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



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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

ACTION ALERT: State Assembly Committee to Vote on Measure to Undermine the U.S. Constitution on Wednesday



Tuesday - May 30, 2017


As has become their now routine procedure to schedule legislative action on bad public policy that they hope few citizens will take notice of, the Republican legislative leadership publicly noticed this action late Friday afternoon after all of Wisconsin had begun the Memorial Day weekend holiday.

On Wednesday, May 31st, in the Capitol, the Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations plans to vote on AJR 21 and several other misguided measures calling for a Constitutional Convention to develop a balanced budget amendment and what is called an "Article V Convention of the States" for the stated purpose of adding that balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A convention like this has never been called and assembled before in our nation's history 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.

Wisconsin could become the 29th or 30th out of 34 states needed to call for a convention if these measures clear the Legislature.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published this excellent editorial earlier this year denouncing this dangerous proposal. The Journal Sentinel also published this informative guest editorial written by national Common Cause President, Karen Hobert Flynn.

Common Cause in Wisconsin's testimony against this proposal is here.

What citizens can and must do: Contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and tell them to oppose the call for a dangerous, Article V Constitutional Convention! If you are not sure who your state legislators are, go here.

Here’s the information on the May 31 executive session. In addition to your own state legislators, contacting the member of the committee and weighing in against this dangerous assault on the Constitution, would be helpful.
Date
Wed May 31

Committee
Assembly - Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations

Executive Session
1:00 PM
North Hearing Room (2nd Floor North)

Never surrender. Never give in. Forward!





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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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
608/658-2109
smiller@commoncause.org

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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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.

Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov
(608) 266-5660

Rep.Vos@legis.Wisconsin.gov
(608)266-3387

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!





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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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.

Sincerely,


Jay Heck
Executive Director




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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Monday, April 3, 2017

Make Sure You Are Ready to Vote on Tuesday, April 4th!



For Release: Monday - April 3, 2017


Polls Open Tomorrow from 7am to 8pm

A Spring election may not seem like a big deal, but make no mistake – every election matters.

Tomorrow we choose Wisconsin's Superintendent of Public Instruction, the person who will determine what our state's educational landscape will look like for the next four years.

Let that sink in.

We'll also cast a vote for a Supreme Court Justice, Court of Appeals Judge (in Districts 1, 2, and 4) and various members of our local governments.

Do NOT sit this election out. Make sure you are ready NOW to go to the polls tomorrow.

First, look over the IDs pictured left to ensure you have a photo ID that can be used for voting.

(Click to enlarge image)

If you already have a Wisconsin driver license or one of the other acceptable forms of ID for voting, then you're "ID ready." Just remember to bring it with you when you head to your polling place!

What if you don't have an acceptable ID for voting on Election Day?

You can ask for AND vote with a provisional ballot. But, for your ballot to be counted, you MUST either come back to your polling place with an acceptable form of ID before it closes at 8:00 pm tomorrow OR bring your ID to your municipal clerk's office by 4:00 pm the Friday after the election (April 7th).

For more on getting a free ID for voting, see our voter ID fact sheet or visit Bring It to the Ballot.

Are you a college student planning to use your student ID for voting?

If you do not have one of the other forms of photo ID pictured above, and you are a college student hoping to use your student ID and a proof of enrollment document as your "voter ID," look up your school NOW on the appropriate list linked below to see if your current student ID is an acceptable form of ID for voting. If your student ID cannot be used for voting, you can find out if a separate school-issued "voter photo ID" is available and how to get one.

  University of Wisconsin – 4-Year Schools
  University of Wisconsin – 2-Year Schools
  Wisconsin Private Universities & Colleges
  Wisconsin Technical Colleges


Are you registered to vote?

Before you head out to the polls, check to see that you are registered to vote at your current address. If you are not, be sure to bring a proof of residence document (hard copy or electronic on your cell phone or tablet) when you go to the polls on Tuesday so that you can register there.

Where is your polling place?

To find out where to go to cast your ballot, visit the "Find My Polling Place" page on the Wisconsin Election Commission's My Vote Wisconsin website and type in your address.

What's on your ballot?

Visit the Wisconsin Election Commission's "What's on My Ballot" page and type in your address to see a sample ballot.

Remember – EVERY election is important. Make your voice heard tomorrow!




Contact:


Sandra Miller
Director of Information Services & Outreach
608/658-2109
smiller@commoncause.org

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...


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Legislation Posing a Threat to the U.S. Constitution Gets a Public Hearing in the Capitol Today



For Release: Tuesday - March 28, 2017


Today in the Capitol, there will be a joint State Senate - Assembly Committee Hearing for several misguided resolutions calling for what is called an "Article V Convention of the States" for the stated purpose of adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A convention like this has never been called and assembled before in our nation's history 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. The possibilities are endless.

Wisconsin could become the 29th or 30th out of 34 states needed to call for a convention if these measures clear the Legislature.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published this excellent editorial Saturday denouncing this dangerous proposal. The Journal Sentinel also published this informative guest editorial written by national Common Cause President, Karen Hobert Flynn.

Common Cause in Wisconsin's testimony against this proposal is here.

What citizens can and must do: Contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and tell them to oppose the call for a dangerous, Article V Constitutional Convention! If you are not sure who your state legislators are, go here.

Never surrender. Never give in. Forward!





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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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

GOP Legislative Leaders Spending Taxpayer Funds for Unconstitutional, Rigged Voter Maps in Secret?



For Release: Wednesday - March 22, 2017


Last month, State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), authorized – without public input, or even a vote in the Legislature – the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds to defend the 2011 state legislative district maps drawn in secret. Those maps were struck down by a federal court three-judge panel in November and in January, the same court ordered that the current maps must be redrawn, according to criteria stipulated by the court, before November 1, 2017.

To date, Fitzgerald and Vos have not begun taking action (that the public has been informed about) to comply with that court order. There have been no announcements about when the redrawing of the state legislative district lines will begin, what process will be utilized to do so, when public hearings will be held, and if the public will be "allowed" to play a role in the process.

The GOP leaders have also not revealed how they are spending taxpayer dollars and to whom those funds are being paid, in the defense of the unconstitutional, rigged 2011 voter maps.

Also late last month, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel formally appealed the November federal court decision to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Schimel, and his cohort of state Justice Department lawyers, are paid with taxpayer dollars – so the lawyers Fitzgerald and Vos have hired amount to a double hit on the wallets of Wisconsin taxpayers to defend unconstitutional, hyper-partisan voter maps.

At the very least they owe us a public accounting of how our money is being spent. But thus far? Nothing. No timetable for redrawing the voter maps and no disclosure of how taxpayer dollars are being (or will be) spent.

In the meantime, citizens have been very active contacting state legislators in support of redistricting reform legislation (Senate Bill 13/Assembly Bill 44) and in demanding that taxpayer dollars not be utilized to defend the 2011 maps. Further, in just the last several weeks, more than 700 new Wisconsinites have signed our online petition in support of redistricting reform, boosting our total to over 3,400! Our goal is lofty, but doable – 5,000. If you haven't signed it yet, please do so. If you have, urge others to do so.

Citizens ask us all the time what they can do to advance the adoption of fair voter maps and end partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin. The answer is that there is plenty that citizens can do. Start with these five things. Then, educate others about the need for redistricting reform and write letters to newspapers like this excellent one from a Wausau resident. Further educate yourself on this issue. Read this excellent, recent op-ed written by CC/WI State Governing Board member Tom Frazier on this issue and consider writing one yourself.

Even if you have contacted your own State Senator and State Representative already, do so again! They need to be reminded. Continually. And if you haven't contacted Fitzgerald and Vos about scheduling a public hearing for Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44 (they have the power to order public hearings, or to block one from being scheduled), or to tell them you resent and oppose the use of your tax dollars to defend the unconstitutional, rigged legislative district maps that they hold so dear, contact them now! Here's how to reach those two:

Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov

(608) 266-5660

Rep.Vos@legis.Wisconsin.gov

(608)266-3387

We must keep the pressure on. And we must – and will – never give up. On Wisconsin!

(That applies to the "Sweet Sixteen" NCAA basketball games this weekend as well).

Go Badgers! :-)






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...


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Wisconsin Judiciary Should Adopt Strong Recusal Standards for Campaign Contributions / Keep Independent WI Judicial Commission



For Release: Thursday - March 9, 2017


Two 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 five 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.

Since that time, contribution limits to candidates have vastly increased and outside spending has risen exponentially. Public financing for state supreme court candidates who voluntarily agreed not to raise campaign contributions was repealed (in 2011) and now more money than ever before dictates the outcome of state supreme court elections and increasingly, elections for state court of appeals, circuit court and even municipal court.

What can citizens do?

For starters, learn about this issue and then contact the seven current members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and tell them that you believe they ought to adopt the threshold limits for recusal proposed by the 54 retired jurists. For state supreme court justices, the threshold amount is $10,000; for judges on the state court of appeals, $2,500; for circuit court judges, $1,000; and for municipal court judges, $500. These are reasonable and prudent thresholds.

On a related matter, Governor Scott Walker has proposed, in his 2017-19 budget proposal, eliminating the 40-year-old independent Judicial Commission and handing over its independent oversight and discipline functions to the State Supreme Court Justices themselves. This is a terrible idea that was thwarted two years ago when Walker first proposed it. This recent editorial from the Racine Journal Times makes the case as to why this proposal should never see the light of day.

Here is what you can do: contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and tell them you want this awful proposal removed from the state budget (where it really has no business being included for in the first place). Then, contact Governor Scott Walker and tell him the same thing:

Office of Governor Scott Walker
State Capitol
115 East
Madison, WI 53707
Tel:(608) 266-1212
Email: governor@wisconsin.gov

Make your voice heard! It's all you have and it's more powerful than you think. Utilize it!




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...