Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Gerrymandering, Campaign Finance Reform, Constitutional Convention - Reform Update




Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Wednesday June 28, 2017

1.  Wisconsin Anti-Partisan Gerrymandering Lawsuit Goes to the U.S. Supreme Court
2.  Package of Campaign Finance Reforms to Restore Wisconsin to 1997-98
3.  Unnecessary, Unwanted, Dangerous Measure Calling for a "Constitutional Convention"
     Passes the Assembly

4.  CC/WI's Fiscal Year Ends June 30th. Can You Help Support Our Work?



1. Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Takes Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case - Decision Likely Not Until 2018: As expected, the SCOTUS decided earlier this month to hear the Wisconsin gerrymandering case, Gill v. Whitford, and both sides say they are glad.


From the reformers' point of view, review of the hyper-partisan, secretive, expensive (to Wisconsin taxpayers) 2011 Republican-controlled redistricting process – struck down by a three-judge panel of federal judges last November – needed to end up before SCOTUS to hopefully end the kind of partisan gerrymandering that occurred, not just in Wisconsin, but in many states in the nation in 2011. This was done by both the GOP in states like Wisconsin and Michigan and by Democrats in states like Maryland and Rhode Island. Wisconsin Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel appealed the November federal court decision to SCOTUS and says he is confident the conservative majority will uphold his "partisan politics as usual" argument. Oral arguments before SCOTUS could begin as early as this October. The vote of the key "swing" justice on the SCOTUS, Justice Anthony Kennedy, will determine the outcome of what is expected to be a 5 to 4 decision.

CC/WI had this to say about the SCOTUS decision to take the Wisconsin case, which was published in The Progressive magazine.

New CC/WI State Governing Board Chair Tim Cullen, a former Democratic State Senator and Majority Leader, teamed up with former Republican State Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz to write this excellent column published in the Washington Post, about what is at stake in Gill v. Whitford and why the decision made in the case will be so critical to the future of Wisconsin and the nation.

For more about gerrymandering in Wisconsin, the case and related matters, read this article published in the Dunn County News about CC/WI Director Jay Heck's recent talk about all of this. A video of the presentation is here. Additional information can be found here, here, and here.

The "remedy" against further hyper-partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin is enactment into law of legislation to establish a non-partisan process of redistricting such as was adopted in Iowa in 1980. Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44 are identical measures that would accomplish this and they have bi-partisan support. Contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and demand that they support and co-sponsor these measures. If you are not sure who your legislators are, go here.

Finally, if you have not done so already, please sign this petition to the Wisconsin Legislature (and get your family and friends to do so as well). Our goal is to gather 5,000 Wisconsinite signees and we are almost at 4,000. We want to be able to deliver the petition to the State Capitol this Fall at about the time the SCOTUS hears oral arguments in the Gill v. Whitford case.



2.
Campaign Finance Reform "Re-Introduced" at the Capitol: Earlier this month, CC/WI joined State Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), other legislators and reformers in support of a number of comparatively modest but important campaign finance reform measures – many of which were once the law in Wisconsin but have been repealed by Republicans and Governor Scott Walker, primarily in 2015 – when they decimated almost all regulation and disclosure of special interest political money in Wisconsin.

CC/WI Director Jay Heck is speaking here in support of the reforms at a Capitol press conference. More on these measures are here and here.

We will be providing further information about these and other needed reform measures soon.



3.
Completely Unnecessary and Unwanted Measure to Amend the U.S. Constitution in a Dangerous Way Passes in the Wisconsin Assembly: Despite many other pressing state budget issues of great concern to Wisconsin citizens, Republicans in the State Assembly carved out time on Flag Day - June 14th, to vote on a measure no one is calling for except for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and some other wealthy special interest groups that bankroll the state GOP – such as Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

Measures to make Wisconsin the 28th state (of 34 needed) to call for an Article V Constitutional Convention are AJR 20, AJR 21 and AB 165 – all misguided measures written for the stated purpose of adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but which would take us well beyond even that draconian, disastrous outcome.

A convention like this has never been called and assembled before in our nation's history (since the first and only Constitutional Convention establishing the nation in 1787) and it could be a very destructive and dangerous event. A convention of this type could go well beyond a balanced budget measure and go on to alter or eliminate citizen rights currently protected by the Constitution. Voting rights, civil rights, women's rights, an end to democracy and freedom itself. The possibilities are endless.

Seven Assembly Republicans joined all the Assembly Democrats in voting against the call for a "Con Con," which is a good nickname for this abomination. Public opposition played a big role in their votes against it. Fortunately, prospects for passage in the Republican-controlled State Senate appear much less certain at this time. GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has expressed grave reservations about the matter, as have other State Senate Republicans. No action is expected in that chamber this Summer. But we will have to work hard to make sure it is not passed in the State Senate because Gov. Scott Walker is very supportive of it.

Jay Heck appeared recently on statewide Wisconsin Public Television's Here and Now program recently, in opposition to the Article V Constitutional Convention measures. He was also a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin program on the same subject which you can hear here. For more on this, go here, here, and here.



4. Our Fiscal Year Ends June 30th. Your Support and Assistance is Needed and Would be Much Appreciated: Enough said. If you are willing and able to help support our ongoing reform work, please mail a check or your credit card information (Visa, Master Card, American Express, Discover) to Common Cause in Wisconsin, P.O. Box 2597, Madison, WI 53703-2597. Or, you can call Jay Heck at the CC/WI office with your credit card information at 608/256-2687. Thank you very, very much. We are very grateful to you.





CONTACT:

Jay Heck

608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)


Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Wisconsin Case Could Deliver National Blow to Partisan Gerrymandering



Tuesday - June 20, 2017


The U.S. Supreme Court's decision Monday morning to hear Gill v. Whitford is good news for the millions of Americans currently being denied the right to elect representatives of their choosing due to partisan gerrymandering.

Under review is a November 2016 finding by a three-judge federal panel that the Wisconsin state lawmakers engaged in illegal partisan gerrymandering when they approved new voter boundaries in 2011. If the High Court agrees, it can end the excessive partisan manipulation of district lines across the country.

Although federal courts have previously ruled against redrawing voter districts in a way that disadvantages racial minorities, this is the first-ever federal ruling that a single-member district plan was drawn illegally for partisan advantage. The 2011 Wisconsin gerrymander by the Republicans was considered to be the most partisan of any Republican gerrymander in the nation that year.

For too long, the important task of redistricting has resembled a back-alley brawl: no rules, no referees, and no holds barred. Technology has made it easier than ever for self-interested legislators to manipulate districts for political advantage, so it is essential that courts step in to protect voters' fundamental constitutional rights.

Partisan and racial gerrymanders drive many Americans from participating in our democratic process because they feel that their votes don’t count. Sadly, in states like Wisconsin today, many of those citizens are right. Politicians should not be choosing their voters. It’s supposed to be the other way around.

In 2012 a majority of Wisconsinites who went to the polls voted for Democrats to represent them in the Wisconsin Assembly, but only 39 of 99 Assembly seats were won by Democratic candidates. The votes of Democrats essentially counted for less than those of Republicans because the districts were drawn in such a way that Democrats could not win control of the Wisconsin Assembly despite receiving more votes than Republicans.

The will of the majority of voters was thwarted through the “packing” and “cracking” of votes in gerrymandered state legislative districts. That means “packing” a disfavored party’s supporters into as few districts as possible while “cracking” other districts to give the favored party a slight advantage. Both strategies dilute one party’s strength at the expense of the other. Such deliberate and excessive partisanship was ruled to be unconstitutional by the three-judge federal court panel.

Wisconsin Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel appealed the federal court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which took the case Monday. The citizens who are challenging redistricting in Wisconsin specifically designed this case in an attempt to win over “swing” conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who once said he would be open to re-examining excessive partisan gerrymandering if a reasonable standard to measure it could be established.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday stayed the federal court order for the Wisconsin Legislature to redraw the state legislative districts before November 2017. While disappointing, this is not completely surprising given the October, or later date for oral arguments. An affirmative decision to uphold the lower court decision should still leave sufficient time for the Wisconsin Legislature, and legislators in other states, to draw new, less partisan legislative districts before the 2018 elections.





CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Assembly to Vote Wednesday on Dangerous, Misguided Legislation to Undermine the U.S. Constitution



Tuesday - June 13, 2017


Despite many other pressing state budget issues of great concern to Wisconsin citizens, Republicans in the State Assembly have carved out time on Wednesday (Flag Day - June 14th) to vote on a measure no one is calling for except for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and some other wealthy special interest groups that bankroll the state GOP – such as Wisconsin Club for Growth.

Measures to make Wisconsin the 28th state (of 34 needed) to call for an Article V Constitutional Convention are AJR 20, AJR 21 and AB 165 – all misguided measures written for the stated purpose of adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but which would take us well beyond even that draconian, disastrous outcome.

A convention like this has never been called and assembled before in our nation's history (since the first and only Constitutional Convention establishing the nation in 1787) and it could be a very destructive and dangerous event. A convention of this type could go well beyond a balanced budget measure and go on to alter or eliminate citizen rights currently protected by the Constitution. Voting rights, civil rights, women's rights, an end to democracy and freedom itself. The possibilities are endless.

Citizens need to educate themselves about this "under-the-radar" attack on liberty, freedom and democracy, and take action to stop Wisconsin from going down this road to perdition.

This past weekend, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published this opinion-editorial from the directors of four reform advocacy organizations (including CC/WI) explaining why the Article V Constitutional Convention is such a horrendous idea.

CC/WI Director Jay Heck spent a half hour on statewide Wisconsin Public Radio on Monday detailing why these measures must be stopped.

Jay's detailed testimony against this proposal is here.

If you want even more information, go here and here.

Active citizen involvement is needed to stop this from happening. While prospects for stopping these measures appear brighter in the State Senate, we must flood the State Assembly with calls and messages of opposition to these measures no citizens are calling for and that could damage our democracy and strip away our liberties in ways thought unimaginable a few years ago. To contact your State Representative, go here. If you are not sure who your state legislators are, go here.

Your active participation in protecting democracy can make a difference.

On Wisconsin! Never surrender!






CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



Read More...