Milwaukee Schools End Voting Drive

October 29, 2004

The superintendent of Milwaukee schools halted a program to get out the vote involving students after complaints about its link to a pro-Kerry organization.

Supt. William Andrekopoulos acted late Wednesday, citing a policy that prohibits the district from being a political advocate.

His decision came a day after Republicans accused Democrats of using the students for political gain because the program was organized by the Wisconsin Citizen Action Fund, whose parent organization endorsed Sen. John F. Kerry for president.

Students at 33 Milwaukee schools called voters and went door to door in minority neighborhoods and areas with historically low voter turnout, urging people to cast ballots in Tuesday's election. The young people, ranging in age from 11 to 18, often conducted the efforts during school hours.

"There were too many variables associated with canvassing for the district to manage," district spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin said.

"The administration felt it had to take action to avoid the appearance of any impropriety," St. Aubin said.

Supporters said the youngsters were getting a valuable lesson in democracy and denied any partisanship, insisting that the students did not display any campaign material and did not encourage people to vote in a specific way.

"The students are bearing the brunt of a decision based on political pressure that is being brought on the district," said Larry Marx, co-executive director of the Wisconsin Citizen Action Fund. "This is a project that the district should be proud of."

Chris Lato, communications director for the Wisconsin Republican Party, said the program amounted to "exploiting schoolchildren on the taxpayers' dime to conduct what is clearly a Democratic, partisan get-out-the-vote effort.