Former Northwoods state Rep. Joe Handrick has been named the executive director of a new conservative policy group, Common Sense Wisconsin, and Handrick, who has also served as Minocqua town chairman, has hit the ground running.
Handrick says Common Sense Wisconsin (CSW) was launched earlier this spring to be a platform for advancing policy ideas to increase the efficacy and responsiveness of Wisconsin government and will focus on three things initially: election integrity and reform; education reform; and efficiency in government. 
Already the group’s initiative on election integrity and reform is underway.
“It’s been my honor to serve the citizens of the North and all of Wisconsin through my public service,” Handrick said. “Common Sense Wisconsin will also help this state by championing innovative, effective policies, and I’m excited to build and lead this team.”
CSW board member Jason Plante, vice president at Market & Johnson, said the group was particularly pleased to have Handrick on board.
“Joe Handrick is not only a respected political figure and data analyst, he brings a vast amount of front-line public policy experience to the table as well,” Plante said.
At the time of his appointment, Handrick served as an advisor to Assembly speaker Robin Vos. He was also an administrator for former Gov. Scott Walker, heading the Equal Rights and Unemployment Insurance divisions. Handrick began his career in public policy as an aide to former Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Handrick says the group calls its effort a 3E agenda: efficiencies, education reform, and election integrity.
“We must improve access to and delivery of services aimed at improving the quality of life for Wisconsin residents,” CSW states. “Government need not be big, but it must work.”
CSW also believes that a foundational element of a healthy society is a strong educational environment that maximizes parental involvement and learning options.
“Wisconsin should invest in students, not systems,” the group states. “Our laws and regulations should foster innovation and reward success.”
Finally, CSW believes Wisconsinites must have faith in the process by which they elect their representatives. 
“We neither accept baseless accusations of fraud, nor the willful refusal of regulatory agencies to enforce constitutionally-sound election laws,” the group states.
Not that Handrick and CSW aren’t willing to sound off on other issues, such as the recent budget signed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers but crafted mostly by Republicans. 
“Common Sense Wisconsin knows the 2021-23 state budget…would have been a big-government disaster if Tony Evers’s liberal slap shots had not been thwarted by Republican legislative goalies,” Handrick said during the week the budget was passed.
“Lawmakers will rightly tout the good things the new state budget does,” he said. “They also deserve credit for blocking a number of really bad ideas put forth by Tony Evers. They played great defense on behalf of the taxpayers of Wisconsin.”
Handrick pointed out that Evers’s original budget proposal would have increased spending by $8 billion, increased taxes by $1 billion, weakened voting integrity laws, eliminated the work requirement for able-bodied adults on welfare, and repealed laws designed to stop unemployment fraud.

Election Integrity
Most of all, though, CSW is sticking to its 3E agenda, and it has already launched an election integrity and reform initiative. As part of that effort, Handrick says CSW will lead an effort for a 72-county advisory referenda on election uniformity.
More specifically, as part of its mission to ensure uniformity in the state’s election processes, CSW is pushing for the Legislature to launch the process of constitutionally protecting uniformity and fairness in elections, and for counties to adopt advisory referenda that it says will show Madison politicians that the people support election uniformity.
“Voters are more likely to participate in elections if they believe their vote matters,” Handrick said. “Constitutionally protecting the voting process will increase the public’s faith in elections.”
CSW is encouraging every county in the state to place an advisory referendum on the ballot the next time there will be significant voter turnout across the state, which Handrick says will be the November 2022 election.
The advisory question put forward by CSW is: Should the Wisconsin Legislature prepare and place on the statewide ballot a constitutional amendment requiring that election administration, access to ballots, and counting of ballots be as nearly uniform as practicable?
One conservative legal expert, Jim Troupis, a former circuit court judge and an attorney specializing in intellectual property and constitutional law, said he liked the idea.
“This proposal is quite simple and at the same time quite profound,” Troupis said. “Frankly, it is overdue, as we learned last fall, election laws were not administered in a uniform manner throughout the state and that is a fundamental problem.”
Handrick said while past incidents have eroded some people’s confidence in the fairness of the administration of some recent elections, the amendment effort is forward-looking.
“This is not about re-litigating the past,” he said. “We want to ensure that every person’s access to the ballot is uniform and that every vote is treated and processed uniformly. We believe that by doing so, more people will vote — having greater confidence that their vote will matter and will be treated the same as any other cast in this state.”
Handrick pointed out a number of examples he says underscores the need for a constitutional amendment. In 2020, for instance, when he himself was on the ballot, the mayor of Milwaukee closed all but five polling locations in the city, which has the largest minority voting population in the state. Meanwhile, Madison, a city less than half Milwaukee’s size, had 60 locations available, CSW states.
In addition, less than 24 hours before the polls opened in April 2020, the governor shut down in-person voting, an edict that CSW observes was later ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.
“The five largest cities in Wisconsin received more than $6 million from a foundation funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and granted unprecedented access and influence to a private, ideological organization that directed the administration of election efforts leading up to and on Election Day,” CSW states.
Finally, Handrick says, different jurisdictions in Wisconsin have different procedures for the distribution and counting of absentee ballots and clerks apply differing levels of discretion in how they treat various incomplete forms.
Bill McCoshen, chairman of the CSW policy board, said the group believes the administration of elections must be as uniform as possible across the state.
“Voters and votes must be treated the same whether they are in Superior or South Milwaukee, Madison or Minocqua,” McCoshen said. “Ballots should be processed and counted in a uniform manner everywhere in the state. Election rules cannot be changed by rogue officials or bureaucrats at the last moment, and the funding and administration of elections cannot ever again be turned over to private organizations.”
CSW says members of Wisconsin’s 72 county boards can find out more information on how they can place the Common Sense Wisconsin Election Uniformity referendum on their November 2022 ballot by visiting CommonSenseWisconsin.org.
“Nobody should fear what the people have to say on this issue,” McCoshen said. “Based on what I’ve heard from all across the state, I believe there is widespread support for placing these election protections in our constitution, let’s find out.”
CSW says Wisconsin currently has specific constitutional protections of uniformity in taxation, in certain forms of local government, and in the enactment of general laws by the Legislature, but nothing on what is perhaps the most fundamental right of all, the right to vote.
The 72-county Common Sense Wisconsin Uniformity referenda would provide momentum toward a constitutional amendment, CSW asserts. 
To amend the state constitution, a majority of members in both houses of the Legislature must vote in favor of the amendment in two consecutive sessions. Once the amendment passes the Legislature twice, it must be approved by the voters at the next general election.
CSW says the constitutional amendment would require that election laws be uniformly applied throughout the state, that election laws must be reliable and predictable, and the administration of elections cannot favor any political party over another. Also under the amendment, private outside groups could not take over administration of elections.
CSW says there are some things the constitutional amendment would not do.
“This is not a proposal to have the state of Wisconsin take over administration of elections,” the group states. “In Wisconsin our elections are administered at the local level, and it must remain that way. Counties and municipalities work together to conduct elections. This initiative does not change that relationship nor does it change the detail of Wisconsin law — it merely requires that the laws be applied uniformly throughout the state and stops the state from forcing last-minute changes that lead to chaos.”
In the end, Handrick and CSW say the principle is simple: Election uniformity deserves a place in the state constitution. 
“If uniformity is worthy of constitutional protection for taxation and forms of government, then certainly protecting the vote — arguably the most fundamental of all rights — is also worthy,” CSW states. “By proposing a constitutional amendment, the Legislature will take away the ability of the governor to veto the measure and will put the matter directly into the hands of Wisconsin voters. It will also protect Wisconsin against current efforts in Congress to take voting rights away from the states and federalize elections.”
CSW believes that the current Legislature should immediately draft and introduce the Elections Equity and Uniformity Amendment, hold hearings, and proceed to first passage. 
However, regardless of the action or inaction in Madison, every Wisconsin county should place on its November 2022 ballot the advisory referendum asking if the Elections Equity and Uniformity Amendment should be placed on a statewide ballot, CSW states. 
Finally, the subsequent Legislature should proceed to final passage immediately upon convening and place the measure on a statewide ballot for approval by the people of Wisconsin.  
Richard Moore is the author of the forthcoming “Storyfinding: From the Journey to the Story” and can be reached at richardmoorebooks.com.