Friday, September 22, 2023

Partisan Pseudo “Iowa Model” Redistricting Plan Rushed Through the Wisconsin Assembly on September 14th is Deeply Flawed and Unsupportable

For release: Friday - September 22, 2023

  Image: Photo of the Wisconsin  Assembly Chamber 

On Thursday evening, September 14th, less than 48 hours after unveiling a massive, comprehensive overhaul plan for redistricting of Wisconsin’s state legislative districts, majority Assembly Republicans passed their legislation – Assembly Bill 415. The bill was drafted entirely in secret, with no consultation or input from Democrats or public interest groups who have long advocated for redistricting reform.

Instead, the partisan pseudo “Iowa Model” redistricting legislation was suddenly announced on Tuesday afternoon, September 12th, without any prior notice or warning and taken directly to the Assembly floor 48 hours later. No committee referral or consideration, no public hearings, no consultation with Democrats or redistricting reform advocates or with any Wisconsin citizens whatsoever. After 12 years of steadfastly opposing any and every attempt to advance or even discuss the creation of a nonpartisan redistricting process for Wisconsin, the legislative Republicans introduced AB 415.

This Republican Iowa imitation measure falls short of the actual redistricting process that has been in place in Iowa for 43 years. It lacks the absolutely critical and necessary safeguards that were inserted into the Iowa Model legislation for Wisconsin introduced in 2019 and in 2021.These safeguards ensured that partisan manipulation included in AB 415 cannot prevail during the actual redistricting process. This proposal in its current form explicitly omits the safeguards. Instead, AB 415 allows the majority party in the legislature to subvert the adoption of non-partisan voting maps and pass unfair, gerrymandered partisan voting maps. Wisconsin voters would be subjected to the same gerrymandered and rigged maps the Wisconsin Legislature led by Republicans pushed through in 2011 and in 2021-22.


They could accomplish this by simply continuing to reject LRB-produced revisions of the voting maps until the January 31st deadline included in AB 415 as passed.

It is essential that any redistricting reform measure put forth by the legislature must:


  • require that redistricting plans and voting maps be produced solely with the nonpartisan criteria utilized by the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB),
  • and stipulate that any non-LRB originated redistricting plan can only pass in in both chambers of the Legislature if the amended legislation receives a 75 percent affirmative vote in each chamber.

In this way, broad bipartisan support and consensus that must be attained for any nonpartisan redistricting plan to work can be assured with trust and confidence of Wisconsin voters. A simple bipartisan majority, with as few as one vote from both political parties, is not acceptable.

Also, a redistricting plan must include a provision that requires redistricting be undertaken by the Wisconsin Supreme Court if after the January 31st deadline the Legislature and Governor fail to reach agreement on the plan. That must be explicitly spelled out in this legislation. It is a critical element in Iowa’s redistricting process and an important reason why it has worked well there since 1980. It serves as a powerful incentive for Iowa or any Legislature to reach bipartisan consensus on adopting nonpartisan voting maps.

There are other problems with the pseudo “reform” measure passed through the Assembly on September 14th. If there is real sincerity and interest by Speaker Vos and Assembly Republicans in enacting into law genuine nonpartisan redistricting for Wisconsin, then AB 415 must NOT be considered in the State Senate without using the proper legislative process. This must be done in the light of day. If that does not occur and the gerrymandered Senate just schedules and passes the legislation in its current form, as was done in the Assembly, Gov. Evers must and will veto this pseudo-reform measure.

Please pardon the voters of Wisconsin if they don’t believe that after 12 years of attacking, resisting and blocking any public discussion of redistricting reform in the State Capitol, that Assembly Republicans have all of a sudden “seen the light” and in two days they could craft, consider and pass a comprehensive reform measure that Wisconsinites can have confidence in and embrace.

Assembly and State Senate Republicans and their leadership know that comprehensive nonpartisan redistricting reform must be supported and embraced by all of those involved in and affected by the process. That requires a deliberative and open, transparent process and bipartisan consensus or it will not be tenable, sustainable or believable. Without that trust and buy in from all those affected, a major, once in a generation reform measure like this cannot succeed.

Perhaps that’s the objective of the architects of this plan – to kill redistricting reform altogether. We certainly hope that is not the case. But if it is, we will not be deterred.


Read and learn more about Assembly Bill 415 and the redistricting process in Wisconsin in these recent articles:



Recombabulation Area

Mother Jones

The Isthmus


You can also listen to this recent Civic Media interview with Jay Heck about the current redistricting struggle in Wisconsin that includes some context and history.


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

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


Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Vital Information College and University Students in Wisconsin Need to Know to be Able to Vote!

For release: Tuesday - September 19, 2023

  Image: Get Ready to Vote 

Here's what you need to know to be a student voter in Wisconsin.

Students attending one of Wisconsin’s many fine public or private colleges and universities are back on campus and NOW is an excellent time for students to do a “democracy check” to make sure they are ready to vote in Wisconsin.

About a dozen years ago, the Wisconsin Legislature unwisely but deliberately erected some barriers to try to limit the participation of college and university students in Wisconsin elections. But with a little bit of planning using the information we are providing here, students can overcome these misguided obstacles and participate fully in our elections to have their voices heard and their votes counted!

Current Wisconsin law stipulates that all voters must have a voter-compliant form of photo identification that they must show at the polling place (or reproduced for inclusion with an absentee ballot request). Students can look up their school on the lists Common Cause Wisconsin and Campus Vote Project have compiled to see if the current student ID at their particular public, private, technical and community campuses in the state is an acceptable form of ID for voting.

Three Things College Students Need to Do To Vote in Wisconsin

Here, students will find straightforward information on how to register to vote and which photo IDs are eligible to cast a ballot in Wisconsin. 

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: The photo ID students are issued by their public or private institution of higher education is not necessarily usable to vote in Wisconsin. At some public and some private institutions, the student photo ID issued complies with state law and can be used to vote. But, at other public and private institutions, the photo ID issued to students does not comply with state law for voting and an alternative photo ID must be obtained in order to vote. It is important for students to find out and know now whether or not the photo ID issued by their public or private college or university in Wisconsin can be used when voting. Don't wait until 2024 to do this. 

As of September 2023, the standard student ID issued at only five of the University of Wisconsin's 13 four-year schools and at eight of the state's 30 private colleges can be used as a photo ID to vote. Technical and community colleges fare better with 12 of 17 campuses having standard student IDs that can be used to vote.

Look up your school’s information and IF you don't have a WI driver license or one of the other acceptable IDs, know your options!

Note: you can use a school-issued ID for voting that has expired. If you do present an expired student ID, you must also present (or display electronically) at the polling place a separate, current proof of enrollment document, such as an enrollment verification form, class schedule or tuition bill. If the ID is unexpired, then you do NOT need to present proof of current enrollment.

As we have in past years, we will continually update this resource page with new information or changes as they occur.

Please share this information widely with anyone you know who is attending a college, university, community or technical school in Wisconsin!

Preparing now to vote in Wisconsin will make your voter experience go much more smoothly when you cast your ballot. Be a full participant in our critically important elections and in our democracy. Wisconsin continues to be a very competitive and closely contested “battleground” state in which each and every vote matters.

This includes you and your vote. So be sure you know how to be ready to vote so your voice will be heard and your vote will be counted.

On Wisconsin!


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

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


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Common Cause Wisconsin Statement on “Iowa Model” Redistricting Reform Measure Unveiled by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

For release: Wednesday - September 13, 2023

  Image: Wisconsin Deserves Fair Maps

The Proposed Bill Lacks Nonpartisan Safeguards

After steadfastly opposing any and every attempt to reform the redistricting process in Wisconsin over at least the last 12 years, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is now attempting to ram through his version of reform legislation in less than two days? With no public input and with no buy in from others with whom a bipartisan consensus is essential for this reform process to be successful? This is simply not credible.


Common Cause Wisconsin has long championed and advocated for a nonpartisan redistricting process for Wisconsin modeled after our neighboring state of Iowa’s redistricting process that was adopted in 1980. That has been in place for the past 43 years and through five redistricting cycles with the strong support and confidence of legislators of both major political parties and most importantly, with the backing of the voters of Iowa. Common Cause Wisconsin has supported a version of this model to be implemented into Wisconsin with redistricting reform bills that have been introduced in the legislature over the past several years.


Iowa’s Constitution, like Wisconsin’s, stipulates that the legislature shall determine state legislative and congressional district boundaries. The Iowa model provides an excellent example for Wisconsin to emulate, with important modifications. A key addition was made to the proposed Wisconsin version of the Iowa Model redistricting legislation by reformers in 2019 and was also included in the 2021 version to address a major concern regarding redistricting in Wisconsin. However, these modifications are NOT included in the measure Vos unveiled, for the first time, Tuesday afternoon.


Essentially the modifications prevent manipulations of the redistricting process by the politicians. Common Cause Wisconsin has supported reform that prevents the party in control of the redistricting process from holding their power indefinitely by drawing their own districts to retain their seats. Vos’s proposal lacks the safeguards to prevent the party in the majority from rigging the process that has harmed Wisconsin voters and our desire for fair representation for too long.


In short, the key provision that is needed in any nonpartisan redistricting legislation is that:

If one or both legislative chambers twice vote down the unamended voting maps put forth by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau, then the Legislature may proceed to amend the map, with the caveat that any such amended version must acquire the support of three quarters of those voting in each legislative chamber.

Without this amendment to what Vos has initially proposed, it is entirely conceivable that the majority party could simply vote down the first two iterations of the voting maps devised by the LRB and then pass their own partisan plan by a simple majority.


We are also deeply concerned about the manner in which this serious redistricting reform measure is being advanced. Speaker Vos has chosen to unveil his proposal without any consultation with public interest organizations such as Common Cause Wisconsin and with no support from Democrats or from the Governor. In less than 48 hours, Vos scheduled a vote in the Wisconsin Assembly without a public hearing and without seeking to come to an agreement and consensus with other key participants. His rush to a vote does a vast disservice to the citizens and voters of Wisconsin who have long supported and advocated for a fair, transparent and nonpartisan redistricting process.


We respectfully request that Speaker Vos withdraw his version of the Iowa Model redistricting legislation from the Assembly calendar. He should then schedule meetings with Democratic Legislators, reform advocates and, most importantly, with the public in an open and transparent way that can result in a truly reformed redistricting process.


Wisconsin is ready and eager for real reform and calls on legislators to pass meaningful redistricting reform legislation that has the broad public and political support necessary for state legislative districts to reflect the true and fair representation that Wisconsin voters demand and deserve.


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

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


Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Common Cause Wisconsin Strongly Supports Retaining Meagan Wolfe as Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator

For release: Tuesday - August 29, 2023

Testimony of Jay Heck -- Executive Director, Common Cause Wisconsin

Wisconsin Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections And Consumer Protection

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

In Support of Retaining Meagan Wolfe as Administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission

Senators Knodl, Spreitzer, Feyen, Smith and Quinn,

My name is Jay Heck and for the past 27 years I have had the privilege of serving as the executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) the state’s largest non-partisan political reform advocacy organizations with more than 16,000 members and activists residing in every county and corner of the state. We have been active in Wisconsin since our founding in 1970. CC/WI does not endorse candidates for partisan political office and have bipartisan leadership of our state Governing Board, co-chaired by former Republican State Representative (1987-94), retired Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge and former member of the now-defunct Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, David Deininger of Monroe, as well as by former Democratic State Representative (2009-15) Penny Bernard Schaber of Appleton.

We strongly support fair and free elections in Wisconsin and in the nation and believe that more citizens, not fewer, participating in the voting process is not only beneficial for our democracy but that it is essential for the maintenance of freedom, liberty and for the continuation of the American experiment in self-government which has lasted for the past 234 years, but with no guarantees that it will continue in the years ahead. Voting is a muscle that must be continually exercised and strengthened or it will atrophy, grow weak and be overwhelmed by forces seeking to exert authoritarian control and to thwart the will of the majority. Voter suppression is the manifestation of that anti-American, anti-democratic impulse that seeks to take root and grow in Wisconsin and in the nation. We will never cease to resist voter suppression and those misguided few in number pushing it, but who are vocal and persistent in seeking to advance it.

Frankly, we believe this hearing being held ostensibly to attack and besmirch the good name and excellent reputation of Meagan Wolfe is unfortunate and unnecessary, if not illegitimate. We will leave it to the courts to determine the outcome of the current dispute over whether the Wisconsin State Senate can legally remove the Administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, absent a majority of 4 votes of the Commissioners to vote to reappoint and thereby send the appointment to the State Senate, or to this committee for consideration. But I do want to put what is going on here today in some context to help Wisconsinites better understand what is at stake and why this hearing and the attempt to remove the current WEC Administrator is so misguided, wrong and damaging to democracy in Wisconsin.

When I started with Common Cause Wisconsin in 1996, elections, ethics, campaign finance and lobbying was overseen and administered by the state elections and ethics boards, which were composed of and controlled by partisan appointments. But those entities, established in the 1970’s, failed the citizens of Wisconsin in spectacular fashion when they failed to detect, investigate and root out the corruption that engulfed this building and the Legislature in 2001-2002, that stemmed from illegal activity that began to permeate this building in the late 1990’s. Remember the infamous Legislative Caucus Scandal that resulted in the criminal felony charges for misconduct in public office of the top legislative leaders of both political parties and their removal from office? Many Wisconsinites likely do not now but let me remind you. In the State Senate – the Democratic State Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Chvala and the Democratic Co-Chair of the Joint Finance Committee and an announced candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General, Brian Burke were both charged with numerous felony charges, including extortion. And both served time in jail. In the Assembly – the Republican Speaker, Scott Jensen, the Assembly Majority Leader, Steve Foti and the Assistant Majority Leader, Bonnie Ladwig – were all charged with felony and misdemeanor crimes and barred from holding public office.

For those of us who experienced that traumatic and cataclysmic event, it will forever be seared in our memories how far and low Wisconsin state government had fallen, been disgraced and failed its citizens.

But the Wisconsin Legislature and the leaders of both parties and in both chambers responded in a positive and affirmative manner to the 2002 Legislative Caucus Scandal. It took some time to get done but in January of 2007 The Republican-controlled Assembly and the Democratic-controlled State Senate came together to establish the very effective and independent Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) to replace the discredited and ineffective State Elections and Ethics Boards. And the votes by Republicans and Democrats in both chambers to put the GAB in place was virtually unanimous in both legislative chambers.

You will recall that the GAB was run by six retired judges, who are about the closest thing to having non-partisan arbiters of election and ethics laws that can be achieved. For eight years, until 2015, the GAB was a national model for how elections and ethics in a state could and should be administered and it had one of the most outstanding and experienced administrators in the nation at the helm of the GAB staff – Kevin Kennedy – who had more than 30 years of expertise and excellence in election and campaign finance administration. But the GAB proved to be too effective and independent for many in this building, including then Governor Scott Walker and the majority party eviscerated and destroyed the GAB and pushed Kennedy out of state government after decades of dedicated, quality service. Why that all happened, we could spend an entire hearing on and someday should. But for now, suffice it to say that the majority party with only Republican votes created what we have today – the Wisconsin Elections and Ethics Commissions which have been in place for the past seven years.

But the tinkering and partisan micromanagement of elections in Wisconsin continued and in 2018, as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and then-State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald decided that the new WEC Administrator, Michael Haas, had to be removed – but not because he did anything wrong. Haas, like Kevin Kennedy before him, simply carried out and executed the decisions and directives made by the boards they served. But because Haas had had the temerity to run for the State Assembly some twenty-five years before as a Democratic candidate, the Republican leaders wanted him gone. And so, he too, was thrown under the bus. And then after all six WEC Commissioners, Republicans and Democrats alike, unanimously voted to appoint Meagan Wolfe as the new WEC Administrator in 2018, the Wisconsin State Senate also unanimously voted to confirm her in that role in 2019.

And so here we, or I should say you are here today, just four years later to now attempt to take down Meagan Wolfe, who by absolutely any objective and honest standard and analysis, has performed her role as WEC Administrator with the highest level of professionalism, competence, complete lack of favoritism or partisanship to either political party and who has successfully navigated this state and its voters through arguably the most difficult and trying circumstances in our 175-year history.

Meagan Wolfe began her distinguished career in election administration in 2011 and was charged with developing voter education and outreach for the state’s new voter photo ID law. Her voter outreach efforts included a photo ID public information and outreach campaign ( and establishing an elections agency presence and policy on social media. As the WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe has:

  • Strengthened Wisconsin's election cybersecurity infrastructure

  • Improved voting accessibility for voters with disabilities

  • Increased and improved training for election officials and clerks

  • Carried out the will of the commission on bipartisan votes

False and completely baseless claims about election administration in Wisconsin have proliferated since the 2020 Presidential election. The claims are entirely unproven and inaccurate and are based on the completely false premise that the WEC administrator can make decisions unilaterally. That is not and never has been the case. The administrator does not have a vote on the matters the six Commissioners consider. The administrator’s job is to implement the decisions made by the six-member bipartisan Commission.

Furthermore, Meagan Wolfe has the full confidence of, and is supported by the vast majority of Wisconsin’s “front-line” election officials – the municipal election clerks and the elected county clerks of both political parties.

Meagan Wolfe is one of the most highly skilled election administrators in the country, respected widely by election officials of both political parties in Wisconsin and throughout the nation. In a letter sent to Speaker Robin Vos and signed by approximately 50 election experts and officials from all over the country, including the top Republican legal counsel for the George W. Bush (in 2000 and 2004) and Mitt Romney for President (2012) campaigns, Ben Ginsberg, as well as by the former Republican Secretaries of State of Florida, Ken Detzer and of Kentucky, Trey Grayson, they said of the false claims and attacks made on Wolfe:

“We hope that you and your colleagues will speak out against this line of harassment and speak truth to all Wisconsin voters – that their interests are well-served by the current leadership of the WEC, and that they can be confident of the results, regardless of whether their candidate wins or loses. And no one is better situated to competently continue that tradition in Wisconsin than the WEC’s current Election Administrator, Meagan Wolfe.”

We are, at this moment, literally weeks away from the launch of the 2024 election cycle in Wisconsin. Our state, as it has been for every election in the 21st century, will be the focus of national attention as a key, closely contested battleground state. It is vitally and critically important that our state election is administered by someone with the experience, integrity and expertise to successfully address the challenges and difficulties that may ensue in the months ahead.

The very worst thing that could happen would be to replace the current WEC Administrator with someone, anyone who does not have the experience, integrity and expertise that Meagan Wolfe possesses and has repeatedly demonstrated over the past four years. The vast majority of Wisconsin’s voters and citizens would and will lose confidence and trust in our elections and in you, their elected representatives if you commit the monumental mistake of ousting Meagan Wolfe as the Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator.

Thank you.


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

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