Monday, February 24, 2020

Vos & Fitzgerald Untruthful About Legality of Ending Partisan Gerrymandering

For Release: Monday - February 24, 2020

Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald Have Been Less than Truthful About Ending
Partisan Gerrymandering in Wisconsin

By Jay Heck

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have long opposed any and all attempts to bring even an iota of fairness and impartiality to the redistricting process of state legislative and congressional districts in Wisconsin. Indeed, their fear of a fair system that would provide Wisconsin voters with legitimate competitive elections and genuine choices at election time is such that they have quashed any and all efforts to allow even a public hearing on the issue in the Wisconsin Legislature since 2013.

The very dirty, not-so secret truth is that both Vos and Fitzgerald have long depended on their absolute control of the redistricting process to enable each to enforce their iron-clad demand for allegiance and absolute obedience to their political and policy objectives and quash any dissent or independent thinking among rank and file legislators in their respective partisan caucuses.

That these legislative leaders fear and loathe a fair, nonpartisan redistricting process is understandable given their perceived need to exercise autocratic control of their legislative chambers. But for each of them to continually lie about the legality of gerrymandering reform is beyond outrageous and pathetic in the extreme.

Both leaders continually say that the widely supported “Iowa model” redistricting reform legislation that has been introduced, with bipartisan support, in each of the last four legislative sessions, is “unconstitutional.” But according to the Wisconsin Legislative Council and virtually every constitutional expert – such as University of Wisconsin-Madison political science Professor David Canon to name just one – the measure is fully compliant with Wisconsin’s Constitution. If Vos and Fitzgerald can prove their claim that the Iowa model legislation in unconstitutional, they should cite their legal sources. They never have.

Similarly, these long time overly partisan politicians and their underlings have said that Governor Tony Ever’s recent executive order to establish a nonpartisan commission to draw state legislative and congressional districts following the 2020 decennial census is also unconstitutional. It most certainly is not. Continually stating that it is illegal does not make it so.

The Wisconsin Constitution gives the Wisconsin Legislature the power to decide (approve) the redrawn state legislative and congressional district maps every ten years but it is silent on who must actually draw the maps. Indeed, under the current partisan process, Vos and Fitzgerald delegate the actual drawing of the maps to partisan experts (lawyers and legislative aides) whom they select to do their bidding. Then, both chambers of the Legislature are to pass the maps that Vos and Fitzgerald have masterminded for their own, maximum political self-interest.

The result is that only 10 percent of the state legislative districts and none of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts offer real choices to voters in the general election. The election results are preordained and rigged, with the outcome of those elections a foregone conclusion.

Under the Iowa model legislation and the Governor’s nonpartisan commission proposal, the actual drawing of the voting maps is taken out of the hands of the partisan legislative leaders and their designated minions and instead, the new districts are drawn according to very strict nonpartisan criteria. This criteria includes keeping cities and towns and counties together to the extent possible. Currently 48 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are split among legislative districts for strictly partisan purposes and to keep Vos and Fitzgerald in control of the Legislature.

The nonpartisan criteria also include not utilizing past election results to draw new districts. And it does not even take into consideration the residency of incumbent legislators when drawing the new districts. Voters, not incumbent legislators take precedence in this objective procedure.

Under the Iowa model legislation and the Governor’s proposal, the Legislature must vote up or down, without amendment, on the voting maps drawn according to the objectively nonpartisan and fair criteria. And unlike the hyper partisan voting maps masterminded by Vos and Fitzgerald, there would be transparency and the ability to inspect and comment on the maps drawn by nonpartisan criteria. There would be no “secrecy oaths” like the ones the Republican legislative leaders forced Republican legislators to sign in 2011 to not disclose to the public the contents of their new, rigged districts.

Significantly, unlike the $4 million in taxpayer money that Vos and Fitzgerald have expended since 2011 to draw and protect their utterly uncompetitive, secret voting maps, the nonpartisan process would be of negligible cost to taxpayers. Instead, voters would have actual, genuine choices at election time where the results were not all predetermined.

Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald have held the voters of Wisconsin captive to their own narrow, selfish, partisan political interests for far too long. And they have continually misrepresented the truth about the legality and constitutionality of the strongly supported and nonpartisan antidote to partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin.

This is the year that Wisconsin citizens should finally rise up and insist upon having legislative leaders and a state legislature that is responsive and worthy of their trust and support. On April 7th voters in nine Wisconsin Counties (Marquette, Milwaukee, Monroe, Pierce, Portage, Rock, St. Croix, Trempaleau, and Wood) will have the opportunity to vote for fair voting maps with a referendum question on their ballots. So too will voters in 14 municipalities in Oneida and Vilas Counties. Send Vos and Fitzgerald a message that voters should pick their elected representatives, rather than the politicians picking which voters they get to represent.

Jay Heck has been the executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, the state’s largest nonpartisan political reform advocacy organization, since 1996. For more information call 608-256-2686 or go to


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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!


Monday, February 17, 2020

What You Need to Know to Vote in Tomorrow's Spring Primary Election

For Release: Monday - February 17, 2020

Wisconsinites will have their first opportunity in 2020 to make their voices heard at the ballot box tomorrow!

Why show up for a local election?

First and foremost, because every election matters.

Further, in the Tuesday, February 18th Spring Primary, voters will determine which two candidates will run for a seat on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court in the April 7th Spring election.

Voters in some municipalities and school districts around the state will also have the opportunity to narrow the field of candidates for school board seats and other local offices on their April 7th Spring Election ballot. These school and local government officials represent you and your neighbors – and the decisions they make can have a direct and profound impact on your local community.

And finally, eligible voters living in the 7th Congressional District (portions of northern and central Wisconsin) will determine which candidates will run for the seat in the House of Representatives vacated by former U.S. Representative Sean Duffy.

Keep in mind that – because Spring elections tend to have a much lower turnout – individual voters can actually have a far greater influence on the outcome of these elections.

So please do not miss this chance to make your voice heard at the ballot box in a big way. Look over the information below to make sure you have what you need to vote in this important primary election.

When you vote, you will need to present one of the acceptable forms of photo ID for voting pictured left.

(Click to enlarge image)

If you already have a Wisconsin driver license or one of the other acceptable forms of ID for voting, then you're "ID ready." Just remember to bring it with you when you head to your polling place!

What if you don't have an acceptable ID for voting on Election Day?

You can ask for AND vote with a provisional ballot. But, for your ballot to be counted, you MUST either come back to your polling place with an acceptable form of ID before it closes at 8:00 pm on Tuesday OR bring your ID to your municipal clerk's office by 4:00 pm the Friday after the primary election (February 21st).

For more information about voter photo ID – and how to get a free ID if you don't have an ID acceptable for voting – see our downloadable voter ID fact sheet. Or visit the Wisconsin Election Commission's voter photo ID website: Bring It to the Ballot.

If you do not have an acceptable ID for voting and need help getting one, contact this statewide Voter ID Hotline #s: 608/285-2141 or 414/882-8622.

Are you a college student planning to use your student ID for voting?

If you do not have one of the other forms of photo ID pictured above, and you are a college student hoping to use your student ID and a proof of enrollment document as your "voter ID," look up your school NOW on the appropriate list linked below to see if your current student ID is an acceptable form of ID for voting. If your student ID cannot be used for voting, you can find out if a separate school-issued "voter photo ID" is available and how to get one.

University of WI – 4-Year Schools
University of WI – 2-Year Schools
WI Private Universities & Colleges
WI Technical Colleges

Are you registered to vote?

Before you head out to the polls, check to see that you are registered to vote at your current address. If you are not, be sure to bring a proof of residence document (hard copy or electronic on your cell phone or tablet) when you go to the polls on Tuesday so that you can register there.

Where is your polling place?

To find out where to go to cast your ballot, visit the "Find My Polling Place" page on the Wisconsin Election Commission's My Vote Wisconsin website and type in your address.

What's on your ballot?

Visit the Wisconsin Election Commission's "What's on My Ballot" page and type in your address to see a sample ballot.

Please don't sit out this chance to strengthen the health of democracy in our state. Get ready and go vote!


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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!


Monday, December 9, 2019

Don't overlook Wisconsin's critical Supreme Court election

For Release: Monday - December 9, 2019

By Jay Heck

Any Wisconsinite with a pulse is well aware our state is “ground zero” in the November 2020 election for president.

“As Wisconsin goes, so goes the nation,” many election prognosticators proclaim.

In 2016, Donald Trump unexpectedly carried Wisconsin by a margin of just 23,000 votes over Hillary Clinton, which guaranteed Wisconsin will be fiercely fought over next year.

Not nearly as widely known or talked about is the significance of a Wisconsin election that will be held in April 2020. A pivotal seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court is up for grabs April 7, and the outcome could be a bellwether for the presidential race in Wisconsin later in the fall.

Perhaps more important, the outcome of the spring Wisconsin Supreme Court election could determine the direction this state takes for the decade ahead — and whether big, special-interest money will continue to dictate the outcome of high court elections and court decisions.

It was not always so. Until 2007, spring elections for the state Supreme Court were relatively tame, and most decidedly nonpartisan affairs. That was because judges — especially justices on the highest state court — were considered to be nonpartisan and impartial arbiters of the law, not of ideology. Judges in Wisconsin run for election with no political party affiliation.

But then deep-pocketed special-interest groups began to participate in state Supreme Court elections, spending hundreds of thousands — even millions — of dollars, primarily on negative media ads attacking candidates they opposed.

The problem grew, in part, after the failure in 2009 of a majority of the court to adopt a proposal put forth by Justice N. Patrick Crooks. He wanted to require recusal if a justice had received substantial election support from one of the parties in the case before the high court. Recusal means the judge would not participate in deciding a case because of a potential conflict of interest.

This error was compounded in 2010. A majority of the court adopted what was 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.

Our state Supreme Court also has failed to adopt a sensible and stronger recusal rule at the explicit invitation of the U.S. Supreme Court in the wake of its landmark 2009 Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company decision.

As a result, our state currently ranks 47th of 50 states in terms of the strength of its recusal rules, according to a survey cited by retired Wisconsin jurists in 2017. That is 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. These groups spend vast sums of money engaging in non-express or “phony” issue advocacy, with a clear intent to influence the outcome of elections.

That 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. Four of the state 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 2011-2012 recall elections. This further underscores the urgent need for strong recusal standards and rules.

State supreme court elections in Wisconsin were relatively low-spending, nonpartisan affairs more than a decade ago. They were characterized by consideration of qualities such as judicial qualifications and credentials, temperament and impartiality. Today they have devolved into highly partisan, special-interest spending sprees, and justices fail to recuse themselves from cases where wealthy campaign contributors are parties in the cases before the court.

Special-interest campaign spending and extremely weak recusal standards have all but destroyed citizen confidence in the impartiality and credibility of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Both of these matters will be front and center in the important election next April.

Two of the three candidates for state Supreme Court have expressed support for stronger recusal rules: Marquette University Law School Professor Edward Fallone and Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky. Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly has said he is just fine with self-recusal and the obvious conflict of interest that comes with that weak standard.

The Supreme Court may have the final say on many critical issues in the years ahead for citizens, including partisan gerrymandering of state legislative and congressional districts. Every Wisconsinite who cares about democracy and the rule of law needs to participate in the February primary, April general and Nov. 3 elections.


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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!


Monday, November 25, 2019

CC/WI Urges UW Regents to Adopt Uniform Student Photo IDs Compliant with Voter ID Law for All Institutions

For Release: Monday - November 25, 2019

Only Four of the Thirteen Four-Year UW Institutions Currently Issue an Initial Standard Student Photo ID that Can be Utilized for Voting Purposes

The State Governing Board of Common Cause in Wisconsin, the state's largest non-partisan political reform advocacy organization with 7,000 members and supporters, sent the following letter to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents:

November 25, 2019

Andrew S. Peterson, President
Board of Regents
University of Wisconsin System
1860 Van Hise Hall
1220 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706

Dear President Peterson & Members of the Board of Regents,

We are concerned that many students attending University of Wisconsin institutions are currently experiencing difficulty in being able to vote utilizing photo identification cards issued by their UW institution. We believe that unnecessary obstacles hinder the ability of students to be able to exercise their most basic and important civic duty.

In April, Common Cause in Wisconsin, the state’s largest non-partisan political reform organization with more than 7,000 members and activists, sued the Wisconsin Elections Commission over this matter. In the lawsuit, we argue that the student ID requirements erect pointless barriers for casting a ballot in Wisconsin. Most students are newly registered voters and new to the voting process. The unnecessary requirements for student IDs can confuse and deter these new voters rather than making elections more accessible for them. The lawsuit challenges specific student ID requirements, not the state voter ID law as a whole.

Wisconsin’s current voter ID law singles out student voters by requiring information on college or university photo IDs that poll workers do not need or use. Under current law, a Wisconsin student may use a campus photo ID to vote if it includes his or her name, photo, issuance date, signature and an expiration date not more than two years after the issuance date. Students must also show proof of current enrollment, such as an enrollment verification letter or tuition fee receipt.

The proof of enrollment requirement makes issuance and expiration dates unnecessary for student ID cards. Other forms of acceptable voter IDs need not have expiration dates and are valid indefinitely. The current signature requirement is also 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. Other forms of accepted voter ID, such as Veterans Health Identification Cards and some tribal ID cards, do not contain signatures.

Common Cause in Wisconsin believes that the unnecessary hoops that the Wisconsin voter ID law forces students to jump through in order to be able to vote must be eliminated. Our lawsuit seeks to remove these superfluous barriers. Our litigation, however, may take many months or even years to achieve this goal. We are concerned that relief may not be forthcoming before the 2020 elections.

We therefore request that the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents act now to ensure that photo IDs issued to UW students at each of the system institutions are compliant with state law for the purpose of being able to use the student IDs to vote next year.

Currently, student photo IDs are compliant with state law for voting at only four of the thirteen four-year institutions: Eau Claire, Green Bay, Stout and Superior. At the other nine four-year institutions, the photo ID issued to students is not compliant with state law for the purposes of voting. At those institutions (La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Parkside, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point and Whitewater), students must obtain an additional photo ID for the purpose of voting.

We believe that providing all students at every four-year UW institution with a photo ID compliant with state law for voting would be a relatively simple and straightforward process at very little, if any, additional cost to state taxpayers or to students. It would make the process of voting more accessible and bring uniformity to the UW System of four-year institutions, which would be of great value and service to the citizens of Wisconsin.

Please let us know how you intend to act on this matter and how Common Cause in Wisconsin can assist you in simplifying and enhancing the voting experience for all of the students attending UW institutions.


Members of the Common Cause Wisconsin State Governing Board:
Tim Cullen, Janesville (Chair)
Penny Bernard Schaber, Appleton
Sue Conley, Janesville
David Deininger, Monroe
Luke Fuszard, Middleton
Kristin Hansen, Waukesha
William Hotz, Brookfield
E. Michael McCann, Pewaukee
Kriss Marion, Blanchardville
Calvin Potter, Sheboygan Falls
Robert Schweder, Princeton
Roger Utnehmer, Wausau

Jay Heck, Madison (CC/WI Director)
Common Cause in Wisconsin


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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!