Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice-Elect Hagedorn’s “Gratitude” to Republican Party Underscores Necessity for Stronger Recusal Rules



Wednesday - May 22, 2018


By Jay Heck

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn very narrowly won the State Supreme Court election on April 2nd to replace retiring former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. He benefited from the active organizational and financial support of the Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW) and other partisan organizations, particularly in the last several weeks prior to the election.

In what may be an action unprecedented in state political history, Hagedorn addressed the RPW state convention in Oshkosh last week, specifically to thank Republican activists for strongly supporting his candidacy. “When I got punched, you were the ones who punched back,” Hagedorn said to the party faithful. “When I got knocked down, you grabbed the baton and kept running with it.”

Hagedorn says he will be impartial when he is sworn in as a justice later this Summer. But in the absence of stronger recusal rules for Wisconsin judges, will he really be impartial, objective, and beholden only to the law and not his supporters?

Wisconsin currently has the 47th weakest recusal rules in the nation when it comes to judges having to recuse themselves if they are the recipients of significant campaign contributions or the beneficiaries of so-called “independent” election spending. Essentially, judges decide for themselves whether to recuse themselves from a case in which a party before the court has been a campaign contributor above a certain threshold.

This very weak rule was written by two independent special interest groups – Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association and adopted verbatim by conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2010.

Proposals to strengthen recusal rules since that time have been rejected, most recently in 2017 when conservatives rejected a petition submitted by 54 retired jurists for strong recusal rules and refused to hold even a public hearing on the matter.

During the campaign for the Wisconsin Supreme Court earlier this year, Hagedorn indicated he was not supportive of stronger recusal rules while his opponent, Wisconsin Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer said she thought stronger rules ought to be considered, and supported holding a public hearing to receive input on the issue.

Now that Judge Hagedorn has expressed his deep gratitude to partisans for their help in his election, how can the public be confident that he will be strictly impartial in his application of the law? What assurance would a Democratic or progressive individual or entity appearing before the Wisconsin Supreme Court have that Hagedorn would be fair and non-partisan in his decision-making process?

That’s why strong recusal rules are so important and needed in Wisconsin.

Public confidence in the impartiality and fairness of our state courts had fallen dramatically over the last decade. Adoption of stronger recusal rules by the Wisconsin Supreme Court would help restore that necessary confidence. Judge Hagedorn could initiate that process and raise public confidence in his own upcoming first term on the court by joining the call for stronger rules.




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 9, 2019

Vos, Fitzgerald, Nygren & Darling: Wisconsin Taxpayers to Continue to Pay for Partisan Gerrymandering



For Release: Thursday - May 9, 2019


GOP Removes Redistricting Reform From Gov. Evers Budget
But "Stand Alone" Legislation to be Introduced Soon

The Republican Chairs of the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee (JFC), Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Sen. Alberta Hills (R-River Hills), today, at the direction of GOP legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), led the twelve Republican members of the JFC in removing non-partisan redistricting reform from Gov. Tony Evers' 2019-2021 biennium budget proposal. The four Democratic members of the Joint Finance Committee opposed this misguided and hyper-partisan action. Sen. Darling was ill today and not present for the vote, but supported this action.

In doing so, the Republican leadership is saying they will continue to utilize unlimited Wisconsin taxpayer dollars to defend the most partisan gerrymandered voting maps in the nation. Since 2011, this policy has resulted in close to $4 million of state taxpayer money to devise – and defend in court – among the most indefensible voting maps in the nation.

Governor Evers inserted in his budget proposal, the non-partisan redistricting reform proposal that CC/WI has championed, and has united pro-reform legislators and citizen reformers behind, beginning in 2013, that is based on Iowa's redistricting process, adopted by a Republican-controlled legislature and Republican Governor in 1980.

In Iowa, the redistricting process every ten years occurs at almost no additional cost to taxpayers as it is performed by a non-partisan state agency. In Wisconsin, in the budget provision proposed by Gov. Evers, the same thing would happen. The actual drawing of new voter maps, mandated by federal and state law to occur after the 2020 decennial census, would be undertaken by the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau, at little or no additional cost to Wisconsin taxpayers.

In 2011, Republican legislative leaders hired at taxpayer expense, a private, partisan and costly Madison-based law firm, Michael, Best & Frederich, to draw new voter maps in the most secretive and partisan manner possible. Later, they hired other costly law firms and lawyers from both inside and out of Wisconsin. The maps were declared unconstitutional by a federal three-judge paned in 2016, but the GOP has spent millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to defend them.

In four public hearings around Wisconsin held by the Joint Finance Committee during the month of April, dozens of citizens testified in support of the fair maps budget provision.

Not a single citizen spoke against them.

Additionally, in 46 of Wisconsin's 72 counties – comprising three quarters of the state's population – county boards have passed resolutions urging the state legislature to ban partisan gerrymandering and adopt non-partisan redistricting instead. 34 of those 46 counties were carried by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016. And in the eight counties that have held referendums on the issue thus far, all have passed with overwhelming margins ranging from 65 to 82 percent.

The Iowa model reform provision has the support of every state reform organization and every pro-redistricting reform state legislator, as well as Gov. Evers. A Marquette University Law School poll earlier this year showed the 72 percent of Wisconsinites support non-partisan redistricting including 62 percent of all Republicans.

Despite overwhelming public support for this reform, Vos, Fitzgerald, Nygren and Darling will not yet relinquish their iron-fisted grip on the redistricting process.

So the battle goes on.

The removal of redistricting reform does not spell the end of the measure by any means. "Stand alone" legislation will be introduced in both the State Assembly and the State Senate, and the fight will accelerate to have the legislation considered, voted on and enacted into law before the 2021 redistricting process.

It is imperative that Wisconsinites contact both their state representatives and their state senators and demand that they support the Iowa model redistricting reform legislation as part of the state budget bill and as separate "stand alone" legislation.

In addition, please sign the CC/WI online petition to the Wisconsin Legislature in support of this reform legislation if you have not already done so. We are closing in on our goal of 5,000 signatures so please help us get over the top!

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



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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Common Cause Wisconsin, Fair Elections Center & Others Challenge Wisconsin’s Requirements for Student IDs Used as Voter ID



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday - April 23, 2019

Contact: Jay Heck, Common Cause Wisconsin o) 608-256-2686 c) 608-512-9363 jheck@commoncause.org
Kristen Muthig, Fair Elections Center o) 202-331-0114 c) 419-706-3431 kmuthig@fairelectionscenter.org


WISCONSIN – Today, Fair Elections Center and Pines Bach LLP filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, on behalf of Common Cause in Wisconsin and individual plaintiff Ben Quintero, challenging Wisconsin’s unnecessary requirements for student IDs to qualify as voter ID.

The lawsuit argues that the student ID requirements are a pointless barrier for casting a ballot in Wisconsin. Most students are newly registered voters and new to the voting process. These unnecessary requirements on student IDs can confuse and deter these new voters rather than making elections more accessible for them. The lawsuit is challenging specific student ID requirements, not the voter ID law as a whole.

"The completely unnecessary hoops that the Wisconsin voter ID law forces students to jump through to be able to vote, need to be eliminated,” said Jay Heck, the long-time director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. “These pointless obstacles create confusion, frustration, and ultimately disillusionment with what should be a simple, and uncomplicated process for students to be able to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. This suit seeks to remove these superfluous barriers."

”Busy students with exams and jobs already bring multiple documents to the polls in order to register and vote on Election Day, but Wisconsin law requires them to request a separate form of photo ID that displays information poll workers do not need or use,” said Jon Sherman, Senior Counsel at Fair Elections Center. “Just as states cannot lawfully require voters to bring a toothbrush or sandwich to the polls, they cannot insist a voter present useless or irrelevant information.”

Wisconsin’s current voter ID law singles out student voters, requiring information election and poll workers do not need or use if the voter presents a college or university photo ID when they cast a ballot. Current law allows Wisconsin students to use their campus photo ID if it contains their name, photo, issuance date, an expiration date not more than two years after the issuance date, and the student’s signature. Students must also show proof of current enrollment, such as an enrollment verification letter or tuition fee receipt. This proof of enrollment requirement makes issuance and expiration dates unnecessary and irrational for student ID cards, and other forms of accepted ID do not have expiration dates and are indefinitely valid.

The lawsuit also claims the signature requirement is unnecessary. Wisconsin’s voter ID law does not require election officials and poll workers to match the signature on an ID with the voter’s signature on the poll book or voter registration form, and other forms of accepted voter ID, such as Veterans Health Identification Cards and some tribal ID cards, do not contain signatures.

The full text of the complaint can be found here.



Common Cause in Wisconsin is the state's largest non-partisan citizen political reform advocacy organization with more than 7,500 members and activists. They have worked for honest, clean, open and accountable government and politics in Wisconsin since 1972 and are the state affiliate of national Common Cause.

Fair Elections Center is a national, nonpartisan voting rights and election reform organization which works to remove barriers to registration and voting for traditionally underrepresented constituencies. The Center works to improve election administration through legislative, legal and administrative reform, to protect access to the ballot through litigation, and to provide election law expertise, voter information and technical assistance to voter mobilization organizations.


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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Former GOP State Representative, Retired Judge & 2018 Democratic State Senate Candidate Elected to Common Cause in Wisconsin Governing Board



For Release: Tuesday - April 16, 2019


Join Leadership of State's Largest Non-Partisan Reform Group

David Deininger
of Monroe and Kriss Marion of Blanchardville were elected to the State Governing Board of Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) at the organization's April 11th board meeting in Madison. The election results were announced by CC/WI Board Chair Tim Cullen of Janesville.

"Common Cause in Wisconsin is fortunate to have two community leaders as skilled and as dedicated to honest, open, fair, and accountable government and politics as Dave Deninger and Kriss Marion," said Cullen. "Their election to our board continues our long tradition of bringing together citizens of both major political parties who seek bipartisan solutions to the urgent need to bring about fundamental political reform in Wisconsin," Cullen added.

Deininger, of Monroe, served as a Republican State Representative from 1987 to 1994, when he was elected as a Circuit Court Judge of Green County. In 1996, he became a judge on the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, District IV and retired in 2007. He then served as a member and Chair (2007-2008) of the non-partisan Government Accountability Board, which oversaw and administered Wisconsin's elections, public officials' ethics code, and campaign finance regulations. He served again on the G.A.B. from 2010 to 2013 and was Chair in 2012.

"I am increasingly concerned about the direction that state government and politics has taken in recent years and I want to assist Common Cause in Wisconsin in its efforts to return Wisconsin to its once nationally-recognized status as a beacon for clean politics and good government," Deininger said. "Fair voting maps and fair elections are not partisan issues and we need to begin to work again in a bipartisan manner to restore citizen confidence in our democratic institutions," he added.

Marion, of Blanchardville, is a small business owner and organic farmer. She is a Lafayette County Supervisor and serves on the Lafayette County Development Corporation. Marion ran as a Democrat for the Wisconsin State Senate in the 17th Senate District in 2018 in a contest that saw record campaign spending. She received the endorsement of the Wisconsin State Journal, in part, because of her support for ending partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin. Marion had not been previously involved in partisan politics and has a long record of community involvement in rural issues, most prominently for clean water.

"With dark money flooding into local campaigns and gerrymandered maps that keep legislative seats from being competitive, the electorate is robbed of an opportunity of being able to get to know the truth about their candidates or to be able to select a challenger who has any chance of defeating an incumbent," Marion said. "That should be a red flag for citizens that the current system is broken. Educating citizens and fighting for fair elections is what Common Cause in Wisconsin is all about, and I am delighted to be part of their effort and to direct my energy toward these important objectives," Marion concluded.

Common Cause in Wisconsin is the state's largest non-partisan political reform advocacy group with more than 7,500 members and activists. For more information, go to commoncausewisconsin.org or call 608-256-2686.





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...