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Wisconsin health care referendums win in landslide

Near final returns show that voters across Wisconsin voted overwhelmingly for non-binding health care advisory referendums election night.

The health care referendums ran ahead of every contested election on the ballot, even running 18% ahead of Barack Obama.

With 21 of 22 referendum communities reporting, support ranged from 66% to 85% of the vote, and totaled over 411,000 "yes" votes state-wide.

The results show that there is a powerful public consensus from across Wisconsin that the Legislature needs to take bold action on the health care crisis next year.

The referendums were especially strong in Western and Northwestern Wisconsin, perhaps because of much higher than average health insurance costs and health insurance inflation in the region (See Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Ranking report at ). Of 14 Western Wisconsin cities and counties for which results are available, every one with the exception of Polk County ran even or ahead of Dane County, traditionally the most liberal area of the state.

Although the advisory referendums do not specify what plan to adopt, leaving that to the Legislature, they do lay down specific standards the public would like the Legislature to achieve. First, the referendums specify that the Legislature should guarantee affordable health care to everyone in Wisconsin, not merely take piecemeal steps. Second, the referendums specify that this health care coverage should be as good as State Legislators receive. Third, the referendums give the Legislature a deadline of the end of 2009.

"The referendums laid down a clear line between real health care reform and half measures, and the voters of Wisconsin overwhelmingly chose bold reform," said Robert Kraig, Program Director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin. "The referendums also clearly distinguished between legislative candidates, as many were unwilling to endorse such a strong reform statement."

"The health care referendums are also a victory for democracy, as they empowered hundreds of thousands of voters to express themselves directly to the Legislature on one of the most pressing public policy issues facing Wisconsin," said Linda Honold, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

The wording of the referenda in 20 of 22 communities was: "Shall the next state Legislature enact health care reform legislation by Dec. 31, 2009 that guarantees every Wisconsin resident affordable health care coverage as good as what is provided to state legislators?" Dane and Douglas counties had slightly different language.

See for regular final numbers.