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‘That’s up to these people’

November 15, 2019 by Brian Jopek

The Woodruff Town Board on Tuesday became one of the most recent Lakeland area governing bodies to approve advisory referendums related to the organizations United To Amend and Fair Elections Project on its April ballot. 

The Fair Elections Project, according to Woodruff resident Sarah Kemp, is a Wisconsin-based organization “that advocates for a non-partisan process rather than the current partisan process to draw legislative maps.”

The other advisory referendum question deals with the 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that essentially overturned a major campaign finance law commonly known as the “McCain-Feingold bill.”

The Supreme Court’s action essentially paved the way for entities such as corporations and unions to help finance the campaigns of political candidates and without much limit. 

None of the town board members present for the most part indicated opposition to either referendum proposal although town chairman Mike Timmons said there were signs related to the effort to change how legislative maps are done — gerrymandering — put up. 

“You are saying it’s a non-partisan thing,” he said to Kemp. “Whoever’s signs have been put out on Rudolph Road and (County) Highway J with equal maps or whatever’s on it ... first of all, cannot be in the highway right of way. It was in front of the stop sign. I had my road department pick it up if you want it back. It’s in my office.”

Kemp said the sign wasn’t hers but Timmons maintained it belongs to “the mapping people.”

“You go to it (the website) and it is very partisan,” he said. 

“Never saw it,” Kemp responded, but Timmons continued.

“It is very partisan,” he said again. “It comes back ACLU, Democratic Party ... and it is very partisan. It was right, almost on top of the blacktop. That isn’t permissible for any sign.”

Kemp began to say again the sign wasn’t hers, but Timmons told her it was “your mapping group.”

“Obviously,” he said. “It was for the mapping ... the gerrymandering.”

Kemp said she didn’t know if it was the Fair Elections Project. 

“Well, who else would put it out?” Timmons asked and Kemp said she’d take a look at the sign. 

Timmons highlighted another issue and it had to do with wording of the proposed referendum question. 

“We the people of the town of Woodruff, Wisconsin, insist upon creation of a non-partisan procedure for the preparation of the legislative and Congressional redistricting plans,” the first part of the question reads.

Timmons indicated he didn’t have a problem with any of it with the exception of the word “insist.”

“The word ‘insist’ to me just sounds really harsh,” he said.

Kemp said she agreed with him and eventually, before the board voted on the matter, the word “insist” was eventually changed to “recommend.”

Timmons then read the other proposed referendum question from the group United to Amend. 

“Shall the town of Woodruff adopt the following resolution,” the question reads. “Resolve that we the people of the town of Woodruff seek to reclaim democracy from the expansion of corporate personhood rights and corrupting influence of unlimited political contributions and spending. We support communities across the country to support passage of the amendment to the United States Constitution stating only human beings are endowed with constitutional rights, not corporations, unions, non-profits or other artificial entities.”

The question would be answered by a voter yes or no. 

Another wording change — replacing “human being” with “U.S. citizen,” was similar to a change in wording that led to approval of the same proposed referendum question by the Arbor Vitae Town Board last week. 

Town supervisor Corky Shepard expressed concern about people knowing what they’re voting on once they get in the voting booth. 

“They walk out and don’t vote at all,” he said. “That’s gonna happen.”

“Explanation ... that’s up to these people to get out ahead of time,” Timmons said, referring to Kemp and Woodruff resident Dan Cabot, who had made a presentation on the United to Amend question.

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]

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