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Effort Underway In Madison, Wisconsin To Encourage Voting

July 8, 2012

Two interesting stories caught my attention in separate newspapers this morning.  Though the stories took place half-a-world away from each other, they both dealt with the same underlying hopes of energizing people to vote, and thereby participate more fully in democracy. Needless to say I am always in favor of greater interest in elections, and welcome efforts to increase voter turnout.

In Madison there is an effort underway to encourage more voter participation, a move that I hope the majority of the city council will endorse and support at the time the issue comes to the floor. 

In a bid to boost voter turnout, Madison City Council members are proposing that landlords must provide voter registration forms when tenants move into a residence.

The move could have an impact around UW-Madison, where thousands of students take new apartments each year, as well as other parts of the city with concentrations of rental units, supporters said. Nearly half of the city’s dwelling units are rentals, the U.S. Census says.

While I have had many differences with Ald. Bridget Maniaci, 2nd District, this is a time I can totally endorse one of her ideas.   Bridget Maniaci is the lead sponsor of the measure that would well serve the public, especially tenants who are often at a loss as to how to find their polling place, and how to navigate the complicated law the Republicans have foisted on this state when it comes to voting.

The proposal, introduced last week with nine of 20 council members listed as sponsors, will first be considered by the city’s Equal Opportunities Commission with a council decision expected on July 17. That could put the rule in place for the return of students in August.

Under the proposal, voter registration forms would be added to the documents that a landlord must provide tenants when they take an apartment.

Meanwhile on the front page of The New York Times this morning was the following picture.

In Benghazi, women carried ballots and encouraged others to vote minutes after shooting broke out between security officials and opposing factions who burned ballots from a nearby polling station.

It should stir our hearts to read such news accounts of efforts aimed at enlarging the number of voters.  No matter if that is taking place in our local neighborhoods, or in nations that are coming to terms with new-found rights and responsibilities–it should all be applauded–and encouraged.

There will be those who will try to find some reason that informing tenants how to register will be too much of a burden in one way or another.  They will create the most convoluted arguments about why democracy costs too much.

Tell that to the folks who made the Arab Spring possible–and then call me in the morning.

One Comment
  1. Mandi permalink
    July 24, 2012 3:13 PM

    The problem that I have with this as a Landlord in Madison is not the cost. It’s the issue of compelling someone to undertake their own civil right and responsibility. If a tenant can’t be bothered to get off Facebook for a few minutes to look up the voter registration information (and you can register without ever needing to leave the comfort of your pajamas – I know, I did it.) then how is forcing a landlord to give him the forms going to change that?

    Where personal responsibility is concerned, either you choose to accept the responsibility, or you don’t. You do not whine in all your tiny, impotent rage until someone does it for you.

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