Thursday, May 18, 2017

CC/WI Calls for Removal of Restrictions on College Student ID as Voter ID

For Release: Thursday - May 18, 2017

This past November, Wisconsin experienced its first presidential election in which voters had to present a photo ID at the polls – a requirement put into place to address the nonexistent problem of "voter fraud."

There is little doubt that Wisconsin’s extreme and restrictive voter photo ID law disenfranchised tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of eligible voters who did not have one of the few forms of ID acceptable for voting, such as a Wisconsin driver license or state ID card. Among those most negatively impacted by the requirement were seniors, the poor, citizens of color – and college students (primarily students from out of state).

A college student ID card is listed as an acceptable ID for voting; however, a student ID can only be used as a voter ID if it was issued by a Wisconsin-accredited institution and the ID includes a photo of the student; a signature; the date it was issued and the date it expires. Further, the student ID cannot expire more than two years after the date it was issued... but, the ID can be expired (thanks to a federal court ruling in late July 2016).

Unlike any other form of ID used for voting, a student ID requires additional documentation in order to be used as a voter ID: students must also bring (or show electronically) proof of current enrollment, such as a tuition statement.

Confused? Concerned? It gets worse...

The majority of student IDs issued by Wisconsin colleges and universities do not meet the criteria for use as a voter ID.

According to research conducted by CC/WI over the last year, the standard student ID at only three of the University of Wisconsin's 13 four-year schools, at none of the UW System's 13 two-year schools and at only seven of the state's 23 private colleges can be used as a voter photo ID.

Separate “Voter ID cards” are available upon request at the 23 UW System schools, and at nine of the sixteen private colleges, whose standard student IDs cannot be used as a voter ID – but students must take action in order to get one of those college-issued voter ID cards.

Notice a pattern here? There’s more...

When other IDs are presented as voter ID, poll workers are instructed to only look for a voter’s name, photo and the ID's expiration date (if one is required); conversely, when examining student IDs, poll workers must also check for the criteria listed above – including a signature. Note that some of the other acceptable IDs do not even include a signature (e.g., some Tribal ID cards) and those that have one, do not need the signature's appearance on the ID verified when voting.

Bottom line – as a result of Wisconsin's strict voter ID law – college students are treated differently, facing unnecessary barriers to voting. This deliberate disenfranchisement is wrong and must be addressed; we should be encouraging civic participation by young voters, not preventing it.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a federal court decision overturning North Carolina's restrictive voter ID law – sending a strong message nationwide that such voter suppression measures are unacceptable.

CC/WI calls on our State Legislature to address the obvious, excessive burden Wisconsin's voter photo ID law places on college and university students by removing the unnecessary restrictions placed on those who use a student ID as a voter ID.

Even college students in Alabama need only present a valid student ID to cast a ballot.

A voter photo ID is supposed to prove who you are. That's it.

Sandra Miller
Director of Information Services & Outreach

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Days of "Action" on Fair Voter Maps and Ending Partisan Gerrymandering in Wisconsin!

For Release: Wednesday - May 3, 2017

Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) is joining many other organizations in Wisconsin in urging our members and supporters to take action the rest of this week – Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, May 3rd, 4th & 5th to elevate and advance fair voter maps and an end to partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin. We ask that you do as many of the actions listed below as you can and that you do them either all at once, in one day, or spread your activity out over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week.

The sustained activity by thousands of Wisconsinites is making a big difference.

The visibility of the issue of redistricting reform is as high, or higher, as it has ever been – certainly since the late Summer of 2013 when more than 10 daily newspapers in Wisconsin simultaneously published editorials in support of the "Iowa Model" for Wisconsin as the process to adopt for redrawing state legislative and congressional district lines after every decennial census. Reformers and pro-reform state legislators continue to be united in support of the "Iowa Model" legislation, which this year has bipartisan support as Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44.

The Wisconsin court case, Whitford v. Gill – now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court – gives new and significant urgency to our efforts to adopt a new system for drawing voter maps, as a federal court panel ruled last November that the 2011 hyper-partisan Republican gerrymander of Wisconsin's state legislative districts is unconstitutional and new districts must be redrawn before November 1, 2017. This excellent New York Times article of April 21st provides great information and background about what is at stake.

Here is what everyone can do this week to advance fair voting maps and redistricting reform and oppose hyper-partisan gerrymandering of state legislative districts:
1. Contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and demand they support redistricting reform legislation (Senate Bill 13/Assembly Bill 44), which would take the drawing of state legislative and congressional districts out of the hands of partisan legislators and entrust that task to the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. This is what they do in Iowa and it is respected and trusted by everyone. Reform organizations and pro-reform legislators are united in support of the “Iowa Model.”

2. Contact State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in support of Senate Bill 13/Assembly Bill 44 and demand that they schedule a public hearing and vote on the reform legislation.
(608) 266-5660

3. Contact both your State Senator and State Representative and Fitzgerald and Vos and demand that no additional taxpayer money be used to pay legal fees to defend the unconstitutional, rigged 2011 voter maps that Fitzgerald and Vos have authorized when the current lawsuit is appealed and considered by the Supreme Court of the United States.

4. Sign the online petition in support of redistricting reform legislation (Senate Bill 13/Assembly Bill 44). Urge others to sign it as well.

5. Be ready to vote! Make sure you have one of the required forms of photo ID in order to vote in Wisconsin and take responsibility for 10 friends/family members to ensure that they have what is required to vote as well.
You may have already taken one or more of the other actions listed above, but many legislators have short memories and need constant reminders about doing the right thing and what the citizens of Wisconsin demand and need, so don't be shy – contact them again!

Vos, Fitzgerald and all state legislators are supposed to serve the citizenry – not the inverse. Similarly, voters are supposed to choose their state legislators, not the other way around, which is now the situation in Wisconsin because of hyper-partisan redistricting.

Let CC/WI know what, if any, responses you receive from state legislators. We are making a list and keeping track.

Most importantly: Never give in and never surrender. We can and will prevail in this struggle for the very heart of democracy!


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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703

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Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!


Monday, April 10, 2017

Wisconsin Supreme Court Should Adopt Strong Recusal Rule Proposed by Former Jurists

For Release: Thursday - April 10, 2017

On April 20th, the Wisconsin Supreme Court may consider, in open conference, a petition submitted three months ago, in January, 54 retired judges – including two former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices – unveiled a strong proposal that would establish reasonable thresholds for recusal for elected municipal court judges, circuit court judges, state court of appeals judges and state supreme court justices in cases where they received campaign contributions from a defendant or plaintiff appearing before them. The full petition from the retired jurists is here.

Wisconsinites would be surprised to know that our state is considered among the four worst states in the nation with regard to recusal standards for campaign contributions. In fact we have none – and the current state recusal "standard" was written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, one of the state's most powerful special interest groups that has spent millions of dollars over the years to elect conservative state supreme court justices. It was adopted verbatim by a 4 to 3 vote, seven years ago.

Below is the letter we sent last week to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on this critical matter:

April 5, 2017

The Honorable Patience D. Roggensack
Chief Justice
Wisconsin Supreme Court
P.O. Box 1688 Madison, WI 53701-1688

Dear Chief Justice Roggensack,

On behalf of the State Governing Board and the more than 12,000 members and activists of Common Cause in Wisconsin, we respectfully request that the Wisconsin Supreme Court consider and adopt Rule Petition 17-01 on recusal, submitted to you in January by 54 retired jurists, including two former members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Rule Petition 17-01 requests that the Court amend the Code of Judicial Conduct to establish an objective standard for requiring recusal or disqualification of a municipal court judge, circuit court judge, state court of appeals judge, or a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice who has received campaign contributions from a party or lawyer. It further supports amending the Wisconsin Constitution so that the Supreme Court can maintain a quorum in the event of such a recusal, as lower courts routinely do now.

We believe that a failure to adopt sensible, reasonable recusal rules, such as those laid out in Rule Petition 17-01, put the integrity and reputation of all Wisconsin Courts at greater risk than they suffer currently, resulting in the further erosion of public confidence in the impartiality and fairness of judges at all levels and, in particular in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

As the retired jurists noted in their statement of purpose, “As money becomes more predominant, citizens rightfully ask whether justice is for sale. The appearance of partiality that large donations cause strikes at the heart of the judicial function, which depends on the public’s respect for its judgments.”

Public opinion polling in Wisconsin over the last half decade suggests that the public’s respect for the judiciary has never been lower.

The problem stems, in part, to the failure in 2009 of a majority of this Court to adopt a proposal, put forth by Justice N. Patrick Crooks, to require recusal if a justice had received substantial election support from one of the parties in the case. This error was compounded in 2010 by the adoption by a majority of the Court of essentially, a non-recusal rule written and accepted, apparently verbatim, from two of the state’s largest business organizations, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

As a result of these two actions and because of the failure of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to adopt a strong recusal rule at the explicit invitation of the Supreme Court of the United States in the wake of its landmark 2009 Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company decision, our state currently ranks 47th of the 50 states in terms of the strength of its recusal rules according to a survey cited by the retired Wisconsin jurists in Rule Petition 17-01. That is simply shocking and unacceptable.

Further, strong recusal rules are even more necessary in the aftermath of the Court’s 2015 decision to strike down Wisconsin law that had prohibited campaign coordination between candidate campaigns with outside special interest groups who spend vast sums of money engaging in non-express advocacy or phony issue advocacy, with a clear intent to influence the outcome of elections.

This controversial decision exceeded even the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United v. F.E.C. decision in allowing coordination between so-called issue ad groups and candidates. Citizens United prohibited this type of coordination. The fact that the four Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices who voted in 2015 to decriminalize this kind of coordination, had themselves been supported by one or more of the organizations engaging in that coordination during the 2011-2011 recall elections, further underscores the urgent need for strong recusal standards and rules.

The most recent contested Wisconsin Supreme Court election in 2016 further illustrates the growing need for recusal rules. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “issue ad” groups spent more than $2.25 million attempting to influence the outcome of the election while the two candidates themselves spent a combined total of $777,440 – about one third as much as the outside spending. And yet one of those outside groups could conceivably appear as a party to a case that came before the Court and the justice who benefited by the election spending of that group would not be required to recuse herself under current law.

That is simply a standard that invites even deeper cynicism and distrust on the part of citizens of all political and philosophical persuasions in the ability of this state’s highest court to be able to render justice fairly and impartially.

You, and the other six justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court have it within your power to restore a modicum of citizen confidence and trust in not only the state’s highest court, but in state courts of all levels by adopting the thresholds recommended by the distinguished group of 54 retired jurists in Rule Petition 17-01.

We respectfully urge that you seize this opportunity to do so.


Jay Heck
Executive Director


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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!