UW-Madison students are encouraging their peers to take part in local democracy and vote in Wisconsin’s Spring Primary Election on Tuesday to determine local officials and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The State Superintendent of Public Instruction — a position that directly oversees all Wisconsin Public Schools and serves on the UW Board of Regents — controls school curriculum, educational opportunities, educator quality, public library services and education for children with disabilities. The position also includes submitting a biennial budget request, setting statewide priorities on education and dispersing some grant funding to districts and schools.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day at five UW-Madison polling locations, including the Chazen Museum of Arts, The University Club, Eagle Heights Community Center, The Memorial Union and The Wisconsin Energy Institute.
Tamia Fowlkes, Big Ten Voting Challenge Intern at the Morgridge Center for Public Service, Andrew Goodman Foundation Ambassador and Student Council Representative for the Associated Students of Madison, discussed some of the work that BadgersVote has done to make voting more accessible for students.
“A lot of our work over the last few months, even preceding the general election, was focused on virtual outreach and trying to engage with students online, because the Morgridge Center is not doing any programming in-person this semester,” Fowlkes said. “We really had to expand the ways that we can always be in conversation with students and make sure they were registered.”
BadgersVote has a podcast called “Pod-Cast Your Vote,” which Fowlkes co-hosts. This podcast is dedicated to increasing voter engagement among students, by sharing voting information, discussing policy issues and creating awareness about upcoming elections.
“We try to be non-partisan all the time. That's a rule, we want everyone to be a part of the conversation,” said Fowlkes. “That’s where we have found our greatest strength this year, in really trying to make voting an aspect of our community and not just pretending like it’s only important every presidential election year or every big election in the state.”
BadgersVote, a campus-wide initiative that strives to provide UW-Madison students with everything they need to know in order to participate in their elections, will be hosting Voter ID Stations around campus to help out-of-state students obtain valid voter IDs. These stations will be able to print out IDs for students, using only their UW-Madison Net IDs.
“It is important for students to be involved in the electoral process because not only do students have the ability to use their voice and elect officials they want to see in office, but they can also help keep the voting process efficient by working the polls, or by registering people to vote,” said Julia Warheit, UW-Madison senior and Campus Voter Project Democracy Fellow at the Morgridge Center for Public Service.
UW-Madison senior Leah Rosenblum discussed the importance of student poll workers in setting the precedent that a habit of voting is for all ages, not just older people.
“When students see other students helping and working the polls, it makes the process of voting less intimidating and more accessible. When you see people like you, you feel more welcome,” explained Rosenblum.
Fowlkes also emphasized the importance of this election in particular, as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction will serve on the Board of Regents — a position that directly affects UW-Madison students. She explained that voting allows students to actively participate in the conversation and advocate for policies and issues that they are impacted by every day, whether they know it or not.
This primary is crowded, with seven candidates competing for the position after the current superintendent, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, announced last year that she would not seek re-election. Before Taylor, the position was held by Governor Tony Evers from 2009-2019, before he resigned to take office as governor.
“I just really feel inspired by the idea that young people have a critical role to play in shaping our democracy, our country and whatever comes next for the future of our nation and the world,” Fowlkes said. “It's really exciting to be at the forefront of getting out the vote and making sure people know that they can actively participate and it will make a difference.”