August 3, 2015

Lawmaker want to allow cross-party voting in Wisconsin primaries

Rep. Robb Kahl

Rep. Robb Kahl

When voters head to the polls in Wisconsin primaries, they are currently required to stick with the same party when selecting candidates for partisan races. Legislation being proposed at the Capitol would do away with that restriction.

The bill, from state Representative Robb Kahl (D-Monona), would allow voters to select a candidate  for an office from either party when casting a primary ballot. For example, they could vote for a Republican candidate for governor, but then a Democrat in a legislative race. They could still only vote for one candidate per office. The top candidate from each party would then move on to the general election.

Kahl believes the current system does not serve voters because it forces candidates to run to the extreme ends of the political spectrum to win their party’s nomination for the general election. As a result, the Monona Democrat argues more moderate candidates get forced out of the process. “When you know you’re catering to one party or another, you get people that, in the Republican primary see how far right they can get, and in the Democratic primary, see how far left they can get.”

The Monona Democrat thinks eliminating the party bias would “really encourage a candidate to try to appeal to the entire electorate – not just that primary base.”

Kahl says other states have moved to similar systems, with some success. California, Washington state, and Louisiana all have some form of nonpartisan balloting.

The bill is likely to face an uphill battle at the Capitol, with Republicans in control of the Legislature.

Walker super PAC raised $20 million in first few months

Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

A super PAC set up to support Governor Scott Walker’s 2016 presidential bid raised almost $20 million in the first few months since it was created.

According to a federal filing on Friday, the Unintimidated PAC raised the money between April 16 and June 30. Major donors included $5 million from Diane Hendricks, a Beloit billionaire, and a series of donations from the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs. Combined, they provided about half of the money taken in during the reporting period.

The Unintimidated PAC was started by several of Walker’s former top campaign officials earlier this year, before he officially entered the race. It draws its name from Walker’s 2013 book about his battle over collective bargaining legislation, which was titled “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge.”

Report details disability access issues at Wisconsin polling places

File photo: WRN

File photo: WRN

A new report from the state Government Accountability Board shows there were a large number of disability access problems at polling places around the state during the last two years.

The GAB inspected more than 800 polling places around the state in 48 of 72 counties, uncovering about 4,000 accessibility problems. Agency spokesman Reid Magney says those ranged from small issues, such as print on signs that was too small to read, to larger problems, such as having no tables at wheelchair height. About 42 percent of the violations were serious enough that they could have have hindered a disabled voter’s ability to independently and privately cast a ballot.

The number of issues did drop from the previous round of checks, from an average of 6.5 per polling place in 2013 to 4.9 per location during the 2014-15 cycle.

Magney says local clerks are notified of the problems, and the state works with them to develop a plan to address the issues. In most cases, he says they are relatively simple and inexpensive to fix.

Walker says GOP nominee may be chosen by convention

Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker is not ruling out the possibility a clear winner will fail to emerge after next year’s primaries and caucuses around the country and delegates at the GOP’s 2016 national convention will wind up picking the party’s White House nominee.

“It’s possible. I mean, it’s a great field, a lot of great candidates…Sooner or later it will be easier to tell how many are not running in the Republican field than those that are,” Walker joked over the noon-hour during an interview on KMA Radio.

Walker, who is the governor of Wisconsin, said he will not “speak ill” of his Republican competitors, but he’s telling audiences he’s different from his rivals because he’s both a  “doer” and a “fighter.”

“I just didn’t win three elections in four years in a blue state,” Walker said. “I won on the issues that people care about.”

Walker’s most high-profile fight was his successful effort to roll back the collective bargaining rights of unions the represent government employees.

“Unions are just fine. What we did is we took on the big government union bosses and we put the power back firmly into the hands of the hardworking taxpayers,” Walker said today. “That was good for the taxpayers. It was pro-worker.”

Walker signed a “right to work” law in Wisconsin early this year. It forbids organized labor from forcing non-union workers to pay union dues or fees in a workplace where employees have voted to unionize. Walker is on a campaign swing through southwest Iowa today, with stops scheduled in five counties.

(Reporting in Shenandoah by Chuck Morris of KMA Radio; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson/Photo by Brent Barnett,KMA)

Special election called for 99th Assembly District

Lawmakers in the Wisconsin State Assembly. (Photo: WRN)

Lawmakers in the Wisconsin State Assembly. (Photo: WRN)

Governor Scott Walker has ordered a special election to fill a vacant seat in the state Assembly.

Republican Chris Kapenga of Delafield is resigning from the chamber, after winning a special election last week for an open seat in the state Senate. That spot belonged to Republican Paul Farrow, who left the Senate to focus on his job as Waukesha County executive, which he was elected to earlier this spring.

An executive order issued on Wednesday calls for a special election to be held on September 29. Nomination papers will be due by August 4 and, if needed, there will be a primary election on September 1.

The 99th Assembly District covers portions of Republican-leaning Waukesha County.