Don’t forget to vote! State has first primary in August since World War II Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Aug. 09, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

Don’t forget to vote! That’s something we haven’t heard in August for many years. In fact, this is Wisconsin’s first partisan primary in August since World War II, according to the Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.).

The state Legislature moved the partisan primary from the second Tuesday in September to the second Tuesday in August so Wisconsin can comply with a federal law designed to give military and overseas voters enough time to vote by absentee ballot, said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B.

Wisconsin last held partisan primaries in August in 1944 and 1946. That means that only voters over age 84 would remember voting in August.

Voting for only one party in primary

Kennedy also reminded voters that because this is a partisan primary, they can only vote for candidates from one party.  “Confusion about crossover voting is one of the biggest issues poll workers face during partisan primaries,” Kennedy said.

That’s because Wisconsin’s open primary system does not require voters to declare a party.  However, primary voters may only vote for candidates of one party.  A voter may indicate a party preference on the ballot which ensures that votes for candidates of that party will be counted in the event candidates from another party were inadvertently selected.

In the general election on November 6, state voters can “split” their ticket or elect to vote a straight party ticket.

Senate race and more legislative primaries

The biggest race — and the only statewide race — on August 14 is the Republican primary for United States Senate. Because of redistricting, there are more legislative primaries than usual as many legislators are running in new districts.

G.A.B. Elections Division Administrator Nat Robinson urged voters who may be unfamiliar with their new legislative districts to visit the Voter Public Access Web site: There, voters can check their registration status, find a polling place, and see their sample ballot.

“We encourage voters to make their opinions count at every level of government,” Kennedy said.  “Tuesday’s partisan primary election provides them an opportunity to influence who will be on the ballot in November.”

Some races in a  party are uncontested. However, there are some races with incumbents from different districts running against each other in a new district. And there are races with a large number of candidates, including Assembly District 71 in the Stevens Point area with 10 candidates.

In races with a larger number of candidates, voters should study information distributed by the candidates and check out their Web sites. Just relying on political advertising isn’t enough to get the full picture.

Importance of voting

In some cases, if a district leans towards one party, the primary race may actually decide the outcome of the election. That is one reason why it is especially important for people to vote in this August primary.

The G.A.B. is predicting only up to 20 percent of the voting age population — or approximately 870,500 voters —will turn out to vote in the partisan primary.

I am concerned about the timing of this primary in August, when many people often take vacation. Those planning to be out of town can vote by absentee ballot.

Resources on faithful citizenship

As in past election years, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC) has prepared a series of educational resources to help voters meet their duties as faithful citizens. These resources are based on the U.S. bishops’ 2007 statement, updated for 2012, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States.

The materials include a letter signed by all five diocesan bishops in Wisconsin. In their letter, the bishops cite Pope Benedict’s reminder that the Church is not a political power or party, but a moral power. “This moral power comes to us through Christ and the lived experience of the faithful over the centuries,” they write. “In the face of the many difficulties confronting our nation and our world today, we invite Catholics to steep themselves in this rich moral tradition by studying the Church’s social teaching.”

The bishops also encourage Catholics and others to embrace civility in political debates. “For the good of our nation and our Church, let us recommit ourselves to studying the Church’s teaching and applying it in a truthful, responsible, and civil manner,” they urge.

Copies of all these voter education materials are available on the WCC Web site at

Don’t forget to exercise faithful citizenship and vote!