By Senator Lena C. Taylor
The most recent election was bittersweet for many Wisconsin voters. No matter your political leanings or candidates of choice, no one likely got everything they wanted. Wisconsin split their votes this midterm election. We are the state that could elect a Republican Governor and a Democrat for President. We are a state that can respond to many issues and transcend expectations.
While voter turnout was a mixed bag, no one can deny that something felt different this election. Stories are being shared about the number of new voter registrations and first-time voters receiving cheers in polling locations. Every day citizens took ownership of their communities, apartment complexes and senior living facilities to ensure that everyone who wanted to vote, could vote. Organizations provided grants to power the resources community organizations needed to reach potential voters.
Text messaging programs, canvassing, peer-to-peer conversations, town halls, panel discussions and cookouts all had a single focus: voter education and engagement. Believing that if neighbors were armed with information about the voting process, confidant in how to cast their ballot, and armed with the required documentation, residents would go vote. Thousands of dollars and volunteer hours were invested in this strategy and civic engagement won!
Without fail, the GOTV (Get Out The Vote) message broadened to include an understanding of what was at stake. Issues were on the table. Women’s reproductive health, public safety, school shootings, inflation, and the economy were on the bench. A place had been set to discuss these big social problems. Medicaid expansion and social security protection were a part of foundational discussions and climate change concerns floated freely in the air. Everything was on the table and everyone that wanted a say was encouraged to participate.
A bevy of training, dedicated to civic participation, was concentrated at the ground level. Grassroots organizations, small non-profits, neighborhood associations, and individuals who were committed to engagement stepped up in a big way! You were hard pressed not to bump into someone with a clip board, ward list, voter registration information or a voter pledge card.
Whether their candidates won their races or not, many in the electorate came up big winners. They’ve been given life long skills, that include advocacy training, research techniques, messaging and strategies to talk to family and friends, and civic instruction. They know who to call for services, can differentiate between the levels and varying responsibilities of government. Most importantly, residents have been exposed to skills that will help them consider and evaluate the best candidates for them and their families in the future. A strong ground game leads to a better end game!