Thursday, May 26, 2022

G.O.P. Dysfunction and Turmoil Over Wisconsin Elections Commission Entirely Predictable

Thursday - May 26, 2022




Fortunately, There is a Solution to the Problem -- 
Reconstitute the G.A.B.
 
 
The seeds of the chaotic turmoil and dysfunction among Republicans over the resignation of Republican Wisconsin Election Commissioner Dean Knudson yesterday evening were planted almost seven years ago in late 2015, when Wisconsin state legislative Republicans and then-Governor Scott Walker engineered the completely partisan destruction of the independent, non-partisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) and replaced it with the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) in a deliberate attempt to gain partisan control over the administration and outcome of elections in this state.
 
Now, because their plans to be able to dominate and control the outcome of elections has not gone quite the way they had hoped and expected, Republicans are engaged in the wholesale undermining and destruction of the WEC and in replacing it with a newly empowered, partisan office of Secretary of State whom they are betting will be occupied after November by a partisan Republican state legislator now running for that office.
 
Instead of moving ahead to try to cast greater doubt, uncertainty and out right manipulation in the administration of Wisconsin elections by undermining election administrators, clerks and WEC Commissioners by exerting even more hyper partisan control, Republicans should, return to the model that every single Republican State Senator and State Representative voted for in the Wisconsin Legislature in early 2007 -- the creation of the non-partisan, independent GAB -- which, instead of partisan appointments to the GAB Board to oversee Wisconsin's elections, ethics and campaign finance laws -- had six retired judges making sound decisions based on the law, not on partisan positioning and advantage that is currently the case.
 
The GAB, during the time of its existence from 2008 to 2015, was considered a model for integrity, independence and impartiality for the administration of elections in the nation. A return to the establishment of the GAB would go a long way toward re-establishing the trust and confidence of Wisconsin voters in our elections and our democracy.

--------------------------

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
www.commoncausewisconsin.org

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Awaiting a Ruling on Return Absentee Ballots and Voting Drop Boxes

 
Wednesday - May 18, 2022


Green Bay drop box photograph by NBC26 10/23/20

Decision Will Tell Much About What Kind of a State 
and People We Are
 
 
​In the very near future, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is expected to render its decision in a case that will determine how absentee ballots can be returned to election clerks and whether or not the use of safe and secure voting drop boxes, widely used during the 2020 elections in Wisconsin, will continue. The decision by the court could have a particularly significant effect on the votes cast by thousands of Wisconsinites with various disabilities who rely on other people to help them to complete the absentee ballot process and to either mail or personally deliver their ballots to election clerks in time to be counted.
 
The case originated last year when a radical right wing law firm in Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), decided it could help Republicans win elections by making it more difficult to vote by absentee ballot and, in particular, to make it more difficult for people with disabilities to vote. WILL, which is largely funded by the ultra-conservative Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, cynically calculated that more Wisconsinites voting by absentee ballot cast their votes for Democrats than Republicans and so by making absentee voting more difficult and outlawing the use of secure voting drop boxes which enabled absentee voters to return their ballots more conveniently, they could reduce the number of votes for Democrats and therefore ensure Republican victories in more elections.
 
Late last year, WILL sought out a conservative circuit court judge that would be sympathetic to their scheme and found one in Waukesha County, Michael Bohren. Bohren blocked the use of secure voter drop boxes for the April 2022 election. The question for WILL then became whether they could have voter drop boxes eliminated for this November's election. The case was appealed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and then to the Wisconsin Supreme Court where a decision on both matters -- who can actually return or even put in the mail box an absentee ballot for a voter physically or otherwise unable to mail or deliver their ballot to the election clerk themself, and the use of voter drop boxes is expected by June.
 
This matter is attracting national attention and Monday USA Today and Gannett papers throughout the nation published this article about attempts to limit or eliminate completely the use of secure voting drop boxes throughout the nation. CC/WI was interviewed about the situation in Wisconsin.
 
The very troubling attack on Wisconsin voters with disabilities by WILL is explained and explored in this excellent Wisconsin Public Radio article. 
 
We can only hope that conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court will not view this case through the same partisan lenses through which they seem to view and decide so many important and critical matters concerning democracy, justice and equal protection under the law. We already know there are no limits on how far conspiracy theorists, election deniers, ultra-partisan political hacks and Trump-appeasers like Michael GablemanJanel BradtjenTimothy Ramthun and the lawyers at WILL may go to achieve their partisan objectives. What a majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court soon decides about how citizens who require to be able to vote by absentee ballot and to be able to have their ballots returned and counted in time for their voices to be heard, will tell us much about the kind of state and people we are. And about the future of democracy in Wisconsin.
 
What then can we do to be proactive about voting? You can make sure you are registered to vote. If you’d like to request an absentee ballot by mail, you can also apply now for ballots for the August and November elections to be sent to you. Make your plans to vote in this falls elections. All this can be done at MyVote WI (myvote.wi.gov).
 
Forward,
Jay Heck
 
--------------------------

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
www.commoncausewisconsin.org

Read More...


Monday, April 18, 2022

Wisconsin Supreme Court Embraces Hyper Partisanship and Polarization in Choosing State Legislative Voting Maps

 
Monday - April 18, 2022


Editorial Cartoon by Phil Hands of the Wisconsin State Journal – 6/30/19


Late on Friday afternoon, as families all over Wisconsin were making preparations for two of the most important religious observances of the year -- Easter and Passover -- or, just beginning what was hopefully a warmer, Spring weekend, the Wisconsin Supreme Court chose to release its shockingly unfair, hyper partisan, and completely misguided decision regarding the state legislative redistricting process and voting maps and set the stage for yet another decade of deeply polarized, undemocratic and unrepresentative state government in Wisconsin.

The four "conservatives" on the court committed an act of unprecedented radical judicial activism in selecting the ultra-partisan gerrymandered voting maps drawn in secret by state legislative Republicans less than six weeks after having chosen the less partisan, fairer voting maps submitted to the court by Governor Tony Evers.

The U.S. Supreme Court, on March 23rd had remanded Wisconsin's state legislative voting maps back to the Wisconsin Supreme Court for additional information, explanation and possible slight revision saying that in expanding to seven, from the current six the number of majority-minority Assembly districts in Wisconsin, the Governor needed to show more evidence that his maps did not constitute a "racial gerrymander" and were fully compliant with the Voting Rights Act. This, Evers said he was willing to do. Another way to address the concerns of the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court about utilizing race-based redistricting might have been to revise only the majority-minority districts (all in the Milwaukee area) and reduce the number of them from seven in the Governor's plan, back to six. The rest of the state legislative districts drawn by Evers were not at issue and could have been left intact.

But in what may be remembered in our state as the "Good Friday Surprise Attack on Democracy," the Wisconsin Supreme Court chose another path. And it was the worst possible alternative. Conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn, who had led the court in choosing the Governor's redistricting plan because it most closely adhered to his "least change" (from the 2011 redistricting) directive, on Friday executed a 180-degree pivot, and chose the severely partisan and even more gerrymandered (than in 2011) Republican state legislative maps, dishonestly claiming the court "had no other choice." That declaration was as absurd as it was untrue.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court could have accepted and reviewed the additional evidence that Gov. Evers offered to provide about how he determined the addition of a majority-minority Assembly district in his redistricting plan. It rejected that offer. The court could have made some revisions to the composition of the majority-minority districts to address the concerns of the U.S. Supreme Court about a "race-based" redistricting scheme. It refused to do so. Instead, Justice Hagedorn joined conservative justices Annette ZieglerPatience Roggensack, and Rebecca Bradley in selecting the most unfair, hyper partisan redistricting plan available that is specifically designed to lock in absolute Republican control of the Wisconsin Legislature for the next decade and to achieve for the Republicans a veto-proof, supermajority in at least one of the two legislative chambers.

Some legal experts have said that there is very little or no precedent for a state or federal court to have made such a partisan, completely unbalanced redistricting choice as the 4 to 3 conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court made on Friday. There is no precedent for a court selecting a redistricting scheme that was legally vetoed by a Governor, ignoring that action, and then ramming it into effect, without any revision or compromise whatsoever. This will likely go down as one of the worst assaults on justice and fairness in the history of American jurisprudence.
 
Wisconsin Justice Jill Karofsky, a progressive, got it right in the dissent she wrote, and which was joined by progressive Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet. Karofsky argued the court's majority had ignored a long history of racism in Milwaukee, one of the most segregated cities in the nation where Black residents have long faced racial disparities in homeownership, education, employment, health care and the criminal justice system. "The fault and responsibility to remedy this systemic segregation lies not with Milwaukee's residents but instead with the government and the society that perpetuated racial redlining and restrictive covenants," Karofsky wrote. "Those practices shaped Milwaukee and that history of discrimination cannot be undone by force of will alone."
 
The Governor's plan attempted to address and correct some of that disparity and injustice in expanding from six to seven the number of majority-minority Assembly districts. The Republican plan adopted by the court majority decreases to five, the number of majority minority Assembly districts and enhances racial disparity and injustice. Rather than address this issue and attempt to alleviate the problem as one might reasonably expect a fair and impartial state supreme court to do, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted to wash its hands of any responsibility for this blight on our state. Instead, they exacerbated the problem.
 
Common Cause in Wisconsin has long advocated for and supported the adoption of a non-partisan redistricting process for Wisconsin based on our neighboring state of Iowa's 42-year-old non-partisan process with which, even with Republican state legislative majorities and a Republican Governor in power, earlier this year adopted non-partisan state legislative and congressional voting maps that were supported by almost every Democratic and Republican member in both chambers of the Iowa Legislature.
 
Contrast that process and outcome with Wisconsin's, which with this horrendous state supreme court decision, has once again earned the dubious distinction of being one of the most hyper partisan, polarized and unfairly gerrymandered state of any in the nation. And lest there be any question that this is simply a "Republican problem," it most definitely is not. Democratic legislative majorities with Democratic Governors this year rammed through hyper partisan, unfair state legislative gerrymanders in Illinois and New York every bit as egregious as the G.O.P. assault on fairness and democracy in Wisconsin.
 
The long-suffering citizens of Wisconsin clearly deserve much better than the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Legislature have been willing or able to deliver. We will continue our relentless pursuit of non-partisan redistricting reform for our state for as long as it takes to achieve it. It will be up to "we the people" to make the necessary changes to restore some modicum of liberty and justice for all of us. And we cannot and will not rest until we do.
 
Onward,
Jay Heck
 
--------------------------

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
www.commoncausewisconsin.org

Read More...


Friday, April 8, 2022

Actions You Can Take to Promote and Protect Democracy

Friday - April 8, 2022



WE Power - democracy is our common cause

You can continue to make a difference this year in Wisconsin to strengthen fair and free elections!


Thanks to each and every voter who participated in the Spring 2022 elections! Local elections have direct impacts on our lives, families, and communities. Thanks for using your personal power to make a difference and to enhance our right to vote.

Now, with our next statewide election just ahead in August, here are some exciting, upcoming opportunities for you to learn, explore, and help direct your citizen activism to preserve and protect our freedom to vote.


CALLS to ACTION (write to your government officials TODAY, which is easy to do with the Common Cause online writing tool)
  • The anti-voter legislative bills have been sent to Governor Tony Evers. He needs to veto these measures. Write to him today to thank him for defending our right to vote because he will need to act on these bills by early next week. Even if you have done this in the past on earlier voter suppression measures, it’s important that you weigh in against this latest assault on free and fair elections in Wisconsin. And it takes only a few minutes to construct and send out this important message by using this easy-to-use Common Cause letter writing tool.
  • Write to both your State Senator and your State Representative and demand a public hearing and then a vote on SB 389 and AB 395 in support of redistricting reform. While the Wisconsin Legislature has "adjourned" for the year to campaign for the 2022 elections, they could easily convene again in Extraordinary Session to consider and pass SB 389/AB 395. Demand that they do so - write to them today!


What's Undermining Our Courts? (webinar)

Common Cause Wisconsin Director, Jay Heck, joins a panel with Marquette University Law Prof. Edward Fallone and dark money expert Lisa Graves for a conversation moderated by former Wisconsin Public Radio personality Joy Cardin about how secret, dark political money and weak recusal rules are undermining our courts. The free, virtual event sponsored by LWVWI is this coming Wednesday, April 13 at Noon.

Register for the Fair Courts webinar. The recorded event will be posted on the League's website and YouTube page.


Thank Election Heroes Day (online)
 
Join Common Cause Wisconsin, many partnering organizations, and voters across the state to thank our local clerks, poll workers, and election officials for all their work for ensuring Wisconsin elections are secure, fair, free and accessible. Send your clerk a letter, email or message via social media on Tuesday, April 12 -- "Thank Election Heroes Day." Let's all come together to thank our election workers and let them know how grateful we are that they count every vote and protect our freedom to vote. A little kindness from you goes a long way toward making democracy better!
 
You can find your clerk's contact information at MyVote.wi.gov

 
VoteRiders Voter ID Clinic/10th Anniversary Party (in person event)
  
On Tuesday, April 19 at 3:00 pm CT, Vote Riders will be kicking off our first Wisconsin Voter ID Clinic for 2022 in Milwaukee! Join them to celebrate 10 years and for ID clinic to give for assistance with IDs, Social Security Cards, Birth Certificates, and more! Refreshments will be served.

Milwaukee Public Library - Central Branch
Rotary Club of Milwaukee Community Room
814 W Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, 53233
 
Contact Nick Ramos, Vote Rider WI Voter ID Coalition Coordinator for more information.


Prepare NOW to VOTE in August and November 2022 Elections! (vote by absentee ballot or on Election Day)

If you have moved and/or need to update your voter registration, there's no better time than right now to do that so you're ready for the next election. Go to MyVote.wi.gov and enter your address information or contact your municipal clerk. You can find more voting information at the Common Cause Wisconsin website including resources for how to get assistance and answers for your election questions.


Please take action now and participate in one or more of these opportunities to move your civic engagement from beyond just the voting booth.

Stay involved. Stay encouraged. Stay connected!

Your active engagement makes our democracy stronger and preserves our freedom to vote and have our voices heard.

Thanks, and all best to you,
Jay Heck
 
--------------------------

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
www.commoncausewisconsin.org

Read More...