To: Senate Committee on Elections and Utilities
Re: Opposition to AB 947 Senate Substitute Amendment 1
Although the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin supported the improved absentee ballot provisions in the original version of AB 947, we strongly OPPOSE the proposed changes in the substitute amendment dealing with the timing of special elections. We take this stance based on our position supporting representative government:
“Founded by the activists who secured voting rights for women, the League has always worked to promote the values and processes of representative government. Protecting and enhancing voting rights for all Americans, assuring opportunities for citizen participation, working for open, accountable, representative and responsive government at every level—all reflect the deeply held convictions of the League of Women Voters.” (http://forum.lwv.org/sites/default/files/impact_on_issues_2016-2018_repr...)
In particular, we oppose this effort to undermine a court decision by changing the rules retroactively. When two legislators resigned last year, the voters in their districts had the right to elect new representatives. This bill would rescind that fundamental citizen right and deprive citizens in those districts of representation for an entire year.
Further, this legislation appears to strip any obligation for the Governor to call special elections. The bill deletes current language from the statutes specifying that the Governor "shall call special elections as promptly as possible." The bill only creates a prohibition on holding such elections after the spring primary.
Some people have said that it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars to hold elections at this point. There would have been no such waste if the Governor had called the special elections when he should have according to the law. The elections could have been held in conjunction with the February/April election cycle.
Some have noted that the legislative session will have concluded by the time the new legislators take office. Yet, as we have seen just this year, a Special Session or Extraordinary Session can be called even after the legislature has adjourned. Such sessions are convened to address specific and usually very important issues. Current law provides for voters in every district to have representation in these matters. This bill would reverse that.
In particular, this legislation burdens citizens in two current districts who don’t have representation even right now as this current Extraordinary Session considers their fate. The voters Senate District 1 and Assembly District 42 had the right to elect new representatives upon the resignation of their legislators, and this matter should not be considered without their representation.
Others have noted that residents of the affected districts can still contact their legislative offices for basic constituent services. That is well and good, but it gets to the difference between constituent service and governance. If legislative staff can provide public service without input from the lawmakers themselves, we could save a lot of taxpayer dollars by going to a part-time legislature.
This legislation strips citizens of representation and it should be soundly rejected by any lawmaker who believes in fair and responsive government.