What’s on the Ballot: Crime Victims’ Constitutional Amendment

Wisconsin voters have opportunity to stand with crime victims’ on statewide referendum

MADISON – A bipartisan proposal to strengthen the rights of crime victims commonly known as Marsy’s Law appears on statewide ballots for Wisconsin’s Spring Election. The proposed crime victims' constitutional amendment updates the 1993 victims’ rights constitutional amendment by giving victims new rights and strengthening existing ones. Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin also gives crime victims the Constitutional right to enforce their rights in a court of law if they have been infringed upon during the criminal justice process.

The amendment’s appearance on the ballot is the final step in a process that began in 2017.  Proposed amendments to the Wisconsin Constitution must first pass the Legislature in consecutive sessions.  The proposed crime victims amendment passed the Legislature in 2017 and again in 2019 with overwhelming bipartisan support.  The proposal is also backed by a broad coalition of victim advocacy groups, law enforcement leaders and civic organizations. 

In light of public health concerns raised regarding the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus, the bipartisan coalition in favor of Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin has launched a campaign urging residents to utilize absentee voting options for the Spring election. The coalition also urges voters to ensure they complete both sides of the ballot when applicable: in many municipalities, the referendum and other items may appear on the backside of the ballot.

The following question appears on the Wisconsin Spring Election ballot: “Additional rights of crime victims. Shall section 9m of article I of the constitution, which gives certain rights to crime victims, be amended to give crime victims additional rights, to require that the rights of crime victims be protected with equal force to the protections afforded the accused while leaving the federal constitutional rights of the accused intact, and to allow crime victims to enforce their rights in court?”

Wisconsin voters will be presented with the question above on the April 7, 2020 ballot. A YES vote would mean updating Wisconsin’s Constitution with strong, enforceable rights for crime victims. The full text of the proposed constitutional amendment is available here.

According to the explanatory statement issued by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the proposed amendment would make five general changes to article I, section 9m, of the Wisconsin Constitution:

  1. First, in 16 subsections, the proposed amendment would expand the rights of victims by creating additional rights and incorporating other statutory rights into the constitution.
  2. Second, the proposed amendment would incorporate into the constitution a definition of “victim” similar to the definition currently in statute.
  3. Third, the proposed amendment would create an additional mechanism by which victims could enforce their rights as victims.
  4. Fourth, the proposed amendment would incorporate into the constitution a limit on governmental liability for any violation of victims’ rights, similar to the limit currently provided by statute.
  5. Fifth, the proposed amendment would provide that it may not be interpreted to supersede a defendant’s federal constitutional rights or afford party status in a proceeding to any victim.



About Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin

Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin is a grassroots coalition that is advocating for a unique proposal to give victims of crime equal rights in our state Constitution, building on Wisconsin’s laws and history of leading on this issue. The proposal passed with strong bipartisan support in the Legislature and will be before voters for ratification on April 7, 2020. Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas has made it his life’s mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights.

Victims and supporters interested in sharing their stories can email [email protected].