At a community center tucked in the back of a Goodwill on Madison’s north side, Lt. Gov. Sara Rodriguez kicked off a canvassing event Sunday for Democratic candidates one year out from the 2024 election.
Rodriguez spoke to a group of volunteers and canvassers with the Northside Action Team, a volunteer organization that coordinates with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to organize canvassing, phone banking and voter registration on the north side.
Rodriguez’s kickoff follows visits to the Madison area by high-profile Wisconsin Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Wisconsin Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski, as part of the party’s effort to win Wisconsin in the upcoming election.
Additionally, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin held a statewide “One Year to Win” fundraising event Saturday, featuring U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, state Sen. Melissa Agard of Madison and state Rep. Greta Neubauer of Racine.
“There's so many things that are at stake, whether that's voting rights, whether that's making sure we fund our public schools [and] that our kids are safe at school,” Rodriguez told The Daily Cardinal. “Those are the kinds of things that are important, and that's what we're voting for in a year, so we have to make sure that these things are still top of mind for folks.”
Access to reproductive health care remains one of the most important issues for Wisconsin voters, Rodriguez said, especially because the future of abortion in the state remains unclear.
In July, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Diane Schlipper ruled the 1849 abortion ban’s language does not prohibit consensual medical abortions, allowing Attorney General Josh Kaul’s lawsuit challenging the ban to proceed.
Following the ruling, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin began offering abortion services at its Water Street Health Center in Milwaukee and its Madison East Health Center after they temporarily suspended abortion services due to the reinstatement of the ban after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
But Rodriguez expressed concern abortion services could be further threatened by Republican proposals for a nationwide abortion ban.
“Abortion rights are at stake within Wisconsin and nationally,” Rodriguez said. “We've heard from every single one of the Republican presidential candidates that they want to be able to put through a nationwide abortion ban. This is something that we're going to have to make sure that people are aware of and that they're going to be voting on.”
Young voters ‘really important’ in 2024, Rodriguez says
The youth vote is “really important,” Rodriguez said, adding that Democrats are working to remove barriers to make it easier for more young people — especially college students — to vote.
“We have been working with all of the different university systems . . . making sure that we have it be easier to vote, particularly within the college systems and university systems here in Wisconsin,” Rodriguez said.
Those efforts, she said, include opening “avenues to make sure that it is easy to register, that people can vote where they're living and that those university systems are providing resources to make sure that people can get to where they need to vote.”
At this stage in the campaign, canvassers and volunteers hope to talk with residents about what issues are most important to them, said Northside Action Team volunteer Sue Gleason.
“[With] younger people, there's a lot of, ‘what is the future going to hold?’” Gleason told the Cardinal. “That's where climate comes into play. [And] gun control and gun safety is a big issue, the cost of college is a huge issue.”
Another concern for Democratic canvassers is motivating young people and students to vote.
Younger voters Gleason has spoken with have expressed concern about Biden’s age, she said, leaving Democrats with the task of convincing young voters to turn out in support of him next year.
And mobilizing these young voters will be critical next year, Rodriguez said.
“They have the opportunity to use their voice and their vote to shape their future,” Rodriguez said. “It is going to be critically important that youth in Wisconsin and youth all across the country are voting because that's the way that they get to have a voice in the process.”
Francesca Pica is the city news editor for The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple municipal elections and is a leading reporter on Madison labor issues. Additionally, she will serve as a news intern for The Capital Times throughout the summer of 2023.