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Wisconsin Women to Mark Equality Day

Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. But the chair of the Wisconsin Women's Network says the state has been moving backward in the past few years. Credit: Pamela Moore/iStockPhoto.com
Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. But the chair of the Wisconsin Women's Network says the state has been moving backward in the past few years. Credit: Pamela Moore/iStockPhoto.com
August 19, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin has been taking steps backward in the past several years, according to the board chair of the Wisconsin Women's Network.

Katherine Dellenbach said a number of obstacles to voting have been enacted that tarnish the state's reputation as a leader in women's voting rights. Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment, passed 95 years ago, which gave women the right to vote.

"Wisconsin historically has always been a very forward-thinking state. We were always pretty progressive when it came to allowing people access to the voting booth," Dellenbach said, "but in the last few years we've really seen a huge curb in that - a huge step back."

While supporters of recent measures to require photo ID at the polls and limiting hours when people can register to vote say it cuts down on voter fraud, Dellenbach and others say voter fraud never have been a problem in Wisconsin.

Dellenbach cited as an example of a step backward in voting rights the requirement of photo ID at the polls, combined with a reduction in the operating hours of Department of Motor Vehicles offices in rural Wisconsin. Some rural offices, which issue voter ID, now are only open for limited hours, one or two days a week.

"Women really need to try to work around their schedules to be able to get that voter ID," she said, "and if you don't have a driver's license it likely means that you don't have reliable transportation to get voter ID in the first place."

The Wisconsin Women's Network's annual Women's Equality Day celebration will take place in Madison next Wednesday, Aug. 26, marking 95 years since passage of the 19th Amendment. Dellenbach said all women, but particularly rural and low-income Wisconsin women, need to continue to fight obstacles to voting.

"Just in the last few years, we're just really seeing those barriers come up more and more," she said, "and I'd like to see us maybe get back to our roots and get back to that sort of proud tradition of allowing better access to the polls."

More information on the celebration is online at wiwomensnetwork.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI