Advisory referendums allow candidates to get public opinion

Residents asked to weigh in on two advisory referendums on ballot

Along with picking a governor, La Crosse County residents were asked to give their opinion about two important topics that could change Wisconsin’s future.

In La Crosse County, Tuesday night’s ballot had two advisory referendum questions on it.

“The advisory is just for voters to advise us as elected officials on the issue,” said Tara Johnson, chair of the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors.

The first one asked residents about accepting federal funding for BadgerCare. The second question asked about minimum wage.

“The reason that we placed it on the ballot, specifically on the November ballot is because it’s a burning issue,” said Johnson. “It connected two things: the issue and the candidates.”

In the first debate in October between Gov. Scott Walker and Mary Burke, they had opposing opinions on both topics. Burke favored accepting federal funding for BadgerCare, Walker did not. Burke also favored a minimum wage hike, Walker did not.

“It was a way to vote on the same ballot on an issue, Medicaid expansion, the same time you are casting a vote for an elected official,” said Johnson.

Both advisory referendums were supported with an overwhelming margin. Seventy-one percent of voters said yes to accept federal funding for Medicaid. Sixty-one percent said yes for a minimum wage hike.

“I’m hopeful that maybe these numbers, these results will be a signal to the governor to change his mind,” said Johnson.

“Clearly there are people who voted for Gov. Walker who are still encouraging him to take that federal money,” said Wisconsin State Rep. Jill Billings.

Although advisory referendums have no immediate impact, Billings said it allows elected officials to be in touch with the people they represent.

“I am looking forward to getting back into Madison and using the knowledge that I’ve gained,” said Billings.

The Medicaid advisory referendum was placed on the ballot in 20 different places in Wisconsin. Nearly 750,000 voted on the issue. Although about three-fourths of the voters said yes to accepting federal funding for BadgerCare, about half of them still voted for Gov. Walker, who has refused to accept those funds since the beginning. However, the governor does have the power to change his mind at any time.

The minimum wage advisory referendum was placed on 19 different ballots across Wisconsin. It passed with about 67 percent of those votes.