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Theobald, H. Rupert; Robbins, Patricia V. (ed.) / The state of Wisconsin 1981-1982 Blue Book
(1981-1982)

Elections in Wisconsin,   pp. [855]-948 PDF (28.9 MB)


Page 856


WISCONSIN BLUE BOOK 1981-1982
                           ELECTIONS IN WISCONSIN
                                       A Capsule View
  The laws governing all elections in Wisconsin are set forth in Chapters
5 to 12 of the Wisconsin
Statutes. Generally, there are 4 elections to engage the voter's attention
- the spring primary in
February and the spring election in April of each year, and the September
primary and November
general election in the even-numbered years. Officers who are elected on
a nonpartisan basis are
chosen in the spring. These comprise town, village, city and school district
officers, county board
members, county executives, all judicial officers and the state superintendent
of public instruction.
Officers elected on a partisan basis are chosen in the fall and include county
administrative offi-
cials, members of the legislature, state constitutional officers except the
state superintendent, and
members of Congress. Not all of these officers are elected at every election.
   In presidential election years the presidential preference vote is held
at the, spring election,
while the vote for president occurs at the general (November) election. At
some elections, the
Wisconsin voters are also asked to advise the state legislature or local
legislative bodies on matters
of public policy (referenda) or to ratify or reject a proposed law or an
amendment to the Wiscon-
sin Constitution.
                                   The Wisconsin Electorate
   Size of the Electorate. Because Wisconsin does not maintain a statewide
register of voters, the
 exact size of the electorate is unknown. On April 1, 1970, when the minimum
voting age was still
 21, Wisconsin population 21 and over numbered 2,593,018, but not all of
these were qualified to
 vote in Wisconsin elections. Since 1,343,160 votes were cast for governor
in that year, it can be
 assumed that about 52 percent of the eligible voters participated in the
election. This low turn-out
 may be typical for an "off year" election; only 2 years earlier,
when the election for governor
 coincided with a vote for U.S. president, 1,689,601 votes were cast for
governor in the November
 election.
    The 1970 census gives the Wisconsin population age 18, 19 and 20 as 241,070,
thus increasing
 the number of voting age to 2,834,088. Since 1,851,997 votes were cast for
president in 1972, it
 can be assumed that about 65 percent of the eligible voters participated
in the election. There
 were 2,104,175 votes cast for president in 1976 and 2,273,221 votes cast
for president in 1980.
    Age Requirements. Under Article III of the Wisconsin Constitution, "every
person of the age
  of twenty-one years or upwards" may vote in Wisconsin if he or she
fulfills certain other require-
  ments. The legislature may extend the suffrage by law, but the law would
not become effective
  until approved by a vote on it at the general election. The 21-year voting
provision, however,
  became obsolete with the adoption of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
    The 26th Amendment ratified by the necessary three-fourths of the states
in 1971 (including
  Wisconsin), extended the right to vote to those 18 years and over. Thus,
regardless of the wording
  of the Wisconsin Constitution, the voting age in this state is now 18 for
all elections. The change
  has been made in the Wisconsin Statutes.
    Residence Requirements. One of the voting requirements is residence.
In Wisconsin state and
  local elections, the privilege of voting is granted to citizens of the
United States who have resided
  in the state and election district or ward where they propose to vote for
10 days prior to the
  election. A person's residence is defined as "the place where his
habitation is fixed, without any
  present intent to move, and to which, when absent, he intends to return".
    New residents who otherwise qualify as voters are permitted to vote for
president and vice-
  president, regardless of how short a time they have been Wisconsin residents.
Beginning with the
  1964 presidential election, exresidents of Wisconsin who moved within 24
months preceding the
  election to another state have been permitted to vote for presidential
electors in Wisconsin unless
  they had meanwhile become eligible to vote in another state. In accordance
with federal law, U.S.
  citizens living in a foreign country may vote in federal elections in Wisconsin
if they last resided
  here before leaving the United States.
     History of the Suffrage. When Wisconsin became a state in 1848, suffrage
was restricted to
  white (and emancipated Indian) male residents including immigrants not
yet naturalized. A
  referendum approved in November of 1849 extended suffrage to colored male
residents. In 1908,
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