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LWVWI Recommends "No' to the Bail Amendment

LWV of Wisconsin | Published on 3/17/2023

What is a constitutional amendment?

This is a change to the Wisconsin Constitution. The current Wisconsin Constitution has been amended only 100 times. Amendments may only be proposed by the legislature and then put on the ballot.

What will the amendment do?

The amendment will increase the number of people who are held in jail pending trial by expanding the conditions for judges to consider in determining whether an individual is eligible for pretrial release and for cash bail.

Additionally it would require a judge to consider a defendant’s potential risk to public safety, including his or her criminal history, when setting bail. Currently, cash bail is set as a means to ensure the person appears in court.

What are the questions?

Question 1 is about conditions of release before conviction.

And question 2 is about cash bail before conviction.

On and after March 14, voters can visit MyVote.WI.Gov to see the full sample language on their ballot.

What are the issues with this amendment?

Increased pretrial detention and denial of bail will:

Violate rights of those who are innocent until proven guilty

Increase costs for local jails, including rural areas

Increase racial disparity in the justice system

Adversely impact people with low-income

Why are the ballot questions ambiguous and misleading?

Voters are not advised that:

A consideration for pretrial detention of “serious bodily harm” is being changed to “serious harm, as defined by the legislature”. This will enlarge the number of people affected by this.

The five proposed additions to considerations of bail are new language, not included in the current statute.

The use of ambiguous and misleading ballot questions will result in costly legal challenges, if passed.