Official alleges liberals using referendum to pack polls for Democrats


By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — Dane County Supervisor Ronn Ferrell alleged Tuesday that some of his colleagues are using their power to help Democrats win the November 2014 elections by placing on the ballot a nonbinding resolution regarding the minimum wage.

“This is all to get liberals to the polls,” Ferrell told Wisconsin Reporter.

COME ON DOWN: A Dane County supervisor claims that some of his colleagues are using an advisory minimum wage referendum to attract more liberals to the polls in November.

The referendum question, which asks voters if they believe the state should raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and is sponsored by 33 of 37 county supervisors, will be considered Thursday by the board’s executive committee. The measure also needs to be approved by the full county board.

Ferrell intends to abstain from voting — like he does with all nonbinding referendums — because he said the county should be focusing on getting its own house in order. Ferrell said that message has been loud and clear whenever he’s surveyed his constituents.

“If someone wants to give their opinion on a political or some other issue that has to do with things other than the county, they are free to do that,” Ferrell told Wisconsin Reporter. “But the county shouldn’t be taking care of that. We’ve got problems at the 911 center, we’ve got deaths caused by issues at the 911 center, and what are we doing? We’re putting advisory referendums together to drive voter turnout. That’s our normal response.”

Advocates of the referendum claim they’re only trying to give their constituents a voice on important issues.

“I’m supporting it because I think any time there is a question about, you know, should we put an advisory referendum and let voters weigh in on what their opinion is and give some advice to elected officials at any level, I’m in favor of people having their voices heard,” Supervisor Jenni Dye said.

If the referendum question is eventually approved, the county board will not know the cost to taxpayers until the ballot gets put together, according to Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell.

Expenses could increase if the question has to be printed on the backside of the ticket, McDonnell said.

“It’s just one of those details that’s hard to say until you start to lay out the ballot in November we order lots of ballots obviously, so a small charge would add up,” McDonell told Wisconsin Reporter.

And all those taxpayer dollars could be wasted because Walker and several lawmakers indicted this year they have no intention of increasing the minimum wage in the foreseeable future.

State Republicans have argued the marketplace should dictate pay raises.

“Walker is opposed to raising the minimum wage, and is focused instead on growing the economy to create jobs that will provide family-supporting wages,” Laurel Patrick, Walker’s press secretary, said in an email response to Wisconsin Reporter.

If the move proves successful, it’d be a huge boost for Democrats and their expected gubernatorial nominee, Mary Burke. The unpopular policies of President Obama and a reignited fervor among conservatives threaten to lay waste to Democrats in the voting booths come November.

A Marquette Law School Poll released in May found that both Walker and Burke are receiving support from 46 percent of voters, with 6 percent undecided.

The county board also authorized a nonbinding referendum question on the April ballot asking if marijuana should be legalized. Almost 65 percent voted in the affirmative.

Contact Adam Tobias at or follow him on Twitter @Scoop_Tobias