Thursday, August 10, 2017

What College & University Students Can Do NOW to Be Ready to Vote in Wisconsin



For Release: Thursday - August 10, 2017


With just a few short weeks before students return to their public universities and private colleges in the state, this is a good time for them to make sure they are ready to vote in Wisconsin.

Remember, everyone needs a specific type of photo ID to vote in Wisconsin.

The next opportunity to cast a ballot is approaching sooner than you might think.

Wisconsin's Spring Primary is on February 20, 2018 – followed by the Spring Election on April 3, 2018 – when we will choose a new State Supreme Court Justice, two Court of Appeals Judges, and Circuit Court Judges.

If you value the integrity of our state's judicial system, mark your calendar with these two important dates, and then get ready to vote now so you're not scrambling later.

The Spring judicial elections will be followed soon by elections for Governor of Wisconsin, the State Legislature, U.S. Senator, and members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Go to our webpage now:

Three Things College Students Need to Do To Vote in Wisconsin

Students will find straightforward information on registering to vote and voter photo ID. If students have a Wisconsin driver's license or Department of Transportation-issued Wisconsin ID card, then they already have an ID acceptable for voting. But, if they don't have one of these forms of ID, we provide information on alternative IDs for voting, including if the standard student ID at their school can be used to vote – and if it cannot be used at the polls, how and where to get an acceptable school-issued "voter ID" if their school offers one.

We will continually update this resource as new information is received or changes. So please check back often. And share this link widely with anyone you know who is attending a college, university or technical school in Wisconsin!

Get this done now, so you won't have to worry about it later.




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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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Tim Cullen Assumes Chairmanship of Common Cause in Wisconsin



For Release: Tuesday - August 1, 2017


Former State Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville, formally assumed the duties of Chair of the State Governing Board of Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) today. CC/WI is the state's largest non-partisan citizens political reform organization with more than 6,000 members and activists throughout the state.

"This is a dark and deeply troubling period in Wisconsin's long, proud history with the power of organized, outside special interest and millionaire money never greater, voter suppression never more evident, and hyper-partisan gerrymandering of our state legislative districts never more deliberate," said Cullen, a Democrat, who served in the Wisconsin State Senate from 1975 to 1987 (Majority Leader, 1982-87) and then again from 2011-2015.

"We are re-committing our reform work to unite Wisconsinites of all political views towards the re-establishment of open, accountable and transparent state government and clean politics, and to rebuilding a state where the concerns of real citizens trump the power of monied interests and vicious, polarizing partisanship.

"Wisconsin was, not long ago, a model that every other state wanted to emulate. No longer. We need to get back there," Cullen added.

Cullen served as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services in 1987-88, an appointment of former Republican Governor Tommy G. Thompson. Currently he co-chairs the Wisconsin Fair Elections Project, with former Republican State Senator Dale Schultz, with whom he frequently travels and speaks about the need to end partisan gerrymandering.

Common Cause in Wisconsin was founded in 1972 and the CC/WI State Governing Board was most recently chaired by Bill Kraus, a former Republican strategist and advisor to Governors Lee Dreyfuss and Warren Knowles. Other recent co-chairs include former Democratic State Representatives Maxine Hough and Mary Lou Munts.





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, July 31, 2017

Sensible Judicial Recusal Rules for Campaign Contributions Needed for Wisconsin Judges at All Levels



For Release: Monday - July 31, 2017


This Issue is Central in Upcoming Supreme Court Election

Note: This release appeared in the Sunday, July 30, 2017 "Crossroads" Section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the form of an opinion editorial.

Last April, the Wisconsin Supreme Court embarrassed itself and every citizen of our state when it discussed in “open conference,” and then voted 5 to 2, to reject a timely, reasonable and needed proposal that would have established 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, or were the beneficiaries of spending by an “outside” special interest group.

Wisconsinites would be surprised to know that our state is considered among the four worst states in the nation with regard to the strength of our recusal standards for campaign contributions. In fact, we have none, and the current state recusal “non-standard" was written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which has spent millions of dollars over the years to elect conservative state supreme court justices. The “standard” was adopted verbatim by a 4 to 3 vote, seven years ago. It essentially says that each justice may decide for themselves whether to recuse in a case involving a party contributing to her or him.

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 accept 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. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker enacted into law drastic changes to Wisconsin campaign finance law in 2015 that legalized campaign coordination between outside special interest groups and candidates. That means that “anything goes” and there is no wall between candidates and their financial backers.

The April vote and decision to reject the recusal proposal submitted in January by 54 retired judges — including two former Supreme Court Justices — was made without a public hearing. Individuals and organizations, including Common Cause in Wisconsin, were permitted to submit written comments to the court prior to the April vote, but the public was largely unaware that the shocking action by the Supreme Court even occurred because the conservative majority denied a request by the 54 retired jurists for a public hearing.

Here is what they proposed for recusal: 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. But they were rejected, almost summarily, in one of the last “open conferences” the high court had. They have since voted (5 to 2, of course) to end even open conferences. Democracy dies in darkness.

This recusal issue is not “settled” and is certain to be a big issue in the April 2018 state Supreme Court election in which a successor will be selected to replace retiring Justice Michael Gableman, a “poster child” for the need for a justice recuse him or herself and a leading opponent against sensible recusal standards. Already, two of the three candidates to replace Gableman have declared support for the retired judges’ proposal. Support for recusal will be central in the upcoming campaign.

With the conservative majority on Wisconsin’s highest court refusing to hold a public hearing on this critical issue, Common Cause will step into the void and organize two or three public hearings in Wisconsin in late summer and early fall.

Sensible recusal rules are needed to restore public confidence in Wisconsin’s judiciary, once a model for the nation. This issue is too important to simply allow deep-pocketed special interest groups and their proxies on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to simply crush it and attempt to sweep it out of the public eye. Stay tuned.

Jay Heck is executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin.





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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Saturday, July 1, 2017

In the News - July 2017



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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



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Thursday, June 1, 2017

In the News - June 2017








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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



Read More...


Monday, May 1, 2017

In the News - May 2017






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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

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