Monday, September 9, 2019

The Battle Against Partisan Gerrymandering in Wisconsin Progresses This Summer



For Release: Monday - September 9, 2019

Editorial Cartoon by Phil Hands of the Wisconsin State Journal - 6/30/19

Despite U.S. Supreme Court's Cowardly Decision
to "Punt," States Move Forward

Wisconsin Fair Maps "Summit" - November 9th in Marshfield

At the end of June, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), who, together, have conspired to block redistricting reform and fair voting maps despite overwhelming citizens support for the past six years, must have thought they finally succeeded in strangling the increasingly powerful and growing citizen movement, working to end partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin.

A narrow, conservative, 5 to 4 majority on the U.S. Supreme Court issued a weak, cowardly and ill-conceived decision that said federal courts should not adjudicate, on the basis of excessive partisanship, the voting maps drawn by partisan legislators after the Census every ten years, even if the maps effectively disenfranchised a majority of voters in a legislative or congressional district in order to achieve a pre-ordained, partisan outcome.

Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the decision, readily admitted that partisan gerrymandering was unfair and undemocratic, but chose to exclude the federal judiciary from weighing in to mollify the powerful right wing interests that had elevated him to his exalted position in 2005. But he did not preclude the states from pursuing an end to gerrymandering.

That June 27th decision ended a challenge to partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina, Rucho V. Common Cause and by extension, a pending and revised Wisconsin challenge to partisan gerrymandering, Gill V. Whitford.

But Vos and Fitzgerald, as is so often the case, miscalculated the strength and commitment that Common Cause in Wisconsin members and thousands of Wisconsin citizens bring in demanding some semblance of fairness and a return to democracy to Wisconsin. As we said on July 1st, "With federal courts now out of the fight, it's entirely up to "We the People." And we explained why the U.S. Supreme Court decision did not mean redistricting reform is dead. Far from it.

In July, CC/WI Director Jay Heck and two University of Wisconsin faculty experts on this issue explained the implications of the Supreme Court's decision on redistricting reform efforts in Wisconsin on Wisconsin Eye's special program on the matter.

And, after the Supreme Court "indecision," CC/WI continued the effort to educate Wisconsin Citizens about the importance of action on the local level to mobilize citizens in support of ending partisan gerrymandering. CC/WI board chair Tim Cullen, CC/WI board member Kriss Marion and CC/WI Director Jay Heck spoke at a well attended meeting in Darlington in Lafayette County about this.

In mid July, "stand alone" redistricting reform legislation based on the Iowa system, which CC/WI united pro-reform legislators and groups behind in 2013, was formally introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature by State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and State Representative Robyn Vining (D-Waukesha) with CC/WI Chair and former State Senator Tim Cullen. What was very different this time was the significant Republican support and co-sponsorship of the legislation: Senate Bill 288 and Assembly Bill 303. During the past three sessions of the Wisconsin Legislature, similar reform legislation had attracted only one Republican co-sponsor. Now, it has four: State Representatives Joel Kitchens of Sturgeon Bay, Todd Novak of Dodgeville, Loren Oldenburg of Virocqua and Travis Tranel of Cuba City.

Clearly state legislators are hearing from their constituents, including many CC/WI Members. Keep on applying the pressure on your state legislators. It's working!

On September 3rd, a state court in North Carolina overturned the partisan voter maps drawn by Republicans in that state in 2011 in a lawsuit brought by Common Cause North Carolina. While the facts of the case and wording of the state constitution are different in Wisconsin, as is the composition of state courts here, there is renewed hope that a remedy to the hyper-partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin could be remedied through state court action, as well as legislatively. In any event we will not stop pursuing our fight to bring fair voting maps to Wisconsin – now or ever.
* * *

CC/WI is one of a number of state reform organizations that are participating in, and will present at a Fair Maps Summit to be held in Marshfield on Saturday, November 9th. Any and all Wisconsin citizens are invited to attend. Mark your calendars now and plan to be there if you can!




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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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

What College Students in Wisconsin Can Do NOW to be Ready to Vote in 2020



For Release: Wednesday - August 21, 2017


Students Should Prepare NOW to Vote in 2020

With just a couple of weeks left before students return to Wisconsin's public universities and private colleges, this is a good time for students to make sure they are ready to vote in Wisconsin.

The next opportunity to cast a ballot is coming up fast. Wisconsin's Spring Primary to whittle the field of candidates for a seat on our State Supreme Court is on February 18, 2020 – followed by the Spring Election and Presidential Primary on April 7, 2020.

If you value the integrity of our state's judicial system – and want to have a say in who might occupy the White House next year, mark your calendar with these two important dates, and then get ready to vote now so you're not scrambling later.

Go to this page on our website:

Three Things College Students Need to Do To Vote in Wisconsin

There, students will find straightforward information on registering to vote and voter photo ID.

If students have a Wisconsin driver's license or Department of Transportation-issued Wisconsin ID card, then they already have an ID acceptable for voting. But, if they don't have one of these forms of ID, we provide information on alternative IDs for voting, including if the standard student ID at their school can be used to vote – and if it cannot be used at the polls, how and where to get an acceptable school-issued "voter ID" if their school offers one.

As we have in past years, we will continually update this resource as new information is received or changes. So please check back often. And share this link widely with anyone you know who is attending a college, university or technical school in Wisconsin!

Get this done now, so you won't have to worry about it later.



Jay Heck
Executive Director
608/256-2686 (o)
608/512-9363 (c)
jheck@commoncause.org

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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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Political Reform in Wisconsin: Back to the Future



For Release: Wednesday - August 14, 2019

CC/WI Political Reform Forum in Stevens Point Attracts 250 Attendees

Progress on Democracy in the Badger State Requires a Look to the Past

By Jay Heck


When I became the director of Common Cause in Wisconsin in 1996, this state was still very much one of the bright lights in the nation when it came to honest, transparent, accountable state government and politics.

There was bipartisan consensus here that the amount of special interest money in elections was growing and that it should be curbed. The most serious ethics problem back then was lobbyists furnishing some legislators free tickets to Packers’ games and some meals. Voting was relatively easy and voter turnout at election time was second only to Minnesota, nationally. Our state Supreme Court and judiciary at all levels was revered and respected for its impartiality and non-partisanship and was a model for the rest of the country.

Then, in 2002, top legislative leaders of both chambers and in political parties were brought down in the most serious political scandal in the state’s history, the legislative caucus scandal. A new governor, Jim Doyle, promised political reform and campaigned on it, but backed off when he saw how money flowed to power.

There was some significant reform in Doyle’s second term. The non-partisan Government Accountability Board (GAB) comprised of retired judges was established in 2007, with the power to investigate corruption in the Capitol thanks to a stream of funding not subject to legislative control. It worked very effectively. Once again, we were a role model for the nation. Then, in late 2009, full public financing for state Supreme Court candidates who limited campaign spending became law in reaction to unprecedented special interest “independent” spending on Supreme Court races in 2007 and 2008.

But in 2010, Scott Walker and a conservative, anti-reform Republican majority were swept into power and early in 2011 began the systematic dismantling of any and all political reform that had been enacted into law in Wisconsin since the Progressive Era.

And as the crowning achievement, Walker and the GOP legislature, in order to ensure Republican control of the legislature for the next decade, rammed through the most partisan gerrymander of state legislative and congressional districts in the nation in 2011. It was also rated as one of the five most partisan gerrymanders nationally in the last fifty years. In the space of a couple of months there was Act 10, of course, but also the imposition of the most extreme and restrictive voter photo ID law in the nation – surpassing in severity states like Mississippi and South Carolina. All public financing of elections (full funding for Supreme Court elections and partial public financing for other statewide and legislative elections) was completely wiped out.

It has been effective beyond their wildest hopes and expectations. Virtually no legislative or congressional seats have changed partisan hands in elections since then.

But there was more. In 2015, a freshly re-elected Walker and the gerrymandered GOP majority led by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald destroyed the non-partisan GAB and got rid of the non-partisan judges because they had the temerity to authorize an investigation into the illegal campaign coordination that occurred in the 2012 recall election between Scott Walker’s campaign and Wisconsin Club for Growth. A conflict of interest-ridden state Supreme Court facilitated this outrageous action. The Legislature also effectively, retroactively decriminalized that formerly illegal campaign coordination and for good measure exempted politicians from being investigated under the state’s longstanding and highly effective “John Doe” investigative process – which was crucial in uncovering corruption in the Capitol during the caucus scandal.

They replaced the GAB with partisan commissions to which they controlled the appointments and made any investigation of corruption, and its funding, subject to their approval. And they destroyed whatever limits still existed on special interest money, particularly that money controlled by the legislative leaders. Further, they eliminated most meaningful disclosure of third-party campaign money and transformed Wisconsin from one of the most transparent states in the nation to one of the darkest of the dark money states.

In 2018, a majority of Wisconsin voters said “enough” and threw out Walker and GOP Attorney General Brian Schimel in statewide elections not affected by partisan gerrymandering. The new governor and attorney general, Democrats Tony Evers and Josh Kaul, vowed to restore integrity and fairness to state politics and state government. More significantly, the citizens of Wisconsin have risen up and are demanding extensive and fundamental political reform.

Ten years ago, few Wisconsinites knew what gerrymandering even meant, let alone how it robbed them of genuine choices in elections. Today, overwhelming majorities of citizens of all political persuasions are demanding fair voting maps and a non-partisan redistricting process like Iowa has. County boards and citizen referendums are pressuring the Legislature to end gerrymandering and the issue is at the forefront of citizen concerns. And despite the onerous and extreme voter photo ID law that has depressed voter turnout here, citizens continue to challenge its very premise (in April Common Cause filed a suit against the Wisconsin Election Commission over the unfair restrictions placed on college and university students’ ability to vote). A vast effort is underway to help those who face high hurdles to obtain the required voter ID.

After a decade of extraordinary setbacks, the quest for genuine political reform is moving forward again in Wisconsin. With continued focus, determination and a little luck, we may get back to where we were in 1996. Then we can build on that to restore this state as the beacon of democracy for the nation that we once were.





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, July 15, 2019

"Iowa Model" Redistricting Reform Legislation Publicly Presented



For Release: Monday - July 15, 2019


Tuesday, July 16th at 10:30 AM - Assembly Parlor, State Capitol

On May 8th, Wisconsin Republican legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), and their GOP minions on the Legislative Joint Finance Committee (JFC) stripped the redistricting reform provision proposal that Gov. Tony Evers had inserted in his 2019-2021 state budget proposal.

The measure is based on Iowa's redistricting process which was developed and enacted into law in Iowa by Republican Governor Robert Ray and a Republican-controlled Legislature (both chambers) in 1980.

Now, out of the state budget, the "Iowa Model" redistricting measure has been introduced, with bi-partisan support, in the Wisconsin Legislature as "stand alone" legislation and on Tuesday, July 16th, it will be formally "rolled out" by the lead sponsors at 10:30 AM in the Assembly Parlor of the State Capitol. CC/WI Chair, former State Senator Tim Cullen will speak in favor of the measure on behalf of CC/WI.

In the State Senate, the lead sponsor is Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), who has introduced Senate Bill 288. In the Assembly, the lead sponsor is Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Waukesha), who has introduced an identical measure, Assembly Bill 303.

They will speak at the press conference with Cullen and other reformers.

You can attend the press conference, too, if you are available and would like to join us.

It is vitally important for you to do your part to help make ending partisan gerrymandering a reality in Wisconsin before 2021, when the next redistricting process will occur, following the 2020 Census. This week, contact both your state senator and your state representative and demand that they co-sponsor and support Senate Bill 288 and/or Assembly Bill 303. If you are not sure who your state senator and/or state representative is, go here.

These measures have overwhelming citizen support all throughout Wisconsin. Now, state legislators need to adhere to the demands of their constituents to defy Vos and Fitzgerald and do the right thing. Support fair maps! Some legislators and their staff may tell you the U.S. Supreme Court has now said that their current, partisan gerrymandering system is the only way the redistricting process can occur. That is a bald-faced lie! They absolutely could and should adopt the fair, non-partisan legislation (SB 288/AB 303), now ready for a public hearing and consideration by the full Wisconsin Legislature tomorrow, if they put the the public interest ahead of their narrow, partisan interest.

For your information, you can watch this very recent video (taped July 11th) about the June 27th U.S. Supreme Court decision on partisan gerrymandering and the path forward for ending it Wisconsin on Wisconsin Eye, featuring CC/WI Director Jay Heck and UW-Madison Professors David Canon and Rob Yablon.

Take action. Make your voices heard. Never, ever surrender. 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, July 1, 2019

"Iowa Model" Anti Gerrymandering Legislation Not Affected by Terrible Supreme Court Decision



For Release: Monday - July 1, 2019

Editorial Cartoon by Phil Hands of the Wisconsin State Journal - 6/30/19

With Federal Courts Now Out of the Fight, It's Entirely Up to We, The People

Last Thursday's narrow (5 to 4) but terrible decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to not inject itself, or other federal courts into the question of whether or not hyper-partisan redistricting of congressional and state legislative districts could deny voters equal protection under the law and infringe on their First Amendment right to have their votes count as much as any other voter (it can and does) was deeply disturbing, disappointing and disgusting. But it was not, in the least bit, surprising.

The June 27th SCOTUS decision in Rucho v. Common Cause was pre-ordained when moderate conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retired a year a go and was replaced on the nation's highest court by Trump's selection, the ultra-conservative, partisan, and ill-tempered Brett Kavanaugh.

But the Supreme Court did not foreclose the possibility or ability of states to end partisan gerrymandering. Indeed, Chief Justice John Roberts decried the partisan map drawing and practically begged states to enact such reforms even as he cowardly backed away from utilizing legitimate judicial power to strike down unfair voting maps.

For years, we have been working on the advancement of redistricting reform under the assumption that we cannot depend on the courts to get this done. We have always believed that it is up to we, the people, who must eventually prevail over the hyper-politically partisan bosses of Wisconsin and their minions who have defended partisan gerrymandering, voter suppression, unlimited, secret special interest money, and anything else they can do to hold on to power – at any cost to taxpayers – the public be damned.

The U.S. Supreme Court has run away to hide. So be it. Onward and upward.

In May, Wisconsin Republican legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), and their GOP acolytes on the Legislative Joint Finance Committee (JFC) stripped the redistricting reform provision proposal that Gov. Tony Evers has inserted in his 2019-2021 state budget proposal.

Dozens of Wisconsinites testified in strong support of the "Iowa Model" redistricting reform measure at the four state budget hearings the JFC held around Wisconsin (in Janesville, Oak Creek, River Falls and Green Bay) during the month of April.

Nobody spoke against it.

The legislation is based on Iowa's redistricting process which was developed and enacted into law in Iowa by Republican Governor Robert Ray and a Republican-controlled Legislature (both chambers) in 1980.

Now, out of the state budget, the "Iowa Model" redistricting measure has been introduced, with bi-partisan support, in the Wisconsin Legislature as "stand alone" legislation.

In the State Senate, the lead sponsor is Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), who has introduced Senate Bill 288. In the Assembly, the lead sponsor is Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Waukesha), who has introduced an identical measure, Assembly Bill 303.

Now, it is time for you to do your part to help make ending partisan gerrymandering a reality in Wisconsin before 2021, when the next redistricting process will occur, following the 2020 Census. This week, before the 4th of July, please contact both your state senator and your state representative and demand that they co-sponsor and support Senate Bill 288 and/or Assembly Bill 303. If you are not sure who your state senator and/or state representative is, go here.

These measures have overwhelming citizen support all throughout Wisconsin. Now, state legislators need to adhere to the demands of their constituents to defy Vos and Fitzgerald and do the right thing. Support fair maps! Some legislators and their staff may tell you the U.S. Supreme Court has now said that their current, partisan gerrymandering system is the only way the redistricting process can occur. That is a bald-faced lie! They absolutely could and should adopt the fair, non-partisan legislation (SB 288/AB 303), now ready for a public hearing and consideration by the full Wisconsin Legislature tomorrow, if they put the the public interest ahead of their narrow, partisan interest.

Here is more information about the "Iowa Model" reform measure and about the redistricting process in Wisconsin. You can also watch and listen to this video about the redistricting reform process in Wisconsin.

Above all, take action. Make your voices heard. Never, ever surrender. 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, June 24, 2019

Counties in 32 of 33 WI State Senate Districts & 91 of 99 Assembly Districts Back Ending Partisan Gerrymandering



For Release: Monday - June 24, 2019


Overwhelming Public Support for Redistricting Reform Statewide

Citizen voters and their local elected officials throughout Wisconsin overwhelmingly support ending partisan gerrymandering of state legislative and congressional districts, an analysis by CC/WI Board member and former state representative Penny Bernard Schaber demonstrates.

Bernard Schaber examined the 47 (of the 72 total) counties whose county boards have passed resolutions in support of ending partisan gerrymandering as well as the eight counties in which voters have supported referendums supporting a non-partisan state redistricting process. She found:

  • 32 of Wisconsin's 33 State Senate Districts contain counties in which either the county board passed a non-partisan redistricting reform resolution, or a referendum, or both. Only the 33rd District (parts of Dodge, Washington, and Waukesha Counties) contains none of the counties where the county board or voters supported redistricting reform, thus far.


  • 91 of Wisconsin's 99 State Assembly Districts contain counties in which the county board passed a non-partisan redistricting reform resolution, or a referendum, or both.

  • Earlier this year, a Marquette University Law School poll found that 72 percent of Wisconsinites support ending partisan gerrymandering and adopting a non-partisan redistricting process such as Iowa's. 62 percent of all Republicans support this, the poll found.

    "Voters and county boards across Wisconsin overwhelming support ending the current system in which elected representative choose their voters and not the other way around, as it ought to be," said Bernard Schaber, who represented Appleton in the State Assembly from 2007 to 2015.

    "Wisconsin state legislators need to heed the demands of their constituents to adopt a fair, nonpartisan system, like the system Republicans put in place in Iowa in 1980, and do it before the upcoming 2021 redistricting process begins in Wisconsin," she added.

    Bipartisan-supported, "stand alone" redistricting reform legislation to institute the "Iowa Model" for Wisconsin has just been introduced in both legislative chambers as Assembly Bill 303 and Senate Bill 288. Governor Tony Evers had included the measure in his 2019-2021 biennium state budget proposal earlier this year, but Republicans on the legislative Joint Committee on Finance removed it in May.

    Bernard Schaber's chart showing county board and referendum support for nonpartisan redistricting by State Senate districts is here, and by State Assembly districts, here.

    Citizens should contact both their State Senator and their State Representative and demand their support and co-sponsorship of the "Iowa Model" redistricting reform legislation, Assembly Bill 303/Senate Bill 288. Tell them we need fair voting maps now.

    Sign this petition in support of the Iowa Model legislation, if you haven't yet done so. If you have, urge others to sign it. We would like to present the Legislature with 5,000 signatures from all over Wisconsin in the near future. We are closing in on that number so please help us get there!

    Never surrender! 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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    Wednesday, May 22, 2019

    Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice-Elect Hagedorn’s “Gratitude” to Republican Party Underscores Necessity for Stronger Recusal Rules



    Wednesday - May 22, 2018


    By Jay Heck

    Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn very narrowly won the State Supreme Court election on April 2nd to replace retiring former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. He benefited from the active organizational and financial support of the Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW) and other partisan organizations, particularly in the last several weeks prior to the election.

    In what may be an action unprecedented in state political history, Hagedorn addressed the RPW state convention in Oshkosh last week, specifically to thank Republican activists for strongly supporting his candidacy. “When I got punched, you were the ones who punched back,” Hagedorn said to the party faithful. “When I got knocked down, you grabbed the baton and kept running with it.”

    Hagedorn says he will be impartial when he is sworn in as a justice later this Summer. But in the absence of stronger recusal rules for Wisconsin judges, will he really be impartial, objective, and beholden only to the law and not his supporters?

    Wisconsin currently has the 47th weakest recusal rules in the nation when it comes to judges having to recuse themselves if they are the recipients of significant campaign contributions or the beneficiaries of so-called “independent” election spending. Essentially, judges decide for themselves whether to recuse themselves from a case in which a party before the court has been a campaign contributor above a certain threshold.

    This very weak rule was written by two independent special interest groups – Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association and adopted verbatim by conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2010.

    Proposals to strengthen recusal rules since that time have been rejected, most recently in 2017 when conservatives rejected a petition submitted by 54 retired jurists for strong recusal rules and refused to hold even a public hearing on the matter.

    During the campaign for the Wisconsin Supreme Court earlier this year, Hagedorn indicated he was not supportive of stronger recusal rules while his opponent, Wisconsin Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer said she thought stronger rules ought to be considered, and supported holding a public hearing to receive input on the issue.

    Now that Judge Hagedorn has expressed his deep gratitude to partisans for their help in his election, how can the public be confident that he will be strictly impartial in his application of the law? What assurance would a Democratic or progressive individual or entity appearing before the Wisconsin Supreme Court have that Hagedorn would be fair and non-partisan in his decision-making process?

    That’s why strong recusal rules are so important and needed in Wisconsin.

    Public confidence in the impartiality and fairness of our state courts had fallen dramatically over the last decade. Adoption of stronger recusal rules by the Wisconsin Supreme Court would help restore that necessary confidence. Judge Hagedorn could initiate that process and raise public confidence in his own upcoming first term on the court by joining the call for stronger rules.




    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, May 9, 2019

    Vos, Fitzgerald, Nygren & Darling: Wisconsin Taxpayers to Continue to Pay for Partisan Gerrymandering



    For Release: Thursday - May 9, 2019


    GOP Removes Redistricting Reform From Gov. Evers Budget
    But "Stand Alone" Legislation to be Introduced Soon

    The Republican Chairs of the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee (JFC), Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Sen. Alberta Hills (R-River Hills), today, at the direction of GOP legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), led the twelve Republican members of the JFC in removing non-partisan redistricting reform from Gov. Tony Evers' 2019-2021 biennium budget proposal. The four Democratic members of the Joint Finance Committee opposed this misguided and hyper-partisan action. Sen. Darling was ill today and not present for the vote, but supported this action.

    In doing so, the Republican leadership is saying they will continue to utilize unlimited Wisconsin taxpayer dollars to defend the most partisan gerrymandered voting maps in the nation. Since 2011, this policy has resulted in close to $4 million of state taxpayer money to devise – and defend in court – among the most indefensible voting maps in the nation.

    Governor Evers inserted in his budget proposal, the non-partisan redistricting reform proposal that CC/WI has championed, and has united pro-reform legislators and citizen reformers behind, beginning in 2013, that is based on Iowa's redistricting process, adopted by a Republican-controlled legislature and Republican Governor in 1980.

    In Iowa, the redistricting process every ten years occurs at almost no additional cost to taxpayers as it is performed by a non-partisan state agency. In Wisconsin, in the budget provision proposed by Gov. Evers, the same thing would happen. The actual drawing of new voter maps, mandated by federal and state law to occur after the 2020 decennial census, would be undertaken by the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau, at little or no additional cost to Wisconsin taxpayers.

    In 2011, Republican legislative leaders hired at taxpayer expense, a private, partisan and costly Madison-based law firm, Michael, Best & Frederich, to draw new voter maps in the most secretive and partisan manner possible. Later, they hired other costly law firms and lawyers from both inside and out of Wisconsin. The maps were declared unconstitutional by a federal three-judge paned in 2016, but the GOP has spent millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to defend them.

    In four public hearings around Wisconsin held by the Joint Finance Committee during the month of April, dozens of citizens testified in support of the fair maps budget provision.

    Not a single citizen spoke against them.

    Additionally, in 46 of Wisconsin's 72 counties – comprising three quarters of the state's population – county boards have passed resolutions urging the state legislature to ban partisan gerrymandering and adopt non-partisan redistricting instead. 34 of those 46 counties were carried by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016. And in the eight counties that have held referendums on the issue thus far, all have passed with overwhelming margins ranging from 65 to 82 percent.

    The Iowa model reform provision has the support of every state reform organization and every pro-redistricting reform state legislator, as well as Gov. Evers. A Marquette University Law School poll earlier this year showed the 72 percent of Wisconsinites support non-partisan redistricting including 62 percent of all Republicans.

    Despite overwhelming public support for this reform, Vos, Fitzgerald, Nygren and Darling will not yet relinquish their iron-fisted grip on the redistricting process.

    So the battle goes on.

    The removal of redistricting reform does not spell the end of the measure by any means. "Stand alone" legislation will be introduced in both the State Assembly and the State Senate, and the fight will accelerate to have the legislation considered, voted on and enacted into law before the 2021 redistricting process.

    It is imperative that Wisconsinites contact both their state representatives and their state senators and demand that they support the Iowa model redistricting reform legislation as part of the state budget bill and as separate "stand alone" legislation.

    In addition, please sign the CC/WI online petition to the Wisconsin Legislature in support of this reform legislation if you have not already done so. We are closing in on our goal of 5,000 signatures so please help us get over the top!

    Never surrender! 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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    Tuesday, April 23, 2019

    Common Cause Wisconsin, Fair Elections Center & Others Challenge Wisconsin’s Requirements for Student IDs Used as Voter ID



    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
    Tuesday - April 23, 2019

    Contact: Jay Heck, Common Cause Wisconsin o) 608-256-2686 c) 608-512-9363 jheck@commoncause.org
    Kristen Muthig, Fair Elections Center o) 202-331-0114 c) 419-706-3431 kmuthig@fairelectionscenter.org


    WISCONSIN – Today, Fair Elections Center and Pines Bach LLP filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, on behalf of Common Cause in Wisconsin and individual plaintiff Ben Quintero, challenging Wisconsin’s unnecessary requirements for student IDs to qualify as voter ID.

    The lawsuit argues that the student ID requirements are a pointless barrier for casting a ballot in Wisconsin. Most students are newly registered voters and new to the voting process. These unnecessary requirements on student IDs can confuse and deter these new voters rather than making elections more accessible for them. The lawsuit is challenging specific student ID requirements, not the voter ID law as a whole.

    "The completely unnecessary hoops that the Wisconsin voter ID law forces students to jump through to be able to vote, need to be eliminated,” said Jay Heck, the long-time director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. “These pointless obstacles create confusion, frustration, and ultimately disillusionment with what should be a simple, and uncomplicated process for students to be able to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. This suit seeks to remove these superfluous barriers."

    ”Busy students with exams and jobs already bring multiple documents to the polls in order to register and vote on Election Day, but Wisconsin law requires them to request a separate form of photo ID that displays information poll workers do not need or use,” said Jon Sherman, Senior Counsel at Fair Elections Center. “Just as states cannot lawfully require voters to bring a toothbrush or sandwich to the polls, they cannot insist a voter present useless or irrelevant information.”

    Wisconsin’s current voter ID law singles out student voters, requiring information election and poll workers do not need or use if the voter presents a college or university photo ID when they cast a ballot. Current law allows Wisconsin students to use their campus photo ID if it contains their name, photo, issuance date, an expiration date not more than two years after the issuance date, and the student’s signature. Students must also show proof of current enrollment, such as an enrollment verification letter or tuition fee receipt. This proof of enrollment requirement makes issuance and expiration dates unnecessary and irrational for student ID cards, and other forms of accepted ID do not have expiration dates and are indefinitely valid.

    The lawsuit also claims the signature requirement is unnecessary. Wisconsin’s voter ID law does not require election officials and poll workers to match the signature on an ID with the voter’s signature on the poll book or voter registration form, and other forms of accepted voter ID, such as Veterans Health Identification Cards and some tribal ID cards, do not contain signatures.

    The full text of the complaint can be found here.



    Common Cause in Wisconsin is the state's largest non-partisan citizen political reform advocacy organization with more than 7,500 members and activists. They have worked for honest, clean, open and accountable government and politics in Wisconsin since 1972 and are the state affiliate of national Common Cause.

    Fair Elections Center is a national, nonpartisan voting rights and election reform organization which works to remove barriers to registration and voting for traditionally underrepresented constituencies. The Center works to improve election administration through legislative, legal and administrative reform, to protect access to the ballot through litigation, and to provide election law expertise, voter information and technical assistance to voter mobilization organizations.


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    Tuesday, April 16, 2019

    Former GOP State Representative, Retired Judge & 2018 Democratic State Senate Candidate Elected to Common Cause in Wisconsin Governing Board



    For Release: Tuesday - April 16, 2019


    Join Leadership of State's Largest Non-Partisan Reform Group

    David Deininger
    of Monroe and Kriss Marion of Blanchardville were elected to the State Governing Board of Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) at the organization's April 11th board meeting in Madison. The election results were announced by CC/WI Board Chair Tim Cullen of Janesville.

    "Common Cause in Wisconsin is fortunate to have two community leaders as skilled and as dedicated to honest, open, fair, and accountable government and politics as Dave Deninger and Kriss Marion," said Cullen. "Their election to our board continues our long tradition of bringing together citizens of both major political parties who seek bipartisan solutions to the urgent need to bring about fundamental political reform in Wisconsin," Cullen added.

    Deininger, of Monroe, served as a Republican State Representative from 1987 to 1994, when he was elected as a Circuit Court Judge of Green County. In 1996, he became a judge on the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, District IV and retired in 2007. He then served as a member and Chair (2007-2008) of the non-partisan Government Accountability Board, which oversaw and administered Wisconsin's elections, public officials' ethics code, and campaign finance regulations. He served again on the G.A.B. from 2010 to 2013 and was Chair in 2012.

    "I am increasingly concerned about the direction that state government and politics has taken in recent years and I want to assist Common Cause in Wisconsin in its efforts to return Wisconsin to its once nationally-recognized status as a beacon for clean politics and good government," Deininger said. "Fair voting maps and fair elections are not partisan issues and we need to begin to work again in a bipartisan manner to restore citizen confidence in our democratic institutions," he added.

    Marion, of Blanchardville, is a small business owner and organic farmer. She is a Lafayette County Supervisor and serves on the Lafayette County Development Corporation. Marion ran as a Democrat for the Wisconsin State Senate in the 17th Senate District in 2018 in a contest that saw record campaign spending. She received the endorsement of the Wisconsin State Journal, in part, because of her support for ending partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin. Marion had not been previously involved in partisan politics and has a long record of community involvement in rural issues, most prominently for clean water.

    "With dark money flooding into local campaigns and gerrymandered maps that keep legislative seats from being competitive, the electorate is robbed of an opportunity of being able to get to know the truth about their candidates or to be able to select a challenger who has any chance of defeating an incumbent," Marion said. "That should be a red flag for citizens that the current system is broken. Educating citizens and fighting for fair elections is what Common Cause in Wisconsin is all about, and I am delighted to be part of their effort and to direct my energy toward these important objectives," Marion concluded.

    Common Cause in Wisconsin is the state's largest non-partisan political reform advocacy group with more than 7,500 members and activists. For more information, go to commoncausewisconsin.org or call 608-256-2686.





    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, April 4, 2019

    Testify in Support of Ending Partisan Gerrymandering at April Budget Hearings Beginning Friday, April 5th



    For Release: Thursday - April 4, 2019



    Hearings in Janesville, Oak Creek, River Falls and Green Bay

    The battle for fair voting maps and for ending partisan gerrymandering received a big boost in Tuesday's election. Voters in La Crosse and Vernon counties showed their support for non-partisan drawing of legislative boundaries in the state based on Iowa's non-partisan redistricting process. Both counties had advisory referendum questions on the ballot Tuesday.

    In both places, more than 70 percent of voters approved the question. The vote in La Crosse County was 16,637 to 4,858 while in Vernon County the totals were 4,245 to 1,741.

    A Marquette Law School poll earlier this year showed that 72 percent of all Wisconsinites support non-partisan redistricting, including 62 percent of all state Republicans. They totally understand now that voters should be selecting their elected officials instead of politicians selecting their voters, as is the case now in Wisconsin.

    Wisconsin citizens will have their first opportunity in more than a decade to testify in support of fair voting maps and against partisan gerrymandering of state legislative and congressional districts at "sanctioned" state legislative public hearings scheduled by the Joint Finance Committee during the month of April around Wisconsin.

    Gov. Tony Evers included non-partisan redistricting reform in his state budget at the urging of CC/WI and other reformers. Your voice is needed to ensure that it is not pulled out of the budget by guardians of the corrupt status quo – of which there are many in the Wisconsin Legislature, but not in the public at large.

    Try to get to one of these public hearings and make your voices heard! The 16 legislators comprising the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee are supposed to be in attendance at these public hearings, and the media will cover them as well. So this is the best opportunity yet to bring wider public attention and support to ending one of the most partisan gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts of any state in the nation.

    Joint Finance Committee Public Hearings on the Budget


    Friday, April 5 (10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
    Pontiac Convention Center
    2809 North Pontiac Drive
    Janesville, WI 53545

    Wednesday, April 10 (10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
    Oak Creek Community Center
    8580 South Howell Avenue
    Oak Creek, WI 53154

    Monday, April 15 (10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
    University of Wisconsin-River Falls
    University Center
    Riverview Ballroom #260
    500 Wild Rose Avenue
    River Falls, WI 54022

    Wednesday, April 24 (10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
    University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
    University Union – Phoenix Room
    2430 Campus Court
    Green Bay, WI 54311

    The Co-Chairs of the Joint Finance Committee may decide to limit testimony to two or three minutes. They haven't announced that yet. Written comments can be emailed to the Committee at BudgetComments@legis.wisconsin.gov

    For more background information from CC/WI about this issue to educate you and to help you prepare your comments to the Joint Finance Committee, see this January communication and press release.

    Also, this recent guest editorial on fair maps, partisan gerrymandering and the U.S. Supreme Court in the Wisconsin State Journal written by CC/WI Director Jay Heck and CC/WI State Governing Board Chair and former Wisconsin State Senator Tim Cullen.

    For much more information about this issue, please browse our website.

    Finally, if you have not already done so, please sign our petition to the Wisconsin Legislature in support of the Iowa model redistricting reform legislation that is now in the state budget. We are 85 percent of the way toward our goal of 5,000 signatures so please help us get to the finish line!

    And, as always, be sure to email or call Jay Heck if you have any questions or require further information.

    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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    Tuesday, April 2, 2019

    TODAY is Election Day in Wisconsin!



    For Release: Tuesday - April 2, 2019


    Here's What you Need to Know to Vote

    Non-partisan Spring elections may seem to be "less important" than November elections, but that is certainly not the case this year. Today is the most important election of 2019. There is much at stake.

    Today, Wisconsin voters will choose a a replacement for retiring State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson to serve on our state's highest court.

    Voters will also select new school board members and other local officials – individuals who make decisions that can have a direct and profound impact on our local communities.

    Further, because Spring elections tend to have lower turnout, your vote carries even more weight in determining the election's outcome.

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

    When can you vote?


    Polls are open today from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM.

    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 tonight OR bring your ID to your municipal clerk's office by 4:00 pm this Friday (April 5th).

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

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

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


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

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


    Are you registered to vote?


    Before you head out to the polls, check to see that you are registered to vote at your current address. If you are not, be sure to bring a proof of residence document (hard copy or electronic on your cell phone or tablet) when you go to the polls 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 provides us all with a chance to strengthen the health of our democracy. Get ready NOW and go vote!





    Contact:


    Jay Heck
    Executive Director
    608/256-2686 (o)
    608/512-9363 (c)
    jheck@commoncause.org

    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 28, 2019

    What You Need to Know About Voting in Next Tuesday's Spring Election



    For Release: Thursday - March 28, 2019


    Next Tuesday, April 2nd, Wisconsinites will head to the polls to choose a new Wisconsin Supreme Court justice to replace retiring Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Voters will also have the opportunity to select new school board members and other local officials – individuals who make decisions that can have a direct and profound impact on your local community.

    If you think that nonpartisan elections are "no big deal," make no mistake – every election matters.

    Further, because Spring elections tend to have lower turnout, your vote carries even more weight in determining the election's outcome.

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

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

    (Click to enlarge image)

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

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


    You can ask for AND vote with a provisional ballot. But, for your ballot to be counted, you MUST either come back to your polling place with an acceptable form of ID before it closes at 8:00 pm on Tuesday OR bring your ID to your municipal clerk's office by 4:00 pm the Friday after the election (April 5th).

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

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

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


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

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


    Are you registered to vote?


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

    Where is your polling place?


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

    What's on your ballot?


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

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





    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...