Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes speaks with small business owners and Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg, left, during an event Tuesday in Wausau. Barnes, one of 14 Democrats seeking to replace US Sen. Ron Johnson in the November election, said continued attempts by Johnson and other Republicans to restrict voting rights represent "an attack on democracy." (Photo by Julian Emerson)
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes speaks with small business owners and Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg, left, during an event Tuesday in Wausau. Barnes, one of 14 Democrats seeking to replace US Sen. Ron Johnson in the November election, said continued attempts by Johnson and other Republicans to restrict voting rights represent "an attack on democracy." (Photo by Julian Emerson)

Restrictions on Voting Would Lead to More People Needing Help Not Receiving it, Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Says

Republicans’ ongoing efforts to restrict the number of people allowed to vote poses a “serious danger” to democracy in America, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes told UpNorthNews.

Since Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump for the US presidency in November 2020, Republicans in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the country have taken actions to restrict voting. For instance, in February, Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers began introducing a series of bills designed to make it harder to vote, especially for indefinitely confined and disabled people. The package also would have restricted the use of ballot drop boxes, but Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the six bills that were approved.

Earlier this month a Waukesha County judge ruled that drop boxes weren’t allowed in most cases in elections this year. But an appeals court has blocked that order, meaning drop boxes will be legal at least through the Feb. 15 primary.  

In addition, Republicans continue to cast doubts about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud having occurred. In fact, recounts have shown few instances of voters wrongfully casting ballots, and results show that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump for the presidency by about 20,000 votes in the Badger State.

“This is an attack on democracy,” Barnes said. “Limiting the ability for people to vote isn’t something that will ever just be concentrated with any group of people or any one geographic region. This is something that has wide impact on everyone. If it can happen in one community, it can happen to any other community across this state.”

Barnes is one of 14 Democratic candidates seeking the US Senate seat currently held by Republican Ron Johnson, one of the lawmakers who repeatedly has questioned 2020 election results and has called for the Wisconsin Legislature to take control of state elections from the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC). 

Johnson recently announced he will seek re-election after previously saying he would not do so. The winner of the Aug. 9 Democratic primary will face Johnson in the November election.  

Republicans say they are attempting to provide needed safeguards for the election process. They have objected to the use of drop boxes, saying ballots at those locations can be tampered with. Election clerks across Wisconsin and the WEC said those sites are secure. 

As attacks against voting continue along with misinformation about the 2020 election, Barnes said he worries about the resulting impact on America.  

“Our democracy is incredibly fragile. And unfortunately there are too many enablers who are in elected office who are sowing seeds of doubt into our election system, into our democracy itself,” he said.

Without people’s right to vote, special interests that largely benefit the wealthy people and corporations will have even more say over government decisions, Barnes said, leaving many of the people most in need of help on the outside looking in. 

“The fact is people have been left behind,” he said, “and more people are going to be left behind.”