dismissed by three courts and the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission.

The ballot also includes a separate question on poll worker qualifications. Current law outlines these requirements, but the amendment seeks to embed them in the constitution, making future changes more challenging.

Opponents fear the amendment could hinder efforts to enhance voter participation.

Wisconsin’s history shows a strong track record of approving constitutional amendments. Since 1848, voters have passed 148 out of 200 proposals. Under Gov. Evers, three amendments have been ratified, with more expected after the April ballot.

Future ballots will address other issues. The August primary will ask voters about legislative control over federal funds. The November ballot will propose an amendment to clarify that only U.S. citizens aged 18 and older can vote, aligning with federal requirements and addressing the debate over noncitizen voting in local elections.