Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Political Reform in Wisconsin: Back to the Future



For Release: Wednesday - August 14, 2019

CC/WI Political Reform Forum in Stevens Point Attracts 250 Attendees

Progress on Democracy in the Badger State Requires a Look to the Past

By Jay Heck


When I became the director of Common Cause in Wisconsin in 1996, this state was still very much one of the bright lights in the nation when it came to honest, transparent, accountable state government and politics.

There was bipartisan consensus here that the amount of special interest money in elections was growing and that it should be curbed. The most serious ethics problem back then was lobbyists furnishing some legislators free tickets to Packers’ games and some meals. Voting was relatively easy and voter turnout at election time was second only to Minnesota, nationally. Our state Supreme Court and judiciary at all levels was revered and respected for its impartiality and non-partisanship and was a model for the rest of the country.

Then, in 2002, top legislative leaders of both chambers and in political parties were brought down in the most serious political scandal in the state’s history, the legislative caucus scandal. A new governor, Jim Doyle, promised political reform and campaigned on it, but backed off when he saw how money flowed to power.

There was some significant reform in Doyle’s second term. The non-partisan Government Accountability Board (GAB) comprised of retired judges was established in 2007, with the power to investigate corruption in the Capitol thanks to a stream of funding not subject to legislative control. It worked very effectively. Once again, we were a role model for the nation. Then, in late 2009, full public financing for state Supreme Court candidates who limited campaign spending became law in reaction to unprecedented special interest “independent” spending on Supreme Court races in 2007 and 2008.

But in 2010, Scott Walker and a conservative, anti-reform Republican majority were swept into power and early in 2011 began the systematic dismantling of any and all political reform that had been enacted into law in Wisconsin since the Progressive Era.

And as the crowning achievement, Walker and the GOP legislature, in order to ensure Republican control of the legislature for the next decade, rammed through the most partisan gerrymander of state legislative and congressional districts in the nation in 2011. It was also rated as one of the five most partisan gerrymanders nationally in the last fifty years. In the space of a couple of months there was Act 10, of course, but also the imposition of the most extreme and restrictive voter photo ID law in the nation – surpassing in severity states like Mississippi and South Carolina. All public financing of elections (full funding for Supreme Court elections and partial public financing for other statewide and legislative elections) was completely wiped out.

It has been effective beyond their wildest hopes and expectations. Virtually no legislative or congressional seats have changed partisan hands in elections since then.

But there was more. In 2015, a freshly re-elected Walker and the gerrymandered GOP majority led by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald destroyed the non-partisan GAB and got rid of the non-partisan judges because they had the temerity to authorize an investigation into the illegal campaign coordination that occurred in the 2012 recall election between Scott Walker’s campaign and Wisconsin Club for Growth. A conflict of interest-ridden state Supreme Court facilitated this outrageous action. The Legislature also effectively, retroactively decriminalized that formerly illegal campaign coordination and for good measure exempted politicians from being investigated under the state’s longstanding and highly effective “John Doe” investigative process – which was crucial in uncovering corruption in the Capitol during the caucus scandal.

They replaced the GAB with partisan commissions to which they controlled the appointments and made any investigation of corruption, and its funding, subject to their approval. And they destroyed whatever limits still existed on special interest money, particularly that money controlled by the legislative leaders. Further, they eliminated most meaningful disclosure of third-party campaign money and transformed Wisconsin from one of the most transparent states in the nation to one of the darkest of the dark money states.

In 2018, a majority of Wisconsin voters said “enough” and threw out Walker and GOP Attorney General Brian Schimel in statewide elections not affected by partisan gerrymandering. The new governor and attorney general, Democrats Tony Evers and Josh Kaul, vowed to restore integrity and fairness to state politics and state government. More significantly, the citizens of Wisconsin have risen up and are demanding extensive and fundamental political reform.

Ten years ago, few Wisconsinites knew what gerrymandering even meant, let alone how it robbed them of genuine choices in elections. Today, overwhelming majorities of citizens of all political persuasions are demanding fair voting maps and a non-partisan redistricting process like Iowa has. County boards and citizen referendums are pressuring the Legislature to end gerrymandering and the issue is at the forefront of citizen concerns. And despite the onerous and extreme voter photo ID law that has depressed voter turnout here, citizens continue to challenge its very premise (in April Common Cause filed a suit against the Wisconsin Election Commission over the unfair restrictions placed on college and university students’ ability to vote). A vast effort is underway to help those who face high hurdles to obtain the required voter ID.

After a decade of extraordinary setbacks, the quest for genuine political reform is moving forward again in Wisconsin. With continued focus, determination and a little luck, we may get back to where we were in 1996. Then we can build on that to restore this state as the beacon of democracy for the nation that we once were.





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, July 15, 2019

"Iowa Model" Redistricting Reform Legislation Publicly Presented



For Release: Monday - July 15, 2019


Tuesday, July 16th at 10:30 AM - Assembly Parlor, State Capitol

On May 8th, Wisconsin Republican legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), and their GOP minions on the Legislative Joint Finance Committee (JFC) stripped the redistricting reform provision proposal that Gov. Tony Evers had inserted in his 2019-2021 state budget proposal.

The measure is based on Iowa's redistricting process which was developed and enacted into law in Iowa by Republican Governor Robert Ray and a Republican-controlled Legislature (both chambers) in 1980.

Now, out of the state budget, the "Iowa Model" redistricting measure has been introduced, with bi-partisan support, in the Wisconsin Legislature as "stand alone" legislation and on Tuesday, July 16th, it will be formally "rolled out" by the lead sponsors at 10:30 AM in the Assembly Parlor of the State Capitol. CC/WI Chair, former State Senator Tim Cullen will speak in favor of the measure on behalf of CC/WI.

In the State Senate, the lead sponsor is Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), who has introduced Senate Bill 288. In the Assembly, the lead sponsor is Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Waukesha), who has introduced an identical measure, Assembly Bill 303.

They will speak at the press conference with Cullen and other reformers.

You can attend the press conference, too, if you are available and would like to join us.

It is vitally important for you to do your part to help make ending partisan gerrymandering a reality in Wisconsin before 2021, when the next redistricting process will occur, following the 2020 Census. This week, contact both your state senator and your state representative and demand that they co-sponsor and support Senate Bill 288 and/or Assembly Bill 303. If you are not sure who your state senator and/or state representative is, go here.

These measures have overwhelming citizen support all throughout Wisconsin. Now, state legislators need to adhere to the demands of their constituents to defy Vos and Fitzgerald and do the right thing. Support fair maps! Some legislators and their staff may tell you the U.S. Supreme Court has now said that their current, partisan gerrymandering system is the only way the redistricting process can occur. That is a bald-faced lie! They absolutely could and should adopt the fair, non-partisan legislation (SB 288/AB 303), now ready for a public hearing and consideration by the full Wisconsin Legislature tomorrow, if they put the the public interest ahead of their narrow, partisan interest.

For your information, you can watch this very recent video (taped July 11th) about the June 27th U.S. Supreme Court decision on partisan gerrymandering and the path forward for ending it Wisconsin on Wisconsin Eye, featuring CC/WI Director Jay Heck and UW-Madison Professors David Canon and Rob Yablon.

Take action. Make your voices heard. Never, ever surrender. On 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



Read More...


Monday, July 1, 2019

"Iowa Model" Anti Gerrymandering Legislation Not Affected by Terrible Supreme Court Decision



For Release: Monday - July 1, 2019

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

With Federal Courts Now Out of the Fight, It's Entirely Up to We, The People

Last Thursday's narrow (5 to 4) but terrible decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to not inject itself, or other federal courts into the question of whether or not hyper-partisan redistricting of congressional and state legislative districts could deny voters equal protection under the law and infringe on their First Amendment right to have their votes count as much as any other voter (it can and does) was deeply disturbing, disappointing and disgusting. But it was not, in the least bit, surprising.

The June 27th SCOTUS decision in Rucho v. Common Cause was pre-ordained when moderate conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retired a year a go and was replaced on the nation's highest court by Trump's selection, the ultra-conservative, partisan, and ill-tempered Brett Kavanaugh.

But the Supreme Court did not foreclose the possibility or ability of states to end partisan gerrymandering. Indeed, Chief Justice John Roberts decried the partisan map drawing and practically begged states to enact such reforms even as he cowardly backed away from utilizing legitimate judicial power to strike down unfair voting maps.

For years, we have been working on the advancement of redistricting reform under the assumption that we cannot depend on the courts to get this done. We have always believed that it is up to we, the people, who must eventually prevail over the hyper-politically partisan bosses of Wisconsin and their minions who have defended partisan gerrymandering, voter suppression, unlimited, secret special interest money, and anything else they can do to hold on to power – at any cost to taxpayers – the public be damned.

The U.S. Supreme Court has run away to hide. So be it. Onward and upward.

In May, Wisconsin Republican legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), and their GOP acolytes on the Legislative Joint Finance Committee (JFC) stripped the redistricting reform provision proposal that Gov. Tony Evers has inserted in his 2019-2021 state budget proposal.

Dozens of Wisconsinites testified in strong support of the "Iowa Model" redistricting reform measure at the four state budget hearings the JFC held around Wisconsin (in Janesville, Oak Creek, River Falls and Green Bay) during the month of April.

Nobody spoke against it.

The legislation is based on Iowa's redistricting process which was developed and enacted into law in Iowa by Republican Governor Robert Ray and a Republican-controlled Legislature (both chambers) in 1980.

Now, out of the state budget, the "Iowa Model" redistricting measure has been introduced, with bi-partisan support, in the Wisconsin Legislature as "stand alone" legislation.

In the State Senate, the lead sponsor is Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), who has introduced Senate Bill 288. In the Assembly, the lead sponsor is Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Waukesha), who has introduced an identical measure, Assembly Bill 303.

Now, it is time for you to do your part to help make ending partisan gerrymandering a reality in Wisconsin before 2021, when the next redistricting process will occur, following the 2020 Census. This week, before the 4th of July, please contact both your state senator and your state representative and demand that they co-sponsor and support Senate Bill 288 and/or Assembly Bill 303. If you are not sure who your state senator and/or state representative is, go here.

These measures have overwhelming citizen support all throughout Wisconsin. Now, state legislators need to adhere to the demands of their constituents to defy Vos and Fitzgerald and do the right thing. Support fair maps! Some legislators and their staff may tell you the U.S. Supreme Court has now said that their current, partisan gerrymandering system is the only way the redistricting process can occur. That is a bald-faced lie! They absolutely could and should adopt the fair, non-partisan legislation (SB 288/AB 303), now ready for a public hearing and consideration by the full Wisconsin Legislature tomorrow, if they put the the public interest ahead of their narrow, partisan interest.

Here is more information about the "Iowa Model" reform measure and about the redistricting process in Wisconsin. You can also watch and listen to this video about the redistricting reform process in Wisconsin.

Above all, take action. Make your voices heard. Never, ever surrender. On 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



Read More...


Monday, June 24, 2019

Counties in 32 of 33 WI State Senate Districts & 91 of 99 Assembly Districts Back Ending Partisan Gerrymandering



For Release: Monday - June 24, 2019


Overwhelming Public Support for Redistricting Reform Statewide

Citizen voters and their local elected officials throughout Wisconsin overwhelmingly support ending partisan gerrymandering of state legislative and congressional districts, an analysis by CC/WI Board member and former state representative Penny Bernard Schaber demonstrates.

Bernard Schaber examined the 47 (of the 72 total) counties whose county boards have passed resolutions in support of ending partisan gerrymandering as well as the eight counties in which voters have supported referendums supporting a non-partisan state redistricting process. She found:

  • 32 of Wisconsin's 33 State Senate Districts contain counties in which either the county board passed a non-partisan redistricting reform resolution, or a referendum, or both. Only the 33rd District (parts of Dodge, Washington, and Waukesha Counties) contains none of the counties where the county board or voters supported redistricting reform, thus far.


  • 91 of Wisconsin's 99 State Assembly Districts contain counties in which the county board passed a non-partisan redistricting reform resolution, or a referendum, or both.

  • Earlier this year, a Marquette University Law School poll found that 72 percent of Wisconsinites support ending partisan gerrymandering and adopting a non-partisan redistricting process such as Iowa's. 62 percent of all Republicans support this, the poll found.

    "Voters and county boards across Wisconsin overwhelming support ending the current system in which elected representative choose their voters and not the other way around, as it ought to be," said Bernard Schaber, who represented Appleton in the State Assembly from 2007 to 2015.

    "Wisconsin state legislators need to heed the demands of their constituents to adopt a fair, nonpartisan system, like the system Republicans put in place in Iowa in 1980, and do it before the upcoming 2021 redistricting process begins in Wisconsin," she added.

    Bipartisan-supported, "stand alone" redistricting reform legislation to institute the "Iowa Model" for Wisconsin has just been introduced in both legislative chambers as Assembly Bill 303 and Senate Bill 288. Governor Tony Evers had included the measure in his 2019-2021 biennium state budget proposal earlier this year, but Republicans on the legislative Joint Committee on Finance removed it in May.

    Bernard Schaber's chart showing county board and referendum support for nonpartisan redistricting by State Senate districts is here, and by State Assembly districts, here.

    Citizens should contact both their State Senator and their State Representative and demand their support and co-sponsorship of the "Iowa Model" redistricting reform legislation, Assembly Bill 303/Senate Bill 288. Tell them we need fair voting maps now.

    Sign this petition in support of the Iowa Model legislation, if you haven't yet done so. If you have, urge others to sign it. We would like to present the Legislature with 5,000 signatures from all over Wisconsin in the near future. We are closing in on that number so please help us get there!

    Never surrender! On 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



    Read More...