Our Views: Take time to vote in big decisions awaiting Tuesday

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board is projecting a 15 percent turnout for Tuesday’s primary elections.

Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler is more optimistic and guesses that between 16 and 18 percent of voters here will go to the polls.

Either way, such a turnout would be appalling and a sad statement about democracy.

Granted, primary elections historically attract few voters. Still, plenty of big decisions await residents of Rock County and southern Wisconsin.

Perhaps most important is whether to let Blackhawk Technical College, whose district covers Rock and Green counties, raise its property tax base by $4 million a year. The referendum has no sunset; in other words, if it passes, that extra $4 million per year could be tapped forever. It does not piggyback and turn into an extra $8 million the second year and $12 million the third year. But it’s still $4 million every year without end. Do you want a small minority of voters to make this big decision for you?

What’s worse, some voters might miss the chance to vote “yes” or “no” simply because this referendum question will appear on the backs of ballots. That’s right—so flip yours over and choose.

This is a partisan primary election, meaning you can only vote in one party—Democrat, Republican or Constitution. However, plenty of big Democratic races are on the ballot in Rock County, and you can bet some traditional Republican voters will cross over just for a chance to help choose our next sheriff—incumbent Robert Spoden or challenger Gary Groelle. Both are Democrats, and because no Republican entered the race for the Nov. 4 general election, whoever wins Tuesday will no doubt be our next sheriff. The race has become more lively than many observers anticipated.

Another hot Democratic contest is in the 15th Senate District. Three people want to replace the retiring Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville. They are former Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan of Janesville, state Rep. Janis Ringhand of Evansville and Cullen aide Austin Scieszinski of Janesville. The winner Tuesday will take on Republican Brian Fitzgerald in November in this heavily Democratic district.

Those three elections are just the cream of the crop. Others worth watching:

-- With no Republican in the race and longtime incumbent Eldred Mielke retiring, one of three Democrats seeking votes Tuesday will become our next Rock County clerk of courts—Sue Enloe, Jacki Gackstatter and Peter Severson.

-- In the 45th Assembly District, a seat being vacated by Ringhand, the Democrat who wins Tuesday will take the seat. Sheila De Forest and Mark Spreitzer both serve on the Beloit City Council.

-- Two Democrats, Rob Zerban and Amar Kaleka, are hoping to take on incumbent Rep. Paul Ryan in the 1st Congressional District in November. This is Zerban’s second go-round. Kaleka’s father was among those killed in the 2012 attack on the Sikh temple in Oak Creek.

-- In Walworth County, Undersheriff Kurt Picknell squares off against Deputy Ken Brauer. Both are Republicans and hope to replace the retiring Sheriff David Graves.

Those are just the highlights. Do your civic duty Tuesday. Remember—if you don’t vote, why should anyone listen to your complaints about how government functions?

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