GOP Push to Change Primary Is a Slap at Wisconsin Voters

by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director

November 26, 2018

The proposal by Wisconsin’s top Republican officials to change the date of the presidential primary is another manipulative move to undermine the will of Wisconsin voters.

They are concerned that their candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Justice Daniel Kelly, won’t win reelection if that contest is held on the same day as the April 2020 presidential primary, as it is currently scheduled. They know that turnout is higher during presidential primaries, and that higher turnout helps the liberal candidate.

So they want to move the primary from April to March, which would mean that Wisconsin voters would face a February state and local primary, a March presidential primary, and an April Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

Rather than frankly state their crass political motives, GOP leaders have been putting out mealy-mouthed, incomprehensible, and bogus rationales.

“We don’t think it’s appropriate to put the burden of a presidential primary on top of our local races, so that’s what that’s all about,” State Sen. Alberta Darling said on “UpFront with Mike Gousha.”

Gov. Scott Walker said that it was odd to have a nonpartisan election on the same day as a partisan one. But Wisconsin Supreme Court races are nonpartisan in name only. Over the past 10 years, they’ve become highly partisan contests.

When you cut through the smokescreens, it’s clear they want fewer Wisconsin citizens to vote in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. Changing an election date so that fewer voters turn out is fundamentally undemocratic. It’s a slap in the face of the Wisconsin voter. And it’s a slap in the face of the Wisconsin taxpayer, who would have to foot the bill for an extra $6 million or $7 million.

On top of that, it’s a huge headache for the county and municipal clerks, who would have to administer three elections in three months. That’s why 37 county clerks have signed an open letter opposing this proposal. Many of the clerks come from very red counties, such as Clark, Fond du Lac, Langlade, Kewaunee, Pepin, Shawano, Waushara, and even Waukesha.

“Republican lawmakers…will be extremely hard-pressed to find a county clerk, Republican and Democratic alike, or a nonpartisan municipal clerk, who thinks this is a good policy change, or frankly, even doable,” the letter said. “It would be an unfunded mandate which would waste taxpayer money, create logistical nightmares for clerks, and greatly confuse voters.”

But none of that seems to matter to GOP leaders, who will stop at nothing to try to hold onto power.