The signers of the Declaration of Independence knew their signatures might very well land them at the end of a rope for treasonous actions. In 1864, when our nation warred with itself, a presidential election was held. In 1918, when another pandemic plagued the globe and killed over 600,00 people in our nation, mid-term elections were successfully held. In the most vexing of circumstances, the wheel of politics and democracy in this land rolled onwards. That very spirit, from the birth of this nation through the pandemic we now face, must continue with Wisconsinites making sure the Spring Election takes place, and in numbers that make far more than a political point.
A couple weeks ago I marveled at the spirit of those living in portions of Tennesse, where tornadoes had leveled swaths of communities. The morning ‘hell-from-on-high’ storms lashed down but did not close polls for that day’s primaries. As I watched the returns that evening on the cable channels it was uplifting to see the resolve of the citizens who still participated in the most fundamental responsibility we have as citizens. Voting.
The coverage reminded me how more uneasy the folks in Tennessee might have felt had the storms undid the local elections. When governments postpone, for example, elections, it allows for more of a panic mode to hover about. In these times it is most important to have some norms, especially ones that strike to the foundations of our democracy, continue. It is important citizens know they have a stake in our future, and a say in our governing process, especially when things seem most dire.
There is no denying the potent nature of COVID-19 or understanding the absolute necessity for social distancing. Heeding advice from our government, and following the directives from health experts is a necessity. But at the same time, the need for collective action to demonstrate that the underpinnings of our state (and country) remain strong must continue. Our Spring Election must be one of those avenues when we send a concerted message about unity and purpose, and it can be done safely.
It is obvious that almost every facet of our lives has been upended due to the virus. From workplaces to music venues, restaurants to gyms, our world has shrunk to the homes we live in and lawns outside our picture windows. Hunkering down is the best way we fight back against the virus. But we must not allow for the virus to attack the very underpinning of our governing process, and the most essential of that framework is our elections.
Absentee balloting is the most appropriate way to cast a ballot in the upcoming elections. We all can be enormously heartened that so many of our fellow citizens have exercised their right in this manner. In so doing they are using caution but also limiting the hardships which will be on the shoulders of the poll workers the day of the election. To assist in making same-day voting easier there will be curbside balloting. Special precautions for those who choose, for whatever reason, to cast a ballot in-person April 7th will be provided. As it should be.
We all can have our views regarding the efficacy of mail-in ballots for the whole state and how best to ensure safe elections. We all can line up with either Governor Tony Evers or the leadership of the state legislature. We can have strong opinions, and should! For the record, I come from an old-school way of thinking about elections. To the extent that our state now–and our nation as this year proceeds–can conduct our elections in the manner that is most familiar to my fellow citizens—as well as for the poll workers (which I was one)–it should do so.
But at the end of this debate, it is absolutely essential that the election process not be upended by the virus. We simply can not allow one of the causalities of this pandemic to be the glue of our democracy. Our elections. And the right to cast a ballot.
Wisconsinites are a hearty band of folks. Consider that no snowstorm or cold front is too much for Green Bay Packer fans at Lambeau Field. Packer fans do not go in light clothes but instead bundle up in layers galore. That same spirit of overcoming the odds is precisely what we must employ now as we cast our ballots in the Spring Election. We can create a statewide touchdown by having a huge voter turnout that the whole nation will notice!
Given the crisis at hand, I frankly do not care which person or issue wins at the polls. I sincerely want to see a huge turnout through absentee ballots that prove, to one and all, that when it comes to the core values in our state we all agree civic duty is very much alive!
And conquered the damn virus!