Tuesday, April 10, 2018

State Supreme Court Election Results Demonstrate Widespread Citizen Support for Stronger Judicial Recusal Rules



Tuesday - April 10, 2018


Election Winner Supported Them; Loser Did Not

Last week's Wisconsin Supreme Court election results – and the size and scope of Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet's victory over Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Michael Screnock – demonstrated the high level of citizen support for stronger judicial recusal rules for judges in the state. That issue became a central focus of the election campaign with Dallet, who supported strong recusal rules, decisively defeating Screnock – who, not only opposed strong rules, but spent much of the campaign trying to obscure the issue altogether.

According to the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice of New York University, the most accurate tracker of the money spent in this and other Wisconsin Supreme Court elections:

"The nonpartisan election saw $2.6 million in spending on television and radio ads alone, with more than $1.7 million coming from outside groups. Outside groups’ ads focused on candidates’ rulings in criminal cases – one ad described Dallet as “one of Wisconsin’s toughest judges,” and one ad argued Screnock “has a record of throwing the book at murderers, abusers and predators.” Ads also attacked Dallet and Screnock for allegedly ruling leniently in particular criminal cases. The race attracted national attention, including robocalls by former Vice President Joe Biden on behalf of Dallet, and spending by the National Rifle Association on behalf of Screnock.

The race elevated judicial recusal as a central issue. Despite recent reform efforts, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has maintained lax recusal rules, which say that campaign contributions alone are insufficient grounds for recusal. Dallet and Screnock debated whether their opponent would step aside in cases involving special interests or lawyers who supported their campaigns. Dallet said after her victory that “one of her top priorities…is to reopen the idea of changing the court’s recusal rules.”

The biggest outside spender in the election, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), spent about a million dollars, including on particularly vicious and largely untrue attack ads against Dallet on a criminal matter. WMC, a business organization, was willing to tear down Dallet at any cost, to protect their investment in Screnock and his opposition to strong judicial recusal rules. Citizens might ask how running nasty, untrue attack ads is good for "business" in Wisconsin.

The current "non-rule" on judicial recusal was written by WMC in 2010 and was adopted verbatim by a narrow 4 to 3 conservative majority. It basically said that judges should recuse themselves from a case only if they felt the need to do so. Large contributions to their campaigns or a significant amount of money spent by a so-called "independent," outside special interest group (such as WMC) to benefit a candidate, do not trigger recusal from a case if the donor or outside group is a party to a case before the judge or justice – as it does in almost every other state.

As a result of this pathetic standard, Wisconsin has been judged to have the 47th weakest judicial recusal rules in the nation.

CC/WI has spent much of the past six months educating thousands of Wisconsin citizens about the need for stronger judicial recusal rules for judges at all levels. We strongly support the specific proposal put forward in January, 2017 by 54 retired Wisconsin jurists at all levels, in the form of a petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which was not only rejected by a 5 to 2 margin, but denied even a public hearing, almost exactly a year ago. CC/WI organized public hears last Fall in Green Bay, Milwaukee and in Madison, and this year has been further educating citizens over social media through two short videos on the subject of judicial recusal:





Please view both of these videos and let us know what you think. And share them with others so that more citizens will be educated about the need for reform in this critical area. Already more than 20,000 Wisconsinites have viewed them on our website, Facebook and YouTube. Please join them!

The issue of judicial recusal will continue to be very important this year as the Wisconsin Supreme Court will continue to be pressed to hold public hearings and consider stronger recusal rules. And the issue will likely play a central role in the upcoming 2019 State Supreme Court election, now less than a year away.

For more on this issue and for CC/WI's commentary on the 2018 WI Supreme Court election, go here, here, and here.

On Wisconsin!




CONTACT:

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




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Monday, April 2, 2018

Wisconsin' s Spring Election is Tomorrow – Make Sure You Are Ready to Vote!



For Release: Monday - April 2, 2018


In tomorrow's Spring Election, Wisconsin voters voters will elect a new State Supreme Court Justice to replace retiring conservative, Justice Michael Gableman. Voters will also choose Court of Appeals and Circuit Court judges – along with local officials and school board members in areas across the state. A Constitutional referendum to eliminate the Office of State Treasurer is also on the ballot.

So if you think a Spring election doesn't matter, think again – every election matters. And, because Spring elections tend to have a much lower turnout than those taking place in the Fall, individual voters can actually have an even greater influence on the outcome of these elections.

Do NOT sit this one out!

Before you head to your polling place tomorrow, look over the information below to make sure you have what you need to cast your ballot.

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 Election Day OR bring your ID to your municipal clerk's office by 4:00 pm the Friday after the election (April 6th).

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 one of these statewide Voter ID Hotline numbers: 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 Wisconsin – 4-Year Schools
University of Wisconsin – 2-Year Schools
Wisconsin Private Universities & Colleges
Wisconsin Technical Colleges

Are you registered to vote?


Before you head to the polls tomorrow, 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 your polling place 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.

Prepare NOW so you can make your voice heard tomorrow in this vital Spring Election – and encourage every eligible voter you know to do the same!





Contact:


Sandra Miller
Director of Information Services & Outreach
608/658-2109
smiller@commoncause.org

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org


Read More...


Friday, March 30, 2018

Citizens and Democracy Win One as Walker and Fitzgerald Back Off Blocking Special Elections



For Release: Friday - March 30, 2018


Congratulations to all you Wisconsin citizens who treasure more democracy, not less – and who value the rule of law and of an independent judiciary, not defiance of them.

On Thursday morning, Governor Scott Walker and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) realized they lacked almost any support from Wisconsin citizens, faltering support from their own party's state legislators, and adamant opposition from independent and impartial judges, to defy long-standing Wisconsin law stipulating that special elections needed to be called as soon as possible following the resignation of two Republican legislators last December to take high-paying political patronage jobs in the Walker Administration.

Fearing the loss of one or both of these seats in a special election, Walker and Fitzgerald teamed up to try to deny elected representation to the citizens of the 1st State Senate District and the 42nd Assembly District for more than a year. Their "rationale" for doing so was not credible or believable. And you, the citizens of this state, were not having any of it.

After the Dane County Circuit Court and State Court of Appeals rejected his case to postpone the elections to fill these two vacancies until November – in the strongest possible terms – Walker wisely threw in the towel and did what the court ordered him to do: call for a special election in the two vacated legislative districts for June 12th, following May primaries.

And Fitzgerald, who scheduled an "Extraordinary Session" of the Legislature for this coming Wednesday, April 4th, for the sole purpose of ramming through a hyper-partisan rewrite of the special election law, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars to underwrite legislative action that would continue to deny elected representation to about 228,000 Wisconsin citizens, cancelled the session when Republican State Senators, hearing from hundreds of their constituents opposing the measure, began to waver in their support for it.

Thank you for making your voices heard. They heard you and fear your increasing power and strength. Celebrate this victory this weekend and cap off this win for democracy and the rule of law by exercising your most powerful and precious instrument to weigh in on the direction our democracy takes – your vote, this Tuesday, April 3rd in a very important election to fill a vacancy on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and on other matters.

To read CC/WI Director Jay Heck's testimony in opposition to the measure changing the long-standing special elections law before the State Senate Elections Committee on Wednesday, go here. It was also reprinted in The Capital Times and in Urban Milwaukee. To view the public hearing on this measure form Wednesday, you can go to Wisconsin Eye. (Jay Heck's oral testimony begins at 02:18:57).

Remember, your voice and your vote both make a big difference. Never give up. On Wisconsin!

And Happy Easter and Spring.





CONTACT:

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




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



Read More...


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Statement of CC/WI Director Jay Heck on Proposed Measure to Change State Law on Holding Special Elections



For Release: Wednesday - March 28, 2018

Tyranny of the Legislative Majority May Yield Short Term Partisan Gain
But it Will Seriously Undermine Democracy & Citizen Confidence in State Government


The recent machinations by Governor Scott Walker and the majority party in the Wisconsin Legislature were not rushed to the forefront of state government consideration to "save taxpayer dollars" or to "avoid confusion." There is not a single person in the Capitol – and very few outside of it – who believe that to be the case for a second.

Everyone knows that this measure to dramatically change the decades-old law governing the responsibility of the Governor to call for a special election to fill, as soon as possible, the seat of a State Senator or State Representative who leaves office prior to the completion of her or his term, is being undertaken for purely partisan reasons. Namely, the fear that the majority party may lose one or both of the two currently vacant legislative seats – one in each chamber – because of the current state of the political "atmosphere" in Wisconsin and in much of the rest of the nation.

The biggest losers in this obvious exercise of partisan political muscle are the citizens of Wisconsin's 1st State Senate and 42nd State Assembly Districts, who will have been robbed of elected representation in the Legislature for over a year and thus have had no voice as the Legislature considers and votes on critical legislation such as this proposed, ill-advised measure.

This legislation also undermines the rule of law by circumventing explicit court orders for the Governor to call special elections that could easily be held in June to fill both vacancies.

Whenever one or two of the three branches of government take aim to defy and circumvent the lawful decisions issued by the remaining branch, our democratic institutions are shaken and citizen confidence in all three branches is diminished.

Certainly the Legislature has the right to make new laws. That is their function. But when the law serves only the narrow, partisan political interest of the majority party while undermining the greater public interest, as this measure irrefutably does, then citizens must resist.

This has occurred, in similar ways, in too many matters over the last eight years. Enactment of one of the nation's most extreme and restrictive voter photo ID laws, the most partisan political gerrymander of state legislative districts in the nation in 2011, the destruction of the non-partisan Government Accountability Board, the exemption of only politicians and political crimes from investigation under the state's effective John Doe law, the retroactive decriminalization of campaign coordination between candidates and so-called independent special interest groups engaged in phony issue advocacy, the elimination of almost all meaningful disclosure of outside campaign spending, the elimination of limits on money flowing to legislative campaign committees and political parties. The list goes on and on.

And now this. The majority party may gain some small, temporary partisan advantage by enactment of this misguided measure to change the rules governing special elections. But at some point soon, the day of reckoning will come for this, and for all the other measures that have diminished democracy and undermined the ability of citizens to expect and attain a responsive and responsible state government that serves the public interest instead of the self-serving, partisan interest that currently dominates public policy in Wisconsin.





CONTACT:

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




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



Read More...


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Wisconsin's Spring Election is Next Tuesday, April 3rd - Make a Plan NOW to Cast Your Ballot!



For Release: Tuesday - March 27, 2018


With just one week remaining before next Tuesday's Spring Election, we are urging Wisconsin voters to do what they can right now to ensure their voices are heard at the ballot box.

In Wisconsin's April 3rd Spring Election voters will elect a new State Supreme Court Justice to replace retiring conservative, Justice Michael Gableman. Voters will also choose Court of Appeals and Circuit Court judges – along with local officials and school board members in areas across the state. A Constitutional referendum to eliminate the Office of State Treasurer is also on the ballot.

So if you think a Spring election doesn't matter, think again – every election matters. And, because Spring elections tend to have a much lower turnout than those taking place in the Fall, individual voters can actually have an even greater influence on the outcome of these elections.

Do NOT sit this one out!

Before you head to your polling place next week, look over the information below to make sure you have what you need to cast your ballot.

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 Election Day OR bring your ID to your municipal clerk's office by 4:00 pm the Friday after the election (April 6th).

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 one of these statewide Voter ID Hotline numbers: 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 Wisconsin – 4-Year Schools
University of Wisconsin – 2-Year Schools
Wisconsin Private Universities & Colleges
Wisconsin Technical Colleges

Are you registered to vote?


Before you head out to the polls next Tuesday, 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 your polling place 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.

What if you can't get to your polling place on April 3rd?


You may still be able to vote early with an in-person absentee ballot; however, because each municipality determines the days and hours when early voting is available, please contact your local municipal clerk to find out if early voting is available this week in your municipality.

Prepare today so you can make your voice heard in this vital Spring Election – and encourage every eligible voter you know to do the same!





Contact:


Sandra Miller
Director of Information Services & Outreach
608/658-2109
smiller@commoncause.org

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org


Read More...


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Common Cause in Wisconsin Releases Videos to Educate Citizens About the Critical Need for Stronger Judicial Recusal Rules



For Release: Thursday - March 22, 2018

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices and Citizens Address the Issue

Wisconsin has the 47th weakest recusal rules in the nation for judges at all levels who receive campaign contributions or benefit from spending from outside spending groups with no threshold or limit.

A Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice could benefit from election spending of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars from a special interest group or individual and not have to recuse her or himself from a case involving that interest group under the current recusal rule, which was written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association and adopted verbatim by the WI Supreme Court in 2010.

This lack of strong recusal rules has undermined the impartiality, credibility and public confidence in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. This problem is so urgently in need of a strong remedy that it has emerged as a central issue in the current election to fill a vacancy on the Court which will occur on April 3rd.

A 5 to 2 majority on the Court rejected a strong and sensible proposal put forth by 54 retired jurists of all levels last April without so much as a public hearing. CC/WI organized three public hearings around the state last October to educate the public about the retired jurists' petition.

Today, we release two videos on the issue which will be disseminated widely to help educate Wisconsinites about this critical and vitally important matter. We invite you to share them widely as well – with family, friends and anyone who might or should care about a fair, independent, transparent and impartial judiciary and the need for more equal access to justice under the law.

View the video featuring retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Louis Butler and Janine Geske:



View the video "starring" five Wisconsin citizens sharing their impressions about the issue:




Wisconsin deserves to have a judicial system worthy of its citizens!




CONTACT:

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




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



Read More...


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Don't Let Wisconsin Legislature Quit for the Year Before Acting on Fair Voting Maps Legislation



For Release: Tuesday - March 6, 2018

Step Up the Pressure on Legislators and Sign the Online Petition

In what can only be described as a giant rip off of Wisconsin taxpayer dollars, the Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly (Robin Vos) announced at the end of February that "his" chamber is done for the year. And the State Senate Majority Leader, Scott Fitzgerald has said "his" chamber will meet for one more day this month before calling it quits for the year. What a great gig. Two months of work with a full year's salary and a "Cadillac " package of benefits – all paid for by you.

Wisconsin is by far, the smallest state (population-wise) in the nation with what is considered a "full time" Legislature but obviously there is nothing full time about it. And there is so much that the Legislature hasn't even considered or held a public hearing on that the citizens of this state have been clamoring for – for years.

At the top of the list is the legislative leadership's continued blocking of redistricting reform, fair voting maps legislation which has been introduced, ignored and smothered by Vos and Fitzgerald every year since 2013. Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44 is reform legislation that would transform Wisconsin's current hyper-partisan, highly secretive, extremely costly (to we, the taxpayers) redistricting process to one like Iowa's – where a neutral, nonpartisan state agency draws state legislative and congressional voting maps every ten years. This is a system that has the overwhelming support of all of that state's voters, both political parties and even of the legislators because it's fair, transparent, impartial and provides voters with real choices in general elections. And it costs taxpayers next to nothing. Wisconsin's current system has none of those qualities or characteristics.

So, before Wisconsin state legislators quit to go campaign for re-election this year while being paid a full-time salary with benefits, demand that they come back into either a "Special Session," which Gov. Scott Walker must call, or into "Extraordinary Session," which Vos and Fitzgerald can call for. Demand that they hold public hearings on Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44 and act on it this year so that Wisconsin voters will know where they stand.

Contact both your State Senator and your State Representative. If you are not sure who your state legislators are, go here.

And, another effective way you can help us pressure the Legislature is by signing our online petition in support of the fair voting maps legislation, but only if you have not yet done so. We are very close to having 4,000 signatures and need just a few more to reach that significant threshold. So please sign, or if you have already, urge friends and family members to do so!

The Wisconsin Legislature will have to come back into session anyway, to act on a number of measures Gov. Walker is pushing to get done, such as gun safety legislation and closing the Lincoln Hills School, as well as a few other "loose ends."

Furthermore, the Legislature may have to come back into session to vote on new voting district maps for the 2018 elections if the Supreme Court of the United States upholds a November, 2016 federal court decision that determined that the hyper-partisan state legislative district maps drawn by the Republicans in 2011 were unconstitutional. If that occurs – and there is a very good chance that it might – Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44 would be the perfect solution to this horrific injustice.

So please contact your state legislators, sign the petition and step up the pressure of this "do nothing" Legislature.


Never surrender. Never give in. On Wisconsin! Forward!





CONTACT:

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




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



Read More...


Thursday, March 1, 2018

In the News - March 2018


Read More...


Monday, February 19, 2018

Be Sure You Are Ready to Vote in Tuesday's Primary Election



For Release: Monday - February 19, 2018


The next opportunity for Wisconsinites to make their voices heard at the ballot box is tomorrow!

You might think a Spring primary is not a big deal. But make no mistake, it is a big deal – every election matters.

In Wisconsin's February 20th Spring Primary voters will determine which two candidates will run for the critical State Supreme Court seat being vacated by retiring conservative, Justice Michael Gableman.

To learn more about the State Supreme Court primary election candidates, go here. Voters will also choose two Court of Appeals judges and Circuit Court judges in counties across the state.

Also, 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 don't sit this one out.

Before you head to your polling place tomorrow, look over the information below to make sure you have what you need to cast your ballot.

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 tomorrow OR bring your ID to your municipal clerk's office by 4:00 pm the Friday after the primary election (February 23rd).

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 Wisconsin – 4-Year Schools
University of Wisconsin – 2-Year Schools
Wisconsin Private Universities & Colleges
Wisconsin 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 tomorrow 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.

Remember: EVERY election is important.

Make a plan today so you can make your voice heard at the polls tomorrow – and encourage every eligible voter you know to do the same!





Contact:


Sandra Miller
Director of Information Services & Outreach
608/658-2109
smiller@commoncause.org

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org


Read More...


Monday, February 12, 2018

Stronger Judicial Recusal Rules Vital for an Impartial State Judiciary



Monday - February 12, 2018


By Jay Heck

Wisconsin, from statehood in 1848 to about a decade ago, in 2007, had a national reputation for having among the most respected, impartial, non-partisan, fair and trusted state court systems in the nation. Much of this was because there was a generally-held belief among all Wisconsinites of all political persuasions and ideologies that the courts should be “above politics as usual.” In order to maintain the confidence of the citizenry, judges and justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court had to be scrupulously non-partisan and impartial and not be perceived as having been compromised by outside lobbying pressure, campaign contributions, or other political influence.

For decades, this standard not only survived, but flourished and as recently as the early 2000’s the Wisconsin Supreme Court was held up by legal experts across the country as the “gold standard” for how Justices should be elected and serve once in office in a state supreme court. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the 72 county circuit courts and the hundreds of municipal court judges also were perceived as having the highest standards for impartiality, non-partisanship and fairness across the state. And while Wisconsin legislators fell into public disrepute in the aftermath of the worst political scandal in the state in a century – the Legislative Caucus Scandal of 2001-2002, the reputation of state courts were not only unaffected by the legislative scandal, but enhanced in their execution of equal justice under the law.

However, the landscape began to shift about a decade ago when outside special interest groups, for the first time, began to pour millions of dollars into the election of two State Supreme Court Justices, one each in 2007 and in 2008. The expenditures made by these conservative business organizations: principally the Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, proved to be pivotal, particularly in 2008 when an incumbent Justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court was defeated in a nasty, vicious, scurrilous campaign in which a record amount of money was spent – more than $8 million. It marked only the second time in state history that an incumbent state supreme court justice was defeated for election.

There had really been no recusal standard for justices or for other court judges receiving campaign contributions or benefiting from “independent” spending by outside interest groups up to that time because campaign money was not a significant factor in judicial elections. That changed with the 2007 and 2008 state supreme court elections. In 2009, in reaction to the unprecedented amount of money spend in the 2007 and 2008 elections, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to adopt a recusal rule that would force a Justice to recuse her or himself from a case in which one of the parties in the case had donated $1,000 or more to a justice, either directly, or to an outside special interest group spending in support of that justice’s campaign for election to the State Supreme Court. It was rejected by a 4 to 3 vote of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The following year, in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its controversial Citizens United v. F.E.C. decision, which effectively opened the way for corporations and other outside groups to make unlimited expenditures in behalf of candidates, including judges. Despite this, and shortly thereafter, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4 to 3 to adopt, verbatim, a recusal rule written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association, which said that Justices could choose whether to recuse themselves from a case but that receiving a campaign contribution of any size from one or more of the parties in the case need not disqualify them from hearing and adjudicating the case.

In 2011, the Wisconsin Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker repealed the Impartial Justice Law, which had been enacted in 2009, and had provided full public financing of elections of candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court who voluntarily agreed to limit their total spending to $400,000. In 2015, Walker and the Legislature repealed longstanding prohibitions on campaign coordination between candidates and “independent” outside interest groups, thereby effectively eviscerating contribution limits for all elections in Wisconsin.

The result of all these actions has been that much more money, most of it undisclosed and unregulated, is flowing into elections in Wisconsin, including into non-partisan judicial elections at all levels. It was in this context and very different and new political environment that 54 retired jurists from all over Wisconsin, including two former State Supreme Court Justices petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court about a year ago to adopt strong and clear recusal rules for Justices and Judges at all levels with specific thresholds that would trigger mandatory recusal from cases. Wisconsin was found to have the fourth weakest judicial recusal rules in the nation and these retired jurists sounded the alarm.

While Common Cause in Wisconsin and other reform organizations and individuals were permitted to submit written comments in support (or opposing) the petition, the conservative majority of 5 justices voted against conducting any public hearings on the petition. The two other justices voted to conduct them. Similarly, on April 20. 2017, by the same vote, the Supreme Court rejected the petition of the retired jurists and kept the current policy of self-recusal in place.

But Common Cause in Wisconsin and the retired judges worked to “revive” the issue of judicial recusal in Wisconsin that had been seemingly buried with the Supreme Court’s action of April 20th.

The result was placement of a guest editorial on judicial recusal in Wisconsin’s largest daily newspaper, and the organization and execution of three public hearings in Wisconsin’s three largest cities during the month of October, 2017: in Green Bay on the 2nd, in Milwaukee on the 11th and in Madison on the 24th. More than 300 citizens attended and participated in the three public hearings and more than 1,000 more viewed and participated in them through Facebook Live. Thousands more citizens have viewed the videos of the public hearings, including the widely distributed and viewed program by Wisconsin Eye, the statewide video access channel/service, of the Madison public hearing. Two former State Supreme Court Justices, three former County Circuit Court Justices and a distinguished law professor and former candidate for the State Supreme Court joined CC/WI as panelists for the hearings.

As a result, interest has been rekindled and elevated in the issue of judicial recusal in Wisconsin and it is a central issue in the upcoming April 2018 election to fill a vacancy on the State Supreme Court. Two of the leading candidates for the position announced their support for strong recusal rules at the CC/WI public hearings. One other, recently, has announced his opposition to stronger recusal rules, citing “free speech” concerns.

Last October, after two public hearings on this issue had been held in the state, Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, NC polled Wisconsinites on a number of issues, including two on judicial elections and recusal rules, The answers to the two questions showed that 83 percent of Wisconsinites strongly or somewhat support greater disclosure of campaign contributions and spending in judicial elections, while only 10 percent strongly or somewhat oppose greater disclosure. Similarly, 82 percent of Wisconsinites strongly or somewhat favor the adoption of stronger recusal rules for judges while only 12 percent strongly or somewhat oppose them.
Clearly, citizens in Wisconsin support stronger election campaign finance disclosure and stronger judicial recusal rules.

Stronger judicial recusal rules have emerged as a front and center issue in the Supreme Court and other judicial elections in April. The fairness and impartiality of our judges depends mightily on their separation from the effect and influence of campaign contributors and outside, special interest campaign spending groups. You can advance this needed reform in Wisconsin by insisting that the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and judges at all levels support stronger recusal rules.

Jay Heck is the executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, the state’s largest non-partisan citizen reform advocacy organization.




CONTACT:

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




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Thursday, February 1, 2018

In the News - February 2018


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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Another Body Blow to Democracy and Transparency in Wisconsin in the State Senate Today




For Release: Tuesday - January 23, 2018

Today, for the first time in state history (according to the Senate Chief Clerk), appointments subject to confirmation for positions in state government, were rejected without a public hearing. Behind closed and locked doors, talking only among themselves, Wisconsin State Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), voted to reject the appointments of Michael Haas as the Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator and Brian Bell as the Wisconsin Ethics Commission Administrator.

Their "sin" was that they were employees of the now-dissolved and destroyed, non-partisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which Fitzgerald and Republicans dissolved beginning two years ago because the GAB authorized the completely legal and justified investigation of Governor Scott Walker and others for illegal campaign coordination during the 2011-2012 recall elections. But while they were employees of the GAB, Haas and Bell were not, in any way, involved in the investigation, which was undertaken by five county district attorneys, not by the GAB.

Haas and Bell and the public have not been told why they are being rejected by Fitzgerald and his GOP colleagues other than Fitzgerald said that he and the Republicans are "uncomfortable" with keeping Haas and Bell in their jobs. They have "based" many of their secret reasons for removing Haas and Bell on a wildly inaccurate, hyper-partisan, discredited report released late last year by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, the most partisan state attorney general in memory.

No evidence, no charges, no specific examples of misconduct, nothing. Just secret agreement among the members of the majority party in the State Senate to get rid of them both, right before important elections, and replace them, presumably, with sycophants and pawns that the Republicans will dictate what they decide and what the result of their work on elections and ethics will be.

Today's action is a deliberate attempt to keep Wisconsinites in the dark about what this is really all about.

This is one of the most grotesque abuses of power that has occurred in Wisconsin in its history.

Today will long be remembered as one of the darkest days the Wisconsin Legislature has ever experienced in every sense of that word, dark.




CONTACT:

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




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Unjust and Unwarranted Attack by Fitzgerald and Vos on State Elections and Ethics Administrators



For Release: Tuesday - January 16, 2018

Vote Scheduled for January 23rd on confirmation of Mike Haas and Brian Bell

In what can only be described as a a blatant attempt to exercise raw political muscle and further undermine citizen confidence in the integrity of the administration of Wisconsin's elections, ethics and campaign finance law, State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) have "teamed up" to remove the current WI Elections Administrator Mike Haas, and WI Ethics Administrator Brian Bell.

Why are they being attacked?

Apparently the fact that Haas and Bell have the unanimous bipartisan support of the political appointees to each of their Commissions for their competence and impartiality angers Fitzgerald and Vos. They want more partisan, unbalanced conduct of elections, ethics and campaign finance law in their ongoing quest to transform Wisconsin into an utterly one-party state – with the Senate Majority Leader and the Assembly Speaker in complete control.

Two years ago, Fitzgerald and Vos masterminded the destruction of the effective, nationally-admired, scrupulously non-partisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board that, from 2008 to 2015, served all of the the citizens of Wisconsin in a fair, effective and lawful manner – investigating corruption and crime wherever it was detected and conducting elections and administering ethics laws in a way that Wisconsinites could have confidence in, and respect for. Fitzgerald and Vos also oversaw the "carve out" (for politicians only), of an exemption from the state's 170-year-old "John Doe" investigatory process in order that political corruption could no longer be effectively investigated and prosecuted.

And Fitzgerald and Vos championed the re-write of Wisconsin's campaign finance laws in 2015, once among the best in the nation, so that they are now among the weakest and least transparent. And they legalized the corrupt practice of campaign coordination between candidates and outside, supposedly "independent" special interest groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth during elections. No state in the nation has gone as far to legitimize this type of corrupt collusion as Fitzgerald and Vos have done in Wisconsin.

And now, they are moving to remove Mike Haas and Brian Bell because these two highly competent, fair-minded and impartial civil servants were employed by the now-dissolved Government Accountability Board and are not the hyper-partisan sycophants that Fitzgerald and Vos want in place for the upcoming 2018 election season.

Fitzgerald has scheduled a vote in the Wisconsin State Senate for Tuesday, January 23rd to deny the confirmation of Haas and Bell for their current positions and to remove them.

Wisconsin citizens need to rise up and defeat this insidious partisan power grab and demand that their State Senators vote against Fitzgerald and for the confirmation of Mike Haas and Brian Bell as Administrators of the Wisconsin Elections and Wisconsin Ethics Commissions, respectively.

CC/WI will join other reformers in a press conference in the Capitol on Wednesday, January 17th on this critical matter.

But the time for you to act is now.

To contact your State Senator, go here. If you are not sure who your State Senator is, go here.

Also, contact both Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos and tell them to lay off trying to muscle Mike Haas and Brian Bell out of their jobs.

Read this recent guest opinion editorial from CC/WI and the League of Women Voters of WI about this critical issue.

Read this letter from state good government groups, including CC/WI, to Fitzgerald, Vos and Wisconsin State Senators about this issue.

Read this powerful Wisconsin State Journal editorial against Fitzgerald and Vos's power grab.

Then, when you have taken this action, contact five or ten friends and family members and tell them to do the same! Please share this message widely.

Let's make sure Fitzgerald and Vos know we are mad as hell and we aren't going to "take it" anymore.

Never give in.

On Wisconsin. Forward!




CONTACT:

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




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Begin the New Year by Making Sure You're Ready to Vote in 2018



For Release: Thursday - January 4, 2018


The next opportunity to vote in Wisconsin is approaching very soon.

Wisconsin's Spring Primary is on February 20, 2018 – followed by the Spring Election on April 3, 2018. In less than two months, we will determine which two candidates will run for the critical State Supreme Court seat being vacated by retiring conservative, Justice Michael Gableman.

For more information on the State Supreme Court primary election candidates, go here.

In addition, voters will choose two Court of Appeals judges and Circuit Court judges in counties across the state.

The integrity of our state's judicial system is at stake. Mark your calendar with these two important dates. Now is the time to prepare to vote so you're not scrambling later.

Start by confirming that you're registered to vote at your current address.


Visit the "My Voter Info" page at MyVoteWI.gov, and enter your name and date of birth to check your voter registration status. You need to have lived at your current address for at least 10 days prior to Election Day in order to register to vote in that election district or ward.

If you're not already registered, there are several ways you can register to vote:

Online. Eligible voters in Wisconsin who have a valid Wisconsin driver license or a Wisconsin DMV-issued ID can now register online at MyVote.WI.gov up to 20 days before the election in which they are planning to vote.

By Mail. You can start your voter registration form online at MyVote.WI.gov – then print, sign and mail it to your municipal clerk along with a Proof Of Residence (POR) document. Your form and POR must be received no later than 20 days before the election in which you are planning to vote.

In your Municipal Clerk’s Office.
You can register in-person in your municipal clerk’s office up until the 5pm (or close of business) on the Friday before the election in which you are planning to vote. You'll need to bring a proof of residence document to complete your registration (this document can be shown electronically).

At the Polls on Election Day.
If you're unable to register by any of the methods above, you can still register at your polling place on Election Day. You will need to present a proof of residence document when registering (again, this document can be shown electronically). If your driver’s license or state ID card has your current address, that’s all you need.

Examples of proof of residence documents are here.

Save time and hassle. Register to vote now.


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


(Click to enlarge image)

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 #: 608/285-2141.

Are you (or do you know) a college student voting in Wisconsin?


Here are "Three Things College Students Need to Do To Vote in Wisconsin"



Make sure you participate in these elections. Remember, every election has consequences.

Updated 4:27 PM, 1-5-2018.





Contact:


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

Sandra Miller
Director of Information Services & Outreach
608/658-2109
smiller@commoncause.org

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org


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