Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CC/WI to Hold Election Reform Public Forum October 24th in Wausau

Press Release
October 19, 2011

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


Monday Evening, October 24th

6:30 - 8:00 PM

Auditorium - Main Building
UW-Marathon County
518 South 7th Ave, Wausau, WI

Wisconsin has undergone unprecedented political turmoil and upheaval in 2011. The state once known as the “laboratory for democracy” has undergone tumultuous change in the way it will conduct elections and consider public policy in the future. And the core political fabric of Wisconsin – once heralded as a national model – has been dramatically transformed this year.

Are these changes detrimental to our state’s political process or were they needed and will they improve it?

Prior to 2011, public financing of statewide and legislative elections, including state supreme court races, helped to ensure that our legislators and our state’s highest court were beholden to the public rather than to powerful special interest groups with deep pockets for the financing of their campaigns. Wisconsin was one of the first states in the nation to implement a public financing system back in 1977. In a stunning move, Governor Scott Walker and his legislative allies gutted the state’s public financing system by raiding its funding source in order to help pay for implementation of the new Photo Voter ID law. The new “Impartial Justice” Law that provided full public financing to state supreme court candidates, who agreed to abide by spending limits of $400,000, was repealed after less than two years of its enactment.

On May 25th, Governor Scott Walker signed the Photo Voter Photo ID Bill into law— transforming Wisconsin from one of the easiest states in the country in which to cast a ballot to the most restrictive state in the nation in which to vote. Proponents of this new law insist that its objective is to prevent voter fraud. But was voter fraud really a problem in Wisconsin? Or, was the real goal of this measure to decrease voter turnout -- currently the second highest in the nation?

These and other campaign and election reform issues are more important than ever as we deal with the continuing fallout of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission— a decision that, among other things, allows corporations, labor unions and other interest groups to use unlimited money from their general treasury coffers to run outside communications, providing these entities with far greater influence on the outcome of elections at both the federal and state levels. And the citizens of Wisconsin are still in the dark about who is really behind this flood of “outside” campaign spending and the constant barrage of interest group “phony issue ads” we see during the election season. 

Is this lack of disclosure "free speech" or is it a perversion of democracy?

How will the Citizens United decision affect Wisconsin and does it matter? How can we find out who is really behind those vicious attack ads and is it important that we know? Will the new Photo Voter ID law prevent voter fraud? Or will it disenfranchise students, urban dwellers, minority groups, the elderly and disabled -- and ultimately depress voter turnout in Wisconsin? And should redistricting be taken out of the hands of partisan legislators and put into the hands of a non-partisan entity to draw congressional and legislative districts as required by law every ten years?

These important political reform issues will be the focus of discussion in Wausau this coming Monday during a "Reform Forum" organized by CC/WI entitled:

"What Ever Happened to Good Government
in Wisconsin?
And How Can We Fix It?

Panelists* will include:

State Representative Donna Seidel (D-Wausau)
Former Republican State Senator Walter John Chilsen
Former Republican Party Chairman of Marathon County Kevin Hermening
Political Science Professor Eric Giordano of UW-Marathon County
Executive Director Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin

Editorial Page Editor Rob Mentzer of the Wausau Daily Herald will serve as Moderator.

*State Senator Pam Galloway (R-Wausau) and State Representative Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) were both invited to participate but were unable to do so.

Please join us at this free public forum for what we anticipate will be a lively discussion.

Full details can be found here.


Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

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