Wisconsin has taken a small but symbolically resonant step to speed access to the voting booth, thanks to some rare bipartisanship by a state election regulatory agency.
At a time when efforts to purge the voter rolls have made headlines in several politically red states, purple Wisconsin is going the other way in time for 2020, when its 12 electoral votes will be intensely contested. President Trump carried the state by a scant 22,000 votes last time, the first GOP nominee to win there in eight elections.
All six members of the state Elections Commission – two Republicans, two Democrats and two independents – voted Tuesday to make it more difficult to cull the roster of voters. People who appear to have moved within the state will now have as long as two years to update their registrations.
Until now, the deadline was only one month. And before the 2018 midterm election, elections officials applied that rule by sending postcards to 308,000 voters – 11 percent of the entire registration list—saying state records indicated they had moved and so their franchise was being deactivated.
The decision caused long delays at some polling places, with reports of hundreds who'd recently moved deciding to give up rather than wait to file a new voter registration. (Wisconsin is among the 18 states that permit people to register on Election Day.)
The Federal Voting Assistance Program assists military members who need to vote via absentee ballot. A spokeswoman for the Defense Department said there would be "minimal disruptions" if the United States pulls out of the international postage agency.
Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration's trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections.
The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years.
Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don't cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service.
With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting.
Wambui Gatheru is the outreach manager at American Promise, which advocates for amending the Constitution to regulate the raising and spending of electoral campaign funds. Originally from Connecticut, Gatheru, 24, joined the American Promise staff in 2017 after graduating from the University of Connecticut.
The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.
What's the tweet-length description of your organization?
American Promise is a cross-partisan organization committed to getting money out of politics, forever, with a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
Knocking door-to-door in my small town in Connecticut when Barack Obama was first running for president.
What was your biggest professional triumph?
Being a part of the effort that made New Hampshire the 20th state in favor of the 28th Amendment. This was something I'd been working on since I started at American Promise two years ago, and the legislation was just passed in March of this year. It was a surreal victory because it had been such a long fight. It took a lot of coordination on every level of civic engagement, but it's a victory I'm happy to have been a part of here at American Promise.