Almost half of Wisconsin’s legislative races this fall have either no major party challenger or are completely uncontested. We talk to an uncontested lawmaker who wants to give Wisconsinites a “none of the above” option on the ballot. We also discuss a new report about students as police informants on UW campuses and learn about trapping and bow hunting in our Wisconsin Life segment.
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A Look At Students As Police Informants On UW Campuses
University of Wisconsin students caught selling drugs on campus face expulsion and the loss of financial aid. But they can avoid criminal charges if they agree to help police bust other drug dealers. An investigation by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism raises questions about the risks of using students as confidential informants.
Should Wisconsinites Be Able To Vote For No One?
Imagine the following: It’s Election Day. You arrive at your polling station and head to a booth to cast your vote. You look down at the ballot and see a candidate you don’t want to vote for. They also don’t have a challenger. What do you do?
If one is creative, they might vote for a write-in. Otherwise, voters probably leave it blank.
State Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, said he wants voters to be able to vote for “none of the above.”
This fall, almost half of Wisconsin’s legislative races have either no major party challengers or are completely uncontested. That means that 55 of Wisconsin’s 116 seats in play are virtually already decided when the polls open on Nov. 4.
But Carpenter, who is himself uncontested, said that the ability to vote for “none of the above” would allow voters to register their disapproval in an environment where many people don’t feel they have a voice in politics.
“I feel there is a lot of voter apathy,” said Carpenter, “If you look at Congress, they have an approval rating of 10 percent yet over 95 percent of them will get re-elected.”
In 2012, 90 percent of House members and 91 percent of Senate members were re-elected, according to Bloomberg Government.
Carpenter also thinks that a “none of the above” option would encourage more people to run for office. Presumably, if an elected official faced a large percentage of “none of the above” votes, a challenger would choose to take them on in a future election.
Carpenter attributes the lack of competition for public office to three things: a lack of a viable third party, the increasing cost of running a campaign, and partisan redistricting. He blames Republicans for the most recent round of redistricting, though Democrats have historically redistricted with a partisan bent in Wisconsin as well.
“The Republicans who controlled all the branches of government in the 2010 election rammed through a very partisan redistricting plan, so there are very few people who can run who are in marginal seats,” said Carpenter.
Wisconsin residents can currently cast votes for write-in candidates, but according to Carpenter, a new law authored largely by Republican legislators during the current legislative session has made them more difficult to count and report — one impetus for his push for a new ballot option.
The law, Wisconsin Act 178, states:
“Write-in votes shall only be counted if no candidates have been certified to appear on the ballot. If candidates have been certified to appear on the ballot, write-in votes may only be counted for candidates who file registration statements under s. 11.05 (2g).”
Essentially, write-in votes are now only counted if they are cast for a person who has registered with the state.
Carpenter holds up Nevada’s “None Of These Candidates” option as an example for Wisconsin. It was adopted in 1975 as a way to combat voter apathy in the wake of the Watergate Scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon. The law was upheld by a federal appeals court in 2012 after a Republican-led lawsuit against it.
Notably, the “None Of These Candidates” option received the most votes in Nevada’s Democratic primary for governor with 30 percent of the vote. Of the actual politicians in the race, the most successful candidate received 24 percent of the vote.
Carpenter, as an uncontested candidate himself, said he would personally embrace a “none of the above” option.
“I would like to have a barometer saying ‘OK, a certain percentage of people are not happy with me,’ and I would use that as a signal that things have got to change,” he said.
With the state Legislature likely out of session until next year, however, and questionable political support for the measure, a “none of the above” option won’t be appearing on ballots anytime soon.
Wisconsin Life: Trapping And Crossbow And Archery Deer Season
In Wisconsin Life, the owner of a trapping store discusses how the antiquated practice is still a part of life for Wisconsinites. Then we discuss the crossbow and archery deer season with an outdoor writer in Wisconsin.
- Rob Ferrett Host
- Veronica Rueckert Host
- Galen Druke Producer
- Amanda Magnus Producer
- Sean Kirkby Guest
- Tim Carpenter Guest
- Patrick Durkin Guest
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