Former Inmate Groups Challenge Wisconsin’s April Ballot Questions

by Benjamin Yount


There’s now a lawsuit over Wisconsin’s bail reform amendment and welfare-to-work ballot question.

Two groups that represent former prison inmates, WISDOM – a statewide faith-based organization –and Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing, filed the suit in Dane County Court on Tuesday.

The groups are not challenging the two questions themselves, rather they argue that lawmakers missed the spring ballot deadline by sending the referendum questions to the state’s Elections Commission instead of local election managers.

“The Resolutions were not timely filed and therefore that they do not qualify for inclusion on the ballot for the April 4, 2023 Spring Election,’ the suit says.

The Republican-controlled legislature approved both questions on January 19. Lawmakers sent the questions to the Elections Commission the same day. The Elections Commission certified the questions, then shared them with local election managers on January 26. The deadline to make the spring ballot was January 25, the groups argue.

The Elections Commission says lawmakers made the deadline with plenty of time to spare.

The bail reform amendment would change how Wisconsin judges can handle bail and keep people in jail. The amendment would allow judges to look at a suspect’s criminal history, and the seriousness of the crime.

Currently, Wisconsin’s constitution only allows judges to consider whether a suspect will return to court when setting bail.

The other question, on welfare-to-work, is advisory-only. It asks voters if they’d like to see people on public benefits in Wisconsin be forced to work in order to keep those benefits.

Critics of the idea say it’s a political push to get more conservative voters to the ballot in April.

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Benjamin Yount is a contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “People Voting” by Lorie Shaull. CC BY-SA 2.0.




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