Thursday, April 8, 2021

CCWI Testimony In Opposition to Senate Bill 207, Senate Bill 210, Senate Bill 213

Thursday – April 8, 2021

Photo by Connor Betts on Unsplash

Testimony of Jay Heck, Executive Director, Common Cause Wisconsin

Wisconsin Senate Committee on Elections, Elections Process Reform & Ethics

April 8, 2021

In Opposition to Senate Bill 207, Senate Bill 210, Senate Bill 213

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 three of the measures being considered by this Senate Committee today and urge members of this committee to vote against their passage.

SB 207: This bill would regulate private grants for election administration and prohibit certain people from being poll workers. Specifically, the bill would

  • Prohibit municipalities or counties from receiving private grants for election administration but allow the Wisconsin Election Commission to accept them. The Commission would be required to distribute grants only as approved by the Joint Committee on Finance with additional stipulations.
  • Prohibit employees of the following from working as poll workers:
    • a candidate committee, legislative campaign committee, political action committee, independent expenditure committee, political party, recall committee, and referendum committee.
    • a political organization required to register with the federal elections commission.
    • an issue advocacy group

This legislation is aimed specifically at the so-called Facebook grants that were made nationwide last year by the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to assist during the pandemic to provide much-needed funding for protection equipment and to help hire much-needed poll workers so that the November 2020 election could be conducted in a safe and sane manner. 221 counties, cities, towns and villages in every part of Wisconsin received welcome assistance to help conduct their elections – not just the five largest cities in Wisconsin that some would have you believe were the only recipients of this funding. The budgets of municipalities both large and small were strained to the maximum by the demands posed by COVID-19 and CTCL funding helped to alleviate that shortage and provide much needed assistance.

Lawsuits to block CTCL funding to Wisconsin were rejected last October by a U.S. District Judge, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and by the U.S. Supreme Court, specifically by conservative Justice and Trump appointment Brett Kavanaugh. The Wisconsin Supreme Court also rejected a lawsuit to block CTLC funding.

This legislation is based on a false premise that has already been adjudicated and rejected in the courts and should not be resurrected simply to “get back” at Facebook for making completely non-partisan and welcome resources available to assist in conducting elections throughout Wisconsin and the country during a time of national crisis.

This bill would also prohibit anyone who is an employee of a political organization or issue advocacy group from being a poll worker. This would reduce the current poll worker pool in communities across the state. Any employee of any political party or any employee of an advocacy organization like Common Cause WI, the NAACP, Right Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Conservation Voters, Tavern League of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters, Disability Rights Wisconsin, AARP, etc. would not be able to serve as poll workers. We need more citizens participating and working as poll workers in our elections, not fewer. There is no evidence that poll workers who may have an association with a political or advocacy organization act improperly when carrying out their duties and there are already laws in place prohibiting electioneering at a polling location.
 

SB 210: This bill relates to rules on observing elections. Specifically, the bill would:

Expand the observation area required under current law so that it is not more than three feet from the table where voters announce their name and address and not more than three feet from the table where individuals are registered to vote. Existing law allows observers between three and eight feet away for such activity.
 
  • Require the municipal clerk, chief inspector, and board of canvassers to provide election observers uniform and nondiscriminatory access to all stages of the election process, including recounts.
  • Regulate the appearance and conduct of election observers. Specifically, an observer
    • must wear a badge with their name and the name of the organization they represent, if any.
    • must not wear any campaign material advocating voting for or against a candidate or for or against any issue on a ballot question, and if they do, may be expelled by the municipal clerk, chief inspector, or board of canvassers.
    • must not interfere with a voter or hinder the duties of any election official. If an election observer does interfere, they can be fined up to $500.

Observer rules are currently adequate and sufficient, and this looks like the current guidelines are simply being put into law, but that this bill takes away any space between voter/poll worker and observer is very misguided and wrong. Voters would no longer have any privacy if an observer is no more than three feet away. Senate Bill 210 should be rejected.
 

SB 213: This bill would allow anyone to skip a Wisconsin Elections Commission administrative process and go straight to court to test the validity of any decision, action or failure to act on the part of any election official with respect to any matter concerning nominations, qualifications of candidates, voting qualifications, including residence, ward division and numbering, recall, ballot preparation, election administration or conduct of elections. In addition, the bill would change where such suits could be filed by allowing them in any county within the area covered by any office on the ballot for the election.

The objective of this bill seems to be that anyone should be able to go directly to the courts and the WI Supreme Court to get their way on disputed election questions. They could also, for example, sue Milwaukee for alleged election violations in Pepin County court, which may be the real purpose of this bill. It would allow plaintiffs to “venue-shop” for a sympathetic judge who could then enjoin a city far outside of her/his usual jurisdiction from, for example, having ballot drop boxes or conducting “Democracy in the Park” events, such as those conducted in Madison last October.

The partisan intent of this measure is transparent on its face and it would attempt to weaken the authority of the Wisconsin Elections Commission which was already greatly diminished when it was created nearly six years ago and when the Wisconsin Legislature eviscerated and abolished the non-partisan and very effective and respected Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. This measure simple extends partisan political legislative control over state elections. It should be rejected.

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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

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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

What You Need to Know for Today's Election - April 6, 2021

Tuesday – April 6, 2021



Make time today to vote in the 2021 Spring Election - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - and celebrate democracy by participating in our democracy. If you haven't yet voted by casting an absentee ballot, then understand how to vote in-person today. Remember every election matters. Polls are open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
 
The Wisconsin Election Commission put out this guidance to all voters for this election: Important Reminders Voters Should Know for Election Day.
 
Mail-in Absentee Ballot
If you still have a mail-in absentee ballot that was mailed to you and you have not returned it yet, be sure to hand return your completed ballot TODAY by 8PMDo NOT mail it. All ballots need to be received no later than 8pm on Election Day. Your clerk and myvote.wi.gov will have information about where you can take your ballot. Don't forget: The ballot envelope needs a witness signature and the address of the witness.
 
You can track your ballot through the official ballot tracker on MyVote. Don't see that your ballot was received? Contact your clerk for further information.
 
In-Person Voting at your Polling Location
If you are planning to vote in person at the polls, please take great care. Follow social distancing guidelines for your safety and the safety of others. Wear a mask. Be patient and safe. And read the information below so you are prepared when you show up to vote at your polling location. Polls are open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
 
Polling Location
Polling places can change. To find out where to go to cast your ballot, visit the Find My Polling Place page on the My Vote Wisconsin website and type in your address.

Registration
You can register to vote on Election Day at your polling location. Being registered to vote means being registered at your current address. You need to have lived at your current address for at least 28 days prior to Election Day in order to register to vote in that election district or ward. You'll need to bring a proof of residence document to complete your registration (this document can be shown electronically - like on your phone or tablet).

Photo ID:
You are required to show a photo ID before you vote. If you have a Wisconsin driver's license or ID card, then you’re all set. Other forms of ID work too, and it’s good to check the official list of acceptable IDs at Bring It to The Polls to make sure you have what you need.

What if you don't have an acceptable ID to vote today? 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 Election Day OR bring your ID to your municipal clerk's office by 4:00 PM the Friday after the election (Friday, April 9th). If you don't have an acceptable ID for voting and need help getting one, contact the Voter Helpline 608-285-2141 for assistance.
 
Your Ballot
You will find local and state races on your ballot. These may include the State Superintendent Of Public Instruction, City Council, Village President, Judges, Mayor, and Alders. (Find out what is on your ballot at MyVote). These offices and the people who serve in these roles have direct impact on you. 
 
Get to know who wants to represent you and which candidate best represents your values before you vote. Find candidate and ballot information from the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin at Vote411.
 
College Students voting in Wisconsin
Students attending a university, college, or technical school in Wisconsin can find information to vote from the CC/WI webpage: Three Things College Students Need to Do To Vote in Wisconsin

Have questions or need some assistance? 
Help is just a call, text, or email away.

Call or text the WI Voter Helpline at 608-285-2141 and you will be connected to a nonpartisan person who can help answer all your questions. You can also request services such as getting assistance at the DMV to get an ID to vote or having someone witness your absentee ballot.

Voters with disabilities have the right to an accessible polling place. This includes the right to use an accessible voting machine, to assistance marking a ballot, and to voting curbside. Call the Disability Rights Wisconsin Voter Hotline for assistance: 1-844-347-8683. Or email: info@disabilityvote.org. Additional online resources are also at the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition website

If you experience problems at the polls or have questions, there is help. Call Election Protection at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) for support from nonpartisan election protection volunteers with questions or to report problems.
 
Be involved in state and local elections. Democracy depends on you. Go vote! And share this voting information with others today.
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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...


Monday, March 29, 2021

Tell Your Legislators to Oppose These Hyper Partisan Anti-Voter Measures

Monday - March 29, 2021


Take Action Today!

We hope you will help us speak out against the anti-voter bills that have been introduced into the Wisconsin Legislature that will make voting more complicated and difficult, especially for voters who vote by absentee ballot which, in Wisconsin, has continuously been a common way for older voters and voters with disabilities to cast their ballots. This has also been the voting option a majority of Wisconsin voters used in 2020 during the pandemic. [1]
 
Policy should not be written to make voting more difficult. Rules should not be created because politicians didn’t like the outcome of an election.
 
Every eligible American should have access to the ballot, and our democracy works best when our citizens vote in high numbers, as Wisconsinites tend to do for Presidential elections. But these bills will create steep barriers to voting.
 
 
Here is a list of the most odious, onerous and obnoxious measures and what they will do to damage democracy:
 
SB203 / AB192: This bill would prohibit any individual from helping more than one non-family member return their absentee ballot.
SB209 / AB177: This bill says that absentee ballot drop boxes must be attached to the building where the office of the clerk is located.
  • Why these are bad: Taken together, these bills make 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. 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.
 
SB204 / AB201: This bill 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 every election and they would need to show an 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.
  • Why this is bad: Forcing indefinitely confined voters to fill out an absentee ballot request “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.
 
SB205 / AB179: This bill would require the administrator of a retirement home or residential care facility to notify relatives of the occupants as to when the special voting deputies will be coming to the facility to assist in the casting of absentee ballots.
  • Why this is bad: Most people in these homes and facilities make decisions for themselves every day of the week. They don’t need a relative next to them when they are voting and fulfilling their duty in our democracy. They shouldn’t 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!
 
SB206 / AB180: 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.
  • Why this is bad: 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 has to 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.
 
SB207 / AB173: This bill prohibits anyone who is an employee of a political organization or issue advocacy group from being a poll worker.
  • Why this is bad: This would reduce the current poll worker pool in communities across the state. Any employee of any political party or any member of an advocacy organization like Common Cause WI, NAACP, Conservation Voters, The Heritage Foundation, The League of Women Voters, AARP, etc. would not be able to serve as poll workers.
 
There can be ways to make election administration better and to increase access to voting, like enacting automatic voter registration that citizens can opt-into when conducting business at the DMV. But these hyper-partisan bills do not do this. They look to make the process of voting more challenging for citizens and municipal clerks who run our elections.
 
Instead, voting should be clear, secure, and fair for all eligible voters. And our legislators should be passing bipartisan bills that further increase our voting numbers, not suppress the vote.
 
 
Wisconsinites need to rise up and make it clear to every member of the Wisconsin Legislature that they should be expanding voting opportunities and making it easier for more Wisconsinites to be able to participate in elections.
 
I hope you’ll join me in speaking out today. And thank you for caring about fighting for real democracy and against voter suppression in Wisconsin!
 
Stay well, keep safe and Forward!
Jay Heck - CC/WI Director (since 1996!)
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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, March 16, 2021

Your vote matters in local elections. Prepare today for the April 6th General Election.

Tuesday – March 16, 2021



Visit MyVote.wi.gov for official voting information

The 2021 General Election is April 6th. And there are things you can take care of now so you are prepared for Election Day or to cast your absentee ballot in advance. Be ready for April 6th by reviewing and sharing the information below.
 
Remember every election matters, and local races have a direct impact on your daily life. These races will include the State Superintendent Of Public Instruction and may also include City Council, Village President, Judges, School Board, Mayor, and Alders. (Find out what is on your ballot at MyVote).The more local the election, the more likely the people elected may live in your neighborhood. Your vote matters in our state and local elections.
 
Register to Vote: You must be registered to vote to cast your ballot in the April 6 Spring Election. Register online at MyVote.wi.gov by March 17. After Wednesday, you can register with your municipal clerk or know that in Wisconsin, you can register at the polls on Election Day. 
 
Secure your photo ID: Visit BringIt.wi.gov for more information about the types of ID that can be used to vote. Here, you can also learn about how to get a free ID to use for voting.

Choose the Way You Want to Cast Your Ballot: Make a plan to vote one of three ways that are available to all Wisconsin voters:
  1. At your polling location on April 6th,
  2. With an absentee ballot by mail,
  3. Or in person by absentee ballot via your clerk’s office (aka early vote).
 
Go to MyVote.wi.gov and make a request for your absentee ballot to be sent to you by mail in just seconds. In Wisconsin, any registered voter can vote absentee - no excuses needed. Request your ballot for the April election today. The sooner you make your request, the more likely you are to receive and send back your ballot in time for it to be counted.
 
You can also go to MyVote.wi.gov to get information about in person voting by absentee ballot from your clerk prior to Election Day (aka early vote). And you can find your polling location if you choose to vote in person on Election Day.
 
On Your Ballot: Get to know who wants to represent you and which candidates best represent your values before you vote. Find candidate and ballot information from the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin at Vote411. Many local papers across the state will also publish candidate interviews prior to the election.
 
Wisconsin's youngest voters need to stay engaged and should plan to vote in 2021. Are you a college student voting in Wisconsin? Or do you know a student who wants to vote in Wisconsin? Here is important information from the Common Cause Wisconsin website to share: Three Things College Students Need to Do To Vote in Wisconsin

Voting by absentee ballot, having the correct ID, finding your polling place, knowing the deadlines...None of these things have to be scary, but they can be overwhelming. Help is just a call, text, or email away.

Call or text the WI Voter Helpline at 608-285-2141 and you will be connected to a nonpartisan person who can help answer all your questions. You can also request services such as getting assistance at the DMV to get an ID to vote or having someone witness your absentee ballot.

Voters with disabilities have the right to an accessible polling place. This includes the right to use an accessible voting machine, to assistance marking a ballot, and to voting curbside. Call the Disability Rights Wisconsin Voter Hotline for assistance: 1-844-347-8683. Or email: info@disabilityvote.org. Additional online resources are also at the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition website

If you experience problems at the polls or have questions, there is help. Call Election Protection at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) for support from nonpartisan election protection volunteers with questions or to report problems.
 
Our local democracies are as important as our federal democracy. Plan to vote in this Spring's Election. Your vote powers our future.
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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...