Monday, September 9, 2019

The Battle Against Partisan Gerrymandering in Wisconsin Progresses This Summer



For Release: Monday - September 9, 2019

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

Despite U.S. Supreme Court's Cowardly Decision
to "Punt," States Move Forward

Wisconsin Fair Maps "Summit" - November 9th in Marshfield

At the end of June, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), who, together, have conspired to block redistricting reform and fair voting maps despite overwhelming citizens support for the past six years, must have thought they finally succeeded in strangling the increasingly powerful and growing citizen movement, working to end partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin.

A narrow, conservative, 5 to 4 majority on the U.S. Supreme Court issued a weak, cowardly and ill-conceived decision that said federal courts should not adjudicate, on the basis of excessive partisanship, the voting maps drawn by partisan legislators after the Census every ten years, even if the maps effectively disenfranchised a majority of voters in a legislative or congressional district in order to achieve a pre-ordained, partisan outcome.

Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the decision, readily admitted that partisan gerrymandering was unfair and undemocratic, but chose to exclude the federal judiciary from weighing in to mollify the powerful right wing interests that had elevated him to his exalted position in 2005. But he did not preclude the states from pursuing an end to gerrymandering.

That June 27th decision ended a challenge to partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina, Rucho V. Common Cause and by extension, a pending and revised Wisconsin challenge to partisan gerrymandering, Gill V. Whitford.

But Vos and Fitzgerald, as is so often the case, miscalculated the strength and commitment that Common Cause in Wisconsin members and thousands of Wisconsin citizens bring in demanding some semblance of fairness and a return to democracy to Wisconsin. As we said on July 1st, "With federal courts now out of the fight, it's entirely up to "We the People." And we explained why the U.S. Supreme Court decision did not mean redistricting reform is dead. Far from it.

In July, CC/WI Director Jay Heck and two University of Wisconsin faculty experts on this issue explained the implications of the Supreme Court's decision on redistricting reform efforts in Wisconsin on Wisconsin Eye's special program on the matter.

And, after the Supreme Court "indecision," CC/WI continued the effort to educate Wisconsin Citizens about the importance of action on the local level to mobilize citizens in support of ending partisan gerrymandering. CC/WI board chair Tim Cullen, CC/WI board member Kriss Marion and CC/WI Director Jay Heck spoke at a well attended meeting in Darlington in Lafayette County about this.

In mid July, "stand alone" redistricting reform legislation based on the Iowa system, which CC/WI united pro-reform legislators and groups behind in 2013, was formally introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature by State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and State Representative Robyn Vining (D-Waukesha) with CC/WI Chair and former State Senator Tim Cullen. What was very different this time was the significant Republican support and co-sponsorship of the legislation: Senate Bill 288 and Assembly Bill 303. During the past three sessions of the Wisconsin Legislature, similar reform legislation had attracted only one Republican co-sponsor. Now, it has four: State Representatives Joel Kitchens of Sturgeon Bay, Todd Novak of Dodgeville, Loren Oldenburg of Virocqua and Travis Tranel of Cuba City.

Clearly state legislators are hearing from their constituents, including many CC/WI Members. Keep on applying the pressure on your state legislators. It's working!

On September 3rd, a state court in North Carolina overturned the partisan voter maps drawn by Republicans in that state in 2011 in a lawsuit brought by Common Cause North Carolina. While the facts of the case and wording of the state constitution are different in Wisconsin, as is the composition of state courts here, there is renewed hope that a remedy to the hyper-partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin could be remedied through state court action, as well as legislatively. In any event we will not stop pursuing our fight to bring fair voting maps to Wisconsin – now or ever.
* * *

CC/WI is one of a number of state reform organizations that are participating in, and will present at a Fair Maps Summit to be held in Marshfield on Saturday, November 9th. Any and all Wisconsin citizens are invited to attend. Mark your calendars now and plan to be there if you can!




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, August 21, 2019

What College Students in Wisconsin Can Do NOW to be Ready to Vote in 2020



For Release: Wednesday - August 21, 2017


Students Should Prepare NOW to Vote in 2020

With just a couple of weeks left before students return to Wisconsin's public universities and private colleges, this is a good time for students to make sure they are ready to vote in Wisconsin.

The next opportunity to cast a ballot is coming up fast. Wisconsin's Spring Primary to whittle the field of candidates for a seat on our State Supreme Court is on February 18, 2020 – followed by the Spring Election and Presidential Primary on April 7, 2020.

If you value the integrity of our state's judicial system – and want to have a say in who might occupy the White House next year, mark your calendar with these two important dates, and then get ready to vote now so you're not scrambling later.

Go to this page on our website:

Three Things College Students Need to Do To Vote in Wisconsin

There, 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.

As we have in past years, 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.



Jay Heck
Executive Director
608/256-2686 (o)
608/512-9363 (c)
jheck@commoncause.org

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, 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



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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



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