Officials launch ‘VoteSafe Wisconsin Coalition’ to promote safe voting amidst pandemic

Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 3:06 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin officials launched a newly created, bipartisan coalition to promote safe voting in the upcoming elections.

It’s called the VoteSafe Wisconsin Coalition and it’s co-chaired by Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul (Democrat) and former Wisconsin attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (Republican).

Whether you plan to vote in-person or absentee, Wisconsin officials want voters to know they can do so safely and securely.

"Nobody in Wisconsin, or for that matter in the country, should have to choose between their right to vote and their safety," said Kaul.

April’s primary election amidst the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted confusion among voters and officials as last minute court changes led to long lines and missing absentee ballots, specifically in Green Bay.

"That election right up to the bitter end was contested about how you could vote in a myriad of different ways and political disagreements so I think there are a fair number of people who maybe would have voted absentee or in another form earlier had they not been confused," said Van Hollen.

Both Van Hollen and Kaul say April’s primary election didn’t lead to the creation of the new ‘VoteSafe Wisconsin Coalition’, but they say it can’t be ignored.

"I don't think it's necessarily a reaction to any one thing, but certainly had we not had COVID-19 issues or things along those lines, I think it would be safe to say this coalition wouldn't exist," said Van Hollen.

The coalition can’t change how elections are run, that’s handled by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, state legislators and local government officials. However, Kaul and Van Hollen say it can raise awareness, promote preparation among voters and address issues ahead of time for those responsible for running the elections.

"We certainly encourage any election administrator, or people who are involved in election process, who see concerns to raise those and talk about what we need to make sure our elections are safe and secure," said Kaul. "We've got a lot more time now than we did before the April election and we want to use that time to get in place procedures that are gonna make sure that people are safe and secure when they vote. We're fortunate in Wisconsin to have a lot of those already."

"I think there's been a lot of confusion in past elections. COVID-19 has really upset our lives. It certainly upset some election cycles, but it shouldn't have to," said Van Hollen. "We want to make sure that people know that it doesn't have to. People should know how easy and safe and secure it is to vote and so we're going to do everything we can to try to have outreach to the general public."

Wisconsin's new coalition is part of the national VoteSafe Coalition to ensure 'every American has the right to vote safely amidst the pandemic."

The VoteSafe Wisconsin coalition initially includes:

Attorney General Josh Kaul (Democratic co-chair)

Former Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (Republican co-chair)

Former Gov. Scott McCallum (R)

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D)

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley (D)

Former Congressman Tom Petri (R)

Former Congressman Reid Ribble (R)

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski (D)

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