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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 857


                                       ELECTIONS IN WISCONSIN           
                         857
        the Wisconsin Constitution was amended to restrict the right to vote
to citizens of the United
        States. Women's suffrage came with the 19th Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution (ratified by
        Wisconsin on June 10, 1919).
          Voter Registration. Based on a constitutional amendment ratified
in 1882, the Wisconsin Leg-
       islature "may Provide for the registration of electors".
Today, voter registration in Wisconsin is
       by law required for every town, village or city with a population
of more than 5,000 and may by
       local ordinance be adopted for municipalities of having a population
of 5,000 or less. Voters may
       register at any of the following places: office of the municipal clerk;
public or, in some cases,
       private high schools designated by the municipal clerk; office of
the county register of deeds and
       office of city clerk in Milwaukee; any other location designated by
the municipal clerk (such as
       fire stations, libraries, etc.) or as part of a door-to-door voter
registration campaign; and at the
       polling place on election day. Municipal voter registration in Wisconsin
does not record the party
       affiliation of the voter. Chapter 85, Laws of 1975, provided for voter
registration by mail, regis-
       tration at the polls on election day and removal of the 6-month state
residency requirement. The
       residency change was also approved by the electorate, as required
by the Constitution, in a No-
       vember 1976 referendum.
                                         Selection of Candidates
        Primaries. Election to public office requires 3 distinct steps: the
selection of possible candidates
     (inferring that all potential candidates are qualified), the nomination
of candidates in a primary,
     and the election of officeholders in the general election.
       Until "Fighting Bob" La Follette became governor of our
state, candidates for public office
     were selected at caucuses or conventions composed of delegates, of members
of a political party,
     or of eligible voters. Contrary to popular belief, the Wisconsin nominating
caucuses did not imply
     political deals hatched in smoke-filled rooms - the caucuses were subject
to legal regulations
     equally as stringent as our modern election laws.
     In most instances, candidates are chosen today in primary elections;
the nominating caucus
     remains as an optional method for the selection of town and village
office candidates. In all cases
     other than the nominating caucus method, aspirants to elective office
circulate nomination papers
     to be signed by a specified number of voters in the constituency.
     Primary elections are held in Wisconsin to determine the candidates
for both the partisan "gen-
   eral elections" held in November and for the nonpartisan "spring
elections" held in April. The
   spring primary is held on the third Tuesday in February; the fall primary,
the second Tuesday in
   September.
     Partisan September Primary. Primaries are held, regardless of the number
of aspirants, to
   select the candidates of each political party for each partisan general
election. Since the purpose
   of a partisan primary is to nominate the candidates that a political party
will run against the
   nominees of the other party in the general election, only the adherents
of a particular party are
   expected to vote in that party's primary. Wisconsin's "open primary"
law makes the choice a
   private matter; that is, the voter does not have to make a public declaration
of his party affiliation
   to receive the ballot of that party (a closed primary). Instead, he is
given the ballots of all parties,
   but votes his choices on one party's ballot only. He cannot select candidates
at random from
   several ballots.
   .In partisan Primaries, the nominee receiving the highest number of votes
becomes his party's
   candidate for the office, but a write-in candidate qualifies only if the
vote for him also equals at
 least 5 percent of the party vote for governor cast in the district at the
last general election, or the
 number of signatures required on nomination papers for the office, whichever
is greater.
    The only other partisan officers chosen are party ward committeemen,
who are elected at Sep-
 tember primaries in even-numbered years. Ward committeemen cannot be elected
by write-in
 vote. Party ward committeemen (required to reside in district, ward or municipality
for which
 they were elected) recommend names of electors to be appointed election
officials by the gov-
 erning body of each town, village, and city.
   Nonpartisan February Primary. Nonpartisan primaries are required only
under certain condi-
tions. If 3 or more candidates run for state superintendent, county supervisor,
any judicial office,
or certain other offices, a primary election must be held, and the names
of the 2 candidates receiv-
ing the greatest number of votes are placed on the ballots for the nonpartisan
election. This is also


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