Governor Evers is unveiling a plan to let Wisconsin residents propose ballot initiatives.
The proposed amendment to the Wisconsin constitution would let any resident, with enough support, propose initiatives to change state law.
Those ballot initiatives could be on any issue. But in a press conference this morning, Evers pitched the proposal as a way for voters themselves to remove Wisconsin’s 19th century ban on abortion.
“As we stand here in this room today, I want to point out what is inscribed in the ceiling of this conference room. It’s a phrase I’ve talked about a lot, actually when the fourth graders come in I talk about it with them. It says ‘The will of the people is the law of the land.’ Well right now, today, when it comes to reproductive freedom, the will of the people isn’t the law of the land,” Evers says.
A recent poll by the Marquette Law School found that 63% of Wisconsinites oppose the overturning of federal protections for abortion under Roe v. Wade.
Wisconsin does not allow for voters to change state law by ballot initiatives , though nonbinding referenda may appear on the ballot for counties and municipalities. Other neighboring states do allow a direct process for changing state law – including Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio.
But to bring the ballot initiative process to Wisconsin, the Republican-led Legislature would need to approve a constitutional amendment allowing it.
Governor Evers is calling a special session of the Legislature in two weeks to consider his proposal, a repeated tactic by the Governor that has had few results.
While the governor can force the legislature to meet, he cannot force them to act, and almost all of the special sessions called by Evers have been quickly gaveled in and gaveled out without debate. Most recently, lawmakers met in June to address the state’s 19th-century abortion ban. That session lasted all of 14 seconds.
But Evers says that this time, his proposed change actually came from a Republican.
“…and as of last week, this idea has new bipartisan support here in Wisconsin. I agree with US Senator Ron Johnson, and here’s a sentence for you: If Republican legislators aren’t going to uphold the will of the people, then the people of the state should have the right to take a stand at the ballot box,” Evers said.
That’s in reference to a comment made by Senator Ron Johnson last week to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where he said that he supported a direct referendum to updating Wisconsin’s abortion ban.
In a statement to WORT today, Johnson did not say whether he supported bringing binding referendums to Wisconsin, instead saying that he hears that Wisconsinites are more concerned with baby formula shortages and open borders.
GOP Republicans in the legislature, including Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, signaled they would not support any changes for the proposals, calling the special session a political stunt.
Democratic state Senator Melissa Agard of Madison says she doesn’t think it’s likely the special session will bring results.
“Any of the Republicans in the legislature that are questioning this should support what the Governor has proposed, because we will take the question to the people and let them weigh in on whether or not we should repeal this criminal abortion ban. The legislature must hear the voices of those people,” Senator Agard says.
The special session will take place in just under two weeks, on October 4.
Photo courtesy: Brian Standing / WORT Flickr