Commentary: Tuesday, Nov. 6 is day to preserve democracy
By Gene Kemmeter
Tuesday, Nov. 6, is Election Day throughout the United States, and voters need to overcome apathy to get out and vote. Traditionally, less than half the registered voters nationally go to the polls. Portage County usually fares much better in the turnout, although generally falling short of the turnout during the Presidential Election.
That’s sad because there are several reasons for Portage County residents to get out and vote, especially because of six referendum issues on the ballot, three of which are dictated by the Wisconsin Legislature because they seek to exceed the state-mandated property tax limits.
The Portage County Board of Supervisors is asking to exceed the limits by $1.4 million for four years from 2019 to 2022 to allow the Health Care Center to continue operating while the county explores options about the future of the Center.
The Stevens Point Area Public School District is asking voters to approve two referendum issues to allow it to exceed the spending limits by $3.5 million for educational programs, technology and maintenance per year; and to issue bonds for $75.9 million to pay for a district-wide school improvement program for safety and security improvements.
Portage County is also asking voters to close the “dark store” tax loopholes that lets “big box stores” be taxed at a rate comparable with a vacant building, thereby shifting the burden of property taxes to residential property; and to allow the use of medicinal marijuana as other states have already decided.
The sixth referendum issue is for town of Amherst voters to authorize the Amherst Town Board to appoint one person to hold the combined office of town clerk and town treasurer, as many towns and village already do.
But this election isn’t only for referendum issues. There are several contests to be decided for state and federal offices.
Two-time Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Tony Evers, Libertarian Phillip Anderson, Michael J. White of the Wisconsin Green Party, Independent Maggie Turnbull and Ernie Enzi of the Wisconsin Party.
Incumbent Republican Brad Schimel faces Democrat Josh Kaul and Terry Larson of the Constitution Party for the Wisconsin attorney general position.
Incumbent Doug La Follette and Jay Schroeder are seeking the secretary of state position; and Republican Travis Hartwig, Democrat Sarah Godlewski and Andrew Zuelke of the Constitution Party are running for state treasurer.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., is challenged by Republican Leah Vukmir in a race for a six-year term to the U.S. Senate. For the U.S. House of Representatives in District 3, incumbent Democrat Ron Kind and Republican Steve Toft are facing off.
Portage County covers three Assembly Districts, with incumbent Republican Nancy Lynn Vander Meer challenged by Democrat Cari Fay in District 70; incumbent Democrat Katrina Shankland unopposed in District 71; and incumbent Republican Scott S. Krug opposed by Democrat David Gorski in District 72.
Two Democratic incumbents are unopposed in bids for four-year terms: Mike Lucas for sheriff and Lisa M. Roth for clerk of Circuit Court. Lucas was elected in 2014, while Roth was appointed to the position in 2017 after Trish Baker resigned.
A number of new rules regarding voting were put in place in Wisconsin in 2016, such as presenting a personal photo identification card at the polling place. Those rules remain in place, so voters should be accustomed to them and know they need to show proper identification at the polls. Go to myvote.wi.gov to find out if you are registered, when to vote and what is on your ballot.
People debate whether voting is a right, a privilege, a duty or a responsibility? Voting is something that should not be taken for granted and should be exercised regularly. If a person fails to vote, they should forfeit the right to criticize a decision that impacts them. If they had voted, their vote could have made a difference.
After months of character assassinations through billions of dollars of ads by dark money, voters have the opportunity to speak about the future of the democracy of this nation. Hopefully, they’ll select someone with strong individualism and independent thinking, able to put the good of the nation and the state ahead of party.
Democracy is worth the little bit of time it takes to vote. People need to get out to voice their opinion and vote. The decision may be of utmost importance to the future of this nation. Only by voting can they show their disdain for the actions of political leaders that put party above all else.