A history of disenfranchisement
Then-governor Scott Walker began the assault on our democracy that continues today. Gov. Walker, along with his allies in the gerrymandered, GOP-controlled legislature, pioneered anti-democratic policies in Wisconsin that disenfranchised thousands of people – often targeting the most vulnerable and marginalized. Under Walker's leadership, Wisconsin enacted one of the harshest voter ID laws in the country, restricted early voting, changed absentee voting laws, limited access to polling places, and created partisan, undemocratic redistricting.
Now, inspired by the radical right-wing movement Trump fueled, those same legislators are denying the legitimacy of our hometown elections, publicly embarrassing and villainizing our elected municipal clerks and poll volunteers, and trying even harder to disenfranchise Black, Brown, and Asian voters.
From gerrymandering districts to consolidate their power, to stripping the governor’s office of crucial powers, to voter ID laws and attempts to reduce hours at the polls, the unceasing, unrelenting attempts to deny Wisconsinites their most fundamental freedom – the right to vote – has had disastrous effects for voters in Wisconsin.
We know that to make progress in our state, everyone should have the freedom to vote and have fair access to the ballot. But our voting rights are under attack in Wisconsin and around the country. A number of elected officials are trying to put up barriers to voting by passing laws that make it harder to access the ballot. They think this will allow them to hold onto their power.
Restrictive voter laws disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, people of color, and young people. For example, registering to vote in Wisconsin is tied closely to driver’s licenses – registering is far easier for people who have a license. However, people of color are far less likely to have a driver’s license.
Just 17 percent of voting age whites lack a valid driver’s license while 55 percent of Black males and 49 percent of Black females are unlicensed, and 46 percent of Latino males and 59 percent of Latino females are unlicensed. Our democracy fails when any voices are excluded.
We expanded our democracy work in 2020, adding a civic engagement director, diving into policy work at the local and state level, and taking a lead role in democracy coalitions. We will continue to build and expand that work, ensuring that every eligible voter can cast their vote.
We work alongside voting rights champions in the Wisconsin Voting Rights Coalition to stop anti-voter bills from passing and to improve voter access through policies and election administration.
Looking to the law
The assault on our freedom and voting rights continues in Wisconsin, and it can be hard to keep up. Wisconsin Conservation Voters works to champion pro-voting legislation and track every bill that works toward or against a more inclusive democracy.
Take action: register to vote
The first and most important step you can take to combat disenfranchisement is to check your own voter registration – early and often. Voters are often purged from the polls for a variety of reasons, so it's good to keep track of your own registration. If you've moved since the last election, you will need to re-register at your current address.