Published on Wednesday, April 5, 2006 by the AP
MILWAUKEE – Thousands of voters turned out in Wisconsin to offer a purely symbolic but heartfelt message: Bring the troops home from Iraq.
By margins overwhelming in some places and narrow in others, voters in 24 of 32 communities approved referendums Tuesday calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Joy Kenworthy, 78, of Madison, doesn’t mind that the nonbinding referendums have no bearing on federal policy. She was one of more than 24,300 voters in the state capital who gave 68 percent support to a referendum calling for the pullout.
"I thought this war was ill-advised from the moment it started," she said.
In addition to Madison, those communities supporting the measures included the Milwaukee suburbs of Shorewood and Whitefish Bay, and the western city of La Crosse. Those voting down the measure included the northwestern city of Hayward and the south-central city of Watertown, where 75 percent of voters disapproved.
Most of the referendums asked if the voters supported withdrawing the troops immediately, and Evansville also had one urging support of President Bush, which voters rejected.
Sister Bay resident Peter Trenchard said he wasn’t surprised voters in his northeast village voted against the measure. He said many people there did not approve of the war in the first place but they don’t see pulling troops out as a solution.
"Logic tells you you can’t pull out of there. It would be a mess," said Trenchard, 67.
Such measures have been passed by city councils and voters in other states, including Vermont, which served as a model for Wisconsin’s effort, said Rachel Friedman, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.
The group, which helped organize Tuesday’s initiatives, is already looking at ways to take the referendums into more communities. Elected officials can’t ignore the results, especially as the November election season looms, Friedman said.
"They have seven months to listen to us, to the voters and to do the right thing," she said. "The people have spoken. This is what democracy looks like."
The morale of soldiers _ and their safety _ could dip when they hear about such referendums passing, said Bill Richardson, treasurer of Vote No To Cut And Run, a group that opposed the measures.
"It’s a political statement and it’s hurting people and it could cost lives," said Richardson, 63, a one-time bandmaster in the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
Supporters shouldn’t be too pleased with the results, said John McAdams, an associate professor of political science at Marquette University.
Victory margins in many of the liberal-leaning cities were lower than rates won by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004, meaning swing voters haven’t been swayed by anti-war sentiment, he said.
Associated Press writer Todd Richmond in Madison contributed to this report.