RACINE — In the face of a legislative attempt to shorten early voting, the City of Racine and the governor are working to make it easier to vote early.
Mayor Cory Mason — joined by Library Director Jessica MacPhail, City Clerk Tara Coolidge, and Aldermen Mary Land and Mollie Jones, all wearing “I Voted” stickers — announced Monday that the Racine Public Library, 75 Seventh St., would become the city’s fourth early voting polling place.
“Maybe come here with your kids on a weekend to check out some books and while you’re here have the opportunity to vote and just get that taken care of,” Mason said. “It just creates more opportunities for people to participate ... and maybe, for some people, give them the opportunity to rediscover the library.”
“This sounds like a great thing,” Land, who represents the city’s 11th District, said before the press conference Monday.
Earlier that day, Gov. Tony Evers signed his 14th executive order since taking office Jan. 7. Through it, he is trying to make it easier for people to acquire the IDs they need to be able to register to vote.
He directed the Wisconsin Department of Transportation “to develop and implement a plan for expanding accessibility to DOT facilities,” a press release explained.
Leading up to this
During December’s lame-duck session of the state Legislature, a Republican-backed bill would have limited early voting to two weeks before Election Day across the state, rather than allowing municipalities to decide on their own timetables. But that law, despite being signed by then-Gov. Scott Walker on Dec. 14, was blocked by a federal court in January.
The case has little bearing on Racine, since its early voting process starts 15 days before Election Day. Milwaukee and Madison, on the other hand, have six weeks of early voting.
Turnout in February’s primary election was below 6 percent county-wide.
‘Important to our democracy’
After a trial run of hosting voter registration at the library, Mason said it was an obvious choice to turn the library into an early voting polling site. Early voting will be available at the library between March 18 and March 29. On Monday-Thursday, the hours are 9 a.m.-8 p.m., and on Fridays the hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
“It’s a great combination of two of our pillars of democracy,” Mason said. “Democracy works in part because we have great libraries and access to information that allow people to be educated and know what their government of doing. And if there’s any expression of participation in a democracy, it’s the ability to vote.”
Before adding the library, there were already three early-voting places in the city.
- City Hall: Weekdays, March 18-29, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Tyler Domer Community Center, 2301 12th St.: Saturday, March 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Cesar Chavez Community Center, 2221 Douglas Ave.: Saturday, March 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“As a dad with three kids, I know how crazy life can get on the day-to-day,” Mason said. “If you make it limited to one day where people can vote, you’re really narrowing who can participate in democracy.”
Expanding citizens’ access to voting is nothing new at the state level.
Coolidge added that Wisconsin has been continuously working to make it easier for new voters to register.
On MyVote.wi.gov, a state-run website, Coolidge said that there is a listing of the constantly expanding list of forms of identification that can be used at polling places, as well as secondary forms of identification that can be used when registering: including online bank statements and utility bills.
“The state seems to be adding more and more things that you can register to vote with,” Coolidge said. “If you’re using a bank account to register to vote, or even a credit card statement … you can bring that up on your cellphone and show us.”
Mason added: “A democracy works as well as the people who participate in it. And the more we can encourage that, the stronger democracy and the stronger city we will have.”
“A democracy works as well as the people who participate in it. And the more we can encourage that, the stronger democracy and the stronger city we will have.” Mayor Cory Mason