Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Redistricting Reform and Fair Voting Maps Kicking into High Gear

Tuesday – May 11, 2021




Reform Legislation Introduced at
Capitol Rally on May 17th

As you likely know by now, the redistricting process in Wisconsin and nationwide must occur every ten years to reflect shifts in population and we are fast approaching that significant and critical event. Updated census figures will be processed and sent to the states by September 30th and the actual redrawing of state legislative and congressional districts will then take place -- likely before the end of 2021. Whether that process mirrors the very partisan, secretive, unfair redistricting process that occurred in Wisconsin a decade ago -- in 2011 -- or if redistricting will be much more fair, nonpartisan, transparent and reflects the interests of citizens rather than politicians is the question yet to be answered.

But next week, the nonpartisan redistricting process and the fight for fair voting maps will take a big step forward.

On Monday, May 17th, redistricting reform legislation -- that CC/WI first helped devise and advance in 2011 -- that would transform Wisconsin's system to a nonpartisan process modeled after our neighboring state of Iowa, will be formally introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature at an outdoor, socially distanced rally at the State Capitol Building at Noon. On hand and speaking at the event will be the lead legislative sponsors of the reform measure -- State Senator Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) and State Representative Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay). Join with CCWI and our friends in the Fair Maps Coalition at the rally, which will begin at 12 Noon on the State Street side of the State Capitol Building in Madison -- rain or shine!

Click image for more event information

After the May 17th event and the introduction of the legislation and the assignment of bill numbers in each legislative chamber, CC/WI will initiate a massive statewide call to action -- calling on our thousands of members and activists to contact their state legislators to co-sponsor and support the redistricting reform legislation and demand a public hearing and consideration of the measures in the legislative committee to which it has been assigned -- a simple matter of civil respect that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and former State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have denied the citizens of Wisconsin for the last ten years. We will see if new State Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu parrots the arrogance of Vos and Fitzgerald.

One thing that is dramatically different this year than during the 2011 redistricting process is that there will be "alternative" fair voting maps devised and put forward by you, the citizens of Wisconsin, as alternatives to the partisan, secretive maps that Republican legislative leaders are currently devising. In 2011 there was no alternative to the gerrymandered maps. This year, the Peoples Maps Commission is encouraging citizens to engage in the drawing of voter maps starting from the local level so that communities of interest in towns, cities, rural areas and counties in Wisconsin can be reflected in the new voting maps. In 2011 all of this was completely ignored. The Peoples Maps Commission has pledged to draw state legislative districts using non-partisan criteria to counter the expected partisan maps that Vos and Le Mahieu are expected to direct.

There are many opportunities for you to get involved in these map-drawing activities with information and training sessions now underway. Check out these two:

For more information about Fair Maps, and the nonpartisan redistricting process modeled after Iowa's, go here and here.

Thanks for your active participation in protecting democracy in Wisconsin!
--------------------------

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
www.commoncausewisconsin.org

Read More...


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Even More Unjustified, Partisan Anti-Voter Measures Are Being Rushed Through Legislature

Wednesday – May 5, 2021

Photo by E Grunze



Testimony of Jay Heck, Executive Director, Common Cause Wisconsin

Wisconsin Senate Committee on Elections, Elections Process Reform & Ethics

May 5, 2021

In Opposition to Senate Bill 203, Senate Bill 206, Senate Bill 209, Senate Bill 212

 

Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) is one of the state’s largest non-partisan political reform advocacy organizations with more than 8,000 members and activists residing in every county of the state. We have been active in Wisconsin since our founding in 1970.

We oppose four of the measures being considered by this Senate Committee today and urge members of this committee to vote against their passage. All four of these measures would make it more difficult and burdensome for Wisconsinites to be able to cast a ballot during an election. All are extremely partisan and were devised exclusively by members of one political party to attempt to gain partisan advantage in elections and without any consultation with members of other political parties or with nonpartisan election advocacy organizations such as Common Cause Wisconsin.  

Specifically, we oppose:

Senate Bill 203: This bill would prohibit any individual from helping more than one non-family member return their absentee ballot. The bill would limit who can return a voter’s absentee ballot to include only the voter’s immediate family or legal guardian, with very limited exceptions.

  • This bill makes it harder for voters to return their completed ballots to have their votes counted. Voters should have access to needed assistance from trusted friends, neighbors, care providers or community groups. Many voters with disabilities who vote absentee are non-drivers and ask someone they trust to deliver their absentee ballot. If their usual driver has already delivered a ballot for someone, the voter would have to find another way to get it returned.


Senate Bill 206: This bill makes anyone who is indefinitely confined jump through several hoops in order to vote, including the voter making a statement under oath affirming the fact of being indefinitely confined. If the indefinitely confined voter is under 65, that sworn statement would need “to be signed by a physician, physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse who has primary responsibility for the treatment and care of the voter.” In addition, the bill specifies that the existence of an epidemic does not qualify a voter as being indefinitely confined, and kicks people off the indefinitely confined list who signed up March 12 thru November 3, 2020.

  • For many elderly and disabled voters and those with preexisting conditions who have been home bound for their own safety because of COVID, this bill is heartless. It would put voters at risk while voting for the duration of this pandemic and during any future pandemic. No other voter must submit a sworn and signed statement under oath such as this requirement sets out to do. This is a crude, blanket invalidation of the status of tens of thousands of voters, and without evidence, it implies that they all misrepresented themselves. This presumption of guilt flies in the face of free, fair, and accessible elections.


Senate Bill 209: This bill would limit absentee ballot drop boxes only to be attached to the building where the office of the clerk is located.

  • This bill increases the difficulty for voters to return their completed ballots and have their votes counted. Reducing the number of drop boxes in high populated areas (particularly Milwaukee, Madison, and other larger cities) that span miles and service thousands of voters to only one box, disadvantages the voters who do not live near the one box. Voters across the state used drop boxes to return their ballots when their clerk’s office is otherwise inaccessible or closed. Legislation should be encouraging more secure options for returning ballots, not fewer.


Senate Bill 212: This measure would require the clerk to mail the defective ballot envelope back to the voter, require the clerk to put a notice of the defect on the voter's voter information page in MyVote, and prohibit a municipal clerk from correcting a defect on the completed absentee ballot certificate envelope. Specifically, the bill would create new felonies in the list of election frauds to punish election officials. 

  • This bill addresses how clerks should act when a voter returns a completed absentee ballot with a defect in the ballot certificate. If a certificate envelope has a defect, the clerk must return the ballot to the elector and post a notification of the defect on the elector's voter information page on MyVote website. However, not all voters can access MyVote and they would be unaware of the problem to make corrections. Additionally, the bill does not make clear if the voter will know the notice has been put in their voter information page on MyVote unless they happen to check the page. Existing law does not require notice of defects; however, the Wisconsin Election Commission guidance encourages clerks to contact the voter directly.
 
  • Mailing a ballot back to the voter within only a few days until Election Day will guarantee the ballot envelope is not returned corrected in time for the vote to be counted. The mail can be slow. There may not be time to return the ballot to the voter and for the voter to send it back, so the vote may not be counted. 
 
  • Currently the clerk may look up the address or contact the voter for information. Existing law allows the clerk to mail the ballot back if there is time for the voter to correct the defect. This is a bad bill in that it will result in many ballots being tossed for information missing on the envelope. AND the bill does not allow for correction of the envelope except by the voter when the ballot and envelope is returned by mail. It does not seem to allow the clerk alternate ways for corrections, like a phone call and a visit to the clerk's office by the voter. While a correction or cure process for absentee ballot envelopes is something that the legislature should consider and undertake, it should not be in the form of this bill. It should give clear instructions so that clerks and voters are able to correct mistakes to ensure all ballots cast are counted. 


In sum, the enactment and passage into law of any of these four measures would have a detrimental effect on Wisconsin voters. There is no credible evidence that any of the restrictions that these measures would place on voting are justified or are needed and all would result in fewer eligible and fully legal voters from being able to cast their ballots. This is voter disenfranchisement of the very worst kind and it is cynical, partisan, and completely unnecessary.

Common Cause Wisconsin respectfully urges Committee Members and the full Wisconsin Legislature to reject these measures.


🗣 Your voice is needed. 🗣

Contact your state senator and your state representative and let them know that these anti-voter bills need to be defeated! Your legislators need to hear from you that this attempt to restrict election participation is not acceptable. The bills are moving quickly through the State Senate and Assembly. Take action today. (This form makes it easy to directly contact your legislators.)

--------------------------

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
www.commoncausewisconsin.org

Read More...


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

CC/WI Opposes These Anti-Voter Measures Being Fast-Tracked Through the WI Legislature

Tuesday – April 27, 2021

Photo by E Grunze

Testimony of Jay Heck, Executive Director, Common Cause Wisconsin

Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections

April 27, 2021

In Opposition to Assembly Bill 178, Assembly Bill 179,
Assembly Bill 198, Assembly Bill 201

 

Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) is one of the state’s largest non-partisan political reform advocacy organizations with more than 8,000 members and activists residing in every county of the state. We have been active in Wisconsin since our founding in 1970. 

We oppose four of the measures being considered by this Assembly Committee today and urge members of this committee to vote against their passage. 

All four of these measures would make it more difficult and burdensome for Wisconsinites to be able to cast a ballot during an election. All are extremely partisan and were devised exclusively by members of one political party to gain partisan advantage in elections and without any consultation with members of other political parties or with nonpartisan election advocacy organizations such as Common Cause Wisconsin. 

Specifically, we oppose: 

Assembly Bill 178: This measure would require the Wisconsin Election Commission to create a standard absentee ballot application that must contain certain questions specified by the bill, and must be completed by all absentee voters, including in-person absentee (early) voters. The only people exempt from the new application would be those being served by special voting deputies at certain retirement or residential care homes. The standard application the bill would require all other absentee voters, whether requesting the ballot by mail or in person, to complete must include: the voter's municipality and county of residence; the voter's name, date of birth, and contact information, including as applicable their telephone number, fax number, and electronic mail address; the street address of the voter's legal voting residence; the election at which the voter intends to vote absentee; whether the voter is a military or overseas elector; the voter's confidential identification serial number if the elector has obtained a confidential registration; the lawful method by which the voter prefers to receive the absentee ballot; and whether the elector is hospitalized. 
 
  • While making election administration processes standardized is generally a good idea, this one is not. It makes in-person absentee voters fill out an application for an absentee ballot even though they are present to vote by absentee ballot to verify that they want to indeed vote with an absentee ballot. It is burdensome work for the clerks and does nothing to improve elections. This measure is a response to some who unreasonably claim the envelope where in-person absentee voters place their ballots (and then seal and sign) cannot “double” as a request or application for a ballot. This current system is incredibly streamlined and secure. 


Assembly Bill 179: This measure would limit voting rights of nursing home and group home residents. It may conflict with federal law which requires that nursing homes support the right of residents to vote. Under this measure, if staff offered to provide a resident with assistance, this would be a felony crime. This bill would require the administrator of the facility to notify relatives of the residents as to when the special voting deputies will be coming to the facility to assist in the casting of absentee ballots.
  • Most people in these homes and facilities make decisions for themselves every day of the week. They do not need a relative next to them when they are voting and fulfilling their duty in our democracy. They should not have their right to the privacy of their vote violated. This bill goes so far as to make it illegal for employees of a retirement home or residential care facility to even encourage a resident to vote. 


Assembly Bill 198:  This measure would require the clerk to mail the defective ballot envelope back to the voter, require the clerk to put a notice of the defect on the voter's voter information page in MyVote, and prohibit a municipal clerk from correcting a defect on the completed absentee ballot certificate envelope. Specifically, the bill would create new felonies in the list of election frauds to punish election officials. 
 
  • This bill addresses how clerks should act when a voter returns a completed absentee ballot with a defect in the ballot certificate. If a certificate envelope has a defect, the clerk must return the ballot to the elector and post a notification of the defect on the elector's voter information page on MyVote website. However, not all voters can access MyVote and they would be unaware of the problem to make corrections. Additionally, the bill does not make clear if the voter will know the notice has been put in their voter information page on MyVote unless they happen to check the page. Existing law does not require notice of defects; however, the Wisconsin Election Commission guidance encourages clerks to contact the voter directly.
 
  • Mailing a ballot back to the voter within only a few days until Election Day will guarantee the ballot envelope is not returned corrected in time for the vote to be counted. The mail can be slow. There may not be time to return the ballot to the voter and for the voter to send it back, so the vote may not be counted. 
 
  • Currently the clerk may look up the address or contact the voter for information. Existing law allows the clerk to mail the ballot back if there is time for the voter to correct the defect. This is a bad bill in that it will result in many ballots being tossed for information missing on the envelope. AND the bill does not allow for correction of the envelope except by the voter when the ballot and envelope is returned by mail. It does not seem to allow the clerk alternate ways for corrections, like a phone call and a visit to the clerk's office by the voter. While a correction or cure process for absentee ballot envelopes is something that the legislature should take up, it should not be in the form of this bill. It should give clear instructions so that clerks and voters are able to correct mistakes to ensure all ballots cast are counted. 


Assembly Bill 201: This measure would no longer allow voters who are indefinitely confined or overseas to receive absentee ballots automatically. Instead, they would need to fill out an absentee ballot request for every election and they would need to show a proscribed photo ID. In addition, this bill would prohibit the Wisconsin Elections Commission (as well as municipal or county clerk or local elections board) from sending absentee ballot applications en masse, as it did in 2020 to 2.7 million Wisconsin voters. 
 
  • Forcing indefinitely confined voters to fill out an absentee ballot request for every election is extremely burdensome. Wisconsin has multiple elections every year. The mass mailing of absentee ballot applications gives the voters the choice about how and when they vote. Election administrators should have the authority and flexibility to make voting easier by being able to mail absentee ballot applications. 


In sum, Common Cause Wisconsin urges a vote in opposition to all four of these measures in the Committee and beyond. Thank you for your respectful consideration of our views.

--------------------------

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
www.commoncausewisconsin.org

Read More...


Thursday, April 15, 2021

CC/WI opposes these additional voter suppression measures being fast-tracked through WI Legislature

Thursday – April 15, 2021

Photo by Michael75 on Unsplash

Testimony of Jay Heck, Executive Director, Common Cause Wisconsin

Wisconsin Senate Committee on Elections, Elections Process Reform & Ethics

April 15, 2021

In Opposition to Senate Bill 204, Senate Bill 205, Senate Bill 211


Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) is one of the state’s largest non-partisan political reform advocacy organizations with more than 8,000 members and activists residing in every county of the state. We have been active in Wisconsin since our founding in 1970.

We oppose these three of the measures being considered by this Senate Committee today and urge members of this committee to vote against their passage. All three would make it more difficult for Wisconsinites to vote and would result in fewer eligible voters being able to express their will at election time. All three measures are extremely partisan and were devised without any consultation or discussion with legislators from other political parties or with the wide array of non-partisan organizations who have been engaged and interested in elections and voting for many years.


Senate Bill 204: This measure would no longer allow voters who are indefinitely confined or overseas to receive absentee ballots automatically. Instead, they would need to fill out an absentee ballot request for every election and they would need to show a proscribed photo ID. In addition, this bill would prohibit the Wisconsin Elections Commission (as well as municipal or county clerk or local elections board) from sending absentee ballot applications en masse, as it did in 2020 to 2.7 million Wisconsin voters.

  • Forcing indefinitely confined voters to fill out an absentee ballot request for every election is extremely burdensome. Wisconsin has multiple elections every year. The mass mailing of absentee ballot applications gives the voters the choice about how and when they vote. Election administrators should have the authority and flexibility to make voting easier by being able to mail absentee ballot applications.


Senate Bill 205: This measure would limit voting rights of nursing home and group home residents. It may conflict with federal law which requires that nursing homes support the right of residents to vote. Under this measure, if staff offered to provide a resident with assistance, this would be a felony crime. This bill would require the administrator of the facility to notify relatives of the residents as to when the special voting deputies will be coming to the facility to assist in the casting of absentee ballots.

  • Most people in these homes and facilities make decisions for themselves every day of the week. They do not need a relative next to them when they are voting and fulfilling their duty in our democracy. They should not have their right to the privacy of their vote violated. This bill goes so far as to make it illegal for employees of a retirement home or residential care facility to even encourage a resident to vote.


Senate Bill 211: This measure would require the Wisconsin Election Commission to create a standard absentee ballot application that must contain certain questions specified by the bill, and must be completed by all absentee voters, including in-person absentee (early) voters. The only people exempt from the new application would be those being served by special voting deputies at certain retirement or residential care homes. The standard application the bill would require all other absentee voters, whether requesting the ballot by mail or in person, to complete must include: the voter's municipality and county of residence; the voter's name, date of birth, and contact information, including as applicable their telephone number, fax number, and electronic mail address; the street address of the voter's legal voting residence; the election at which the voter intends to vote absentee; whether the voter is a military or overseas elector; the voter's confidential identification serial number if the elector has obtained a confidential registration; the lawful method by which the voter prefers to receive the absentee ballot; and whether the elector is hospitalized.

  • While making election administration processes standardized is generally a good idea, this one is not. It makes in-person absentee voters fill out an application for an absentee ballot even though they are present to vote by absentee ballot to verify that they want to indeed vote with an absentee ballot. It is burdensome work for the clerks and does nothing to improve elections. This measure is a response to some who unreasonably claim the envelope where in-person absentee voters place their ballots (and then seal and sign) cannot “double” as a request or application for a ballot. This current system is incredibly streamlined and secure.

🗣 Your voice is needed. 🗣

Contact your state senator and your state representative and let them know that these anti-voter bills need to be defeated! Your legislators need to hear from you that this attempt to restrict election participation is not acceptable. The bills are moving quickly through the State Senate and Assembly. Take action today. (This form makes it easy to make your voice heard.)

Common Cause WI also submitted testimony on April 14, 2021 in opposition to Assembly Bill 173 and Assembly Bill 198. You can read the full testimony here on the CCWI website. 

--------------------------

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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
www.commoncausewisconsin.org

Read More...