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



Read More...


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.


Read More...


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



Read More...


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



Read More...


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...


Monday, March 25, 2019

TONIGHT: Town Hall Meeting in La Crosse – Recusal Rules & Voter Turnout in April 2nd WI Supreme Court Election



For Release: Monday - March 25, 2019

6:30 to 8:00 PM at the UW-La Crosse Student Union Theater

This evening, citizens in the greater La Crosse area will get the chance to ask questions and learn more about two key issues ahead of next Tuesday's state supreme court election: the need for stronger recusal rules in Wisconsin – and the importance of voter turnout in Spring nonpartisan elections.

This event is free and open to the public. All of the details for the event are here, on the printable flyer.

Why attend?

Because Wisconsin has the 4th weakest judicial recusal rules in the nation. Currently, judges may decide for themselves whether or not to step aside in a case involving a party who gave them a large campaign contribution or spent money on their behalf. This recusal "non standard" has led to serious conflicts of interest on the state's highest court and the erosion of public trust and confidence in the judiciary at all levels in Wisconsin.

As a result, it is critical that Wisconsinites understand this issue – and why turning out to vote in judicial elections is vital to the overall health of our democracy.

We look forward to seeing you tonight in La Crosse – and please be sure to make your voice heard at your polling place, on or before April 2nd.


# # #




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 21, 2019

Upcoming Supreme Court Cases Could Force Fair Voting Maps for Wisconsin in 2020



For Release: Thursday - March 21, 2019


Note: This piece appeared as a guest editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal on March 19th.

If there is one thing Wisconsinites can agree on, it is that our right to vote is a fundamental American principle. When we vote, we are voicing our view about how we want to shape the future for our families and communities. But unfortunately, far too many Wisconsin voters live in noncompetitive districts where their voice is silenced by partisan gerrymandering and wealthy special interests. Before the redrawing of the new voting maps in 2021, we have a window to make important changes to this process both here in Wisconsin and nationally as the U.S. Supreme Court gets ready to hear two historic challenges to the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering.

For years, Common Cause in Wisconsin and its allies have been organizing citizens across the state in support of redistricting reform. Our organizing efforts are based on a very simple idea: voters should get to pick their politicians, not the other way around. Yet, here in Wisconsin, when the Republican-controlled legislature drew the current congressional and state legislative voting maps in 2011, they had only one thing in mind: keeping and expanding their power, regardless of the decision and will of Wisconsin voters at election time.

Wisconsin’s voting maps are among the most gerrymandered in the country. Nine of ten voters have no real choice at the polls, as the maps were drawn by partisan politicians to guarantee a certain election outcome. That is not how democracy is supposed to work. That’s why Wisconsin needs to adopt a nonpartisan redistricting process, where the lines are drawn fairly and districts reflect the communities they serve without partisan considerations. We do not have to look any further than to our neighbors in Iowa where this type of reform has worked to ensure impartial voting maps. All in all, 17 states impose greater checks and balances on redistricting and Wisconsin should become the 18th.

Wisconsinites also need a national standard and voters should not have to wait another three years to be able to have fair maps. That’s why two current cases at the U.S. Supreme Court are so important.

On March 26th, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Rucho v. Common Cause, which challenges Republican gerrymandering in North Carolina, and Lamone v. Benisek, which challenges Democratic gerrymandering in Maryland. By taking up both cases, the Court is showing that the fight for fair maps is not partisan and that both parties participate in this bad process.

Both cases are similar to a Wisconsin case, Gill v. Whitford, which the U.S. Supreme Court sent back to a lower federal court last year on the issue of standing. However, the North Carolina and Maryland cases are unlikely to suffer from the same standing issues as the Wisconsin case since they focus on a district-specific analysis versus a statewide analysis.

This is an historic opportunity for the Supreme Court to stop discrimination based on political expression through partisan gerrymandering. The high court should strike down gerrymandering and declare the practice illegal and unconstitutional nationwide. A definitive decision will accelerate people-powered movements to put mapping in the hands of impartial citizens rather than self-serving politicians.

Politicians will not simply give up their power to gerrymander without a fight. As the Supreme Court hears these two important cases and other litigation continues, your elected officials in Madison need to hear from you. It is going to take all of us to unrig the unfair practice of partisan gerrymandering. We need tens of thousands of Wisconsinites to contact both their state senator and their state representative and urge them to support nonpartisan redistricting reform, specifically the Iowa model legislation.

Both the Wisconsin Legislature and the U.S. Supreme Court have a clear opportunity in front of them. They can make a definitive, revolutionary change we need to so that Wisconsinites, and all Americans, can hold elected officials accountable on Election Day and have genuine representation in their state legislatures and in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Now is the time for the people, rather than the politicians, to decide who represents them.

# # #


Jay Heck has been the executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin since 1996. Tim Cullen is the Chair of the State Governing Board of Common Cause in Wisconsin and served as a State Senator from 1975 to 1987 (Majority Leader, 1981-1987) and again, from 2011 to 2015.





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 19, 2019

La Crosse Town Hall Meeting March 25th: Recusal Rules & Voter Turnout in WI Supreme Court Election



For Release: Tuesday - March 19, 2019

La Crosse Town Hall Meeting - Monday, March 25th

The issue of whether or not Wisconsin needs stronger recusal rules for judges who receive sizable campaign contributions or benefit from "outside" so-called independent special interest group spending has emerged as a major issue in the last weeks before the April 2nd state supreme court election. The result of this contest will determine the successor to retiring former State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson, after 43 years on the state's highest bench.

Wisconsin currently has the 4th weakest judicial recusal rules in the nation and that issue, as well as the importance of voter turnout in Spring non-partisan elections, will be explored at an upcoming town hall meeting, which is free and open to the public, on Monday evening, March 25th from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse.

All of the details for the event are here, on the printable flyer.

The recusal issue came to light recently when the Wisconsin Realtors Association withdrew their support for Judge Brian Hagedorn for the state supreme court election and demanded that their $18,000 contribution to him be returned. Another special interest group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), announced they would not be supporting Hagedorn. Interestingly, Hagedorn has not expressed support for stronger recusal rules regarding campaign contributions and outside spending. The current rules were, ironically, written by WMC and the Realtors, and adopted verbatim by the 4 to 3 conservative majority on the Court in 2010.

Currently, judges may decide for themselves whether or not to recuse themselves – a standard that has led to serious conflicts of interest on the state's highest court and the erosion of public trust and confidence in the judiciary at all levels in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer is being supported by hundreds of thousands of dollars from an outside group headed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Neubauer has requested the group not get involved in the election and has said she would recuse herself in any case that came before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in which Holder's group was a party.

For more on all of this, go here.

We are looking forward to seeing you in La Crosse next Monday evening!

And please be sure to make your voice heard at your polling place, on or before April 2nd.

# # #




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...


Monday, March 11, 2019

Judicial Recusal & Voter Turnout – Critical Issues in WI Supreme Court Election



For Release: Monday - March 11, 2019

La Crosse Town Hall Meeting March 25th

On April 2nd, Wisconsin voters will go to the polls to elect a successor to retiring State Supreme Court Justice (Chief Justice from 1996 to 2015), Shirley Abrahamson. Spring, non-partisan elections always see a much lower voter turnout than November, partisan elections; in past Spring elections, turnout hovered at about 10 percent. However, last Spring, voter turnout for the state supreme court election, won by Rebecca Dallet over Michael Screnock, saw a vast increase in voter turnout to about 20 percent.

In addition to increased pubic attention on the election, the issue of Wisconsin's notoriously weak recusal rules for judicial candidates receiving either direct campaign contributions, or benefiting from election spending by "outside" special interest groups, became an important issue in that contest. Dallet favored stronger judicial recusal rules, Screnock opposed them.

Wisconsin currently ranks 47th of the 50 states in the strength of our judicial recusal rules Even Illinois does a better job than Wisconsin in preventing the obvious conflict of interest that allows in our state judges to rule in cases where they have been the beneficiaries of substantial campaign contributions from, or election spending by a party before that judge in a trial.

Wisconsin's current recusal rule was written by two of Wisconsin's biggest special interest groups – Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Relators Association – in 2010 and it was adopted verbatim by the 5 to 2 conservative majority of the court. The rule said that judges themselves can decide to recuse themselves or not, with no threshold or standard to abide by.

This issue is just as important in 2019 as it was last year.

Many prominent retired Wisconsin jurists, including two former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices (Janine Geske, an appointment of Gov. Tommy Thompson, and Louis Butler, appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle) have called for stronger recusal rules for judges at all levels in Wisconsin. A 2017 petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court signed by Geske, Butler and 52 other retired jurists calling for stronger rules was rejected 5 to 2 by the conservative majority and, furthermore, the petitioners were denied even a public hearing on their proposal to the state's highest court.

The need for stronger judicial recusal rules is beginning to percolate as a significant issue in the three weeks before the upcoming April 2nd election. Both of the candidates for the state supreme court this year, Chief Judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals Lisa Neubauer, and Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn addressed this issue and other relevant matters in responding to the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin candidate questionnaire – enter your address on the League's Vote411 website here to view their answers.

For why stronger judicial recusal rules and voter turnout are so important in this election and beyond for Wisconsin read this recent Wisconsin State Journal guest editorial written by CC/WI Director Jay Heck and LWVWI Director Erin Grunze.

These issues will be highlighted and discussed at an upcoming town hall meeting in La Crosse on Monday evening, March 25th at the UW-La Crosse. A panel of distinguished former judges will be joined by an academic ethics expert and by Erin Grunze and Jay Heck.

Here are the details on how to attend this meeting that is free and open to the public.

Finally, for your information, here are links to the three excellent videos that explain the issue and make the case for strong judicial recusal rules for Wisconsin:

(Click on each image to watch the video on YouTube.)










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...


Friday, March 1, 2019

Kristin Hansen of Waukesha Elected to CC/WI State Governing Board



For Release: Friday - March 1, 2019

Waukesha Community Leader Elected to
Common Cause in Wisconsin Board

Waukesha County community leader Kristin Hansen was elected to the Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) State Governing Board at its most recent meeting. CC/WI is the state's largest non-partisan political reform advocacy organization with more than 10,000 members and activists.

"Kristin's many years as an active and involved community and political leader in Waukesha County will greatly strengthen CC/WI's efforts to educate and inspire Wisconsinites to become actively involved in our non-partisan political reform and government ethics work," said Jay Heck, the longtime executive director of CC/WI.

Last month, Hansen helped organize an event in Waukesha attended by more than 100 citizens on the need for non-partisan redistricting reform in Wisconsin.

After working in development and non-profit management for arts and culture organizations for 20 years, Hansen returned to college and earned a degree in Philosophy, Politics & Economics from Carroll University in 2012. That degree led to a position at the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, where she developed key relationships around the state and an understanding of the legal and political environment around social justice and civil rights. She is currently working as a consultant to non-profit organizations, teaching fundraising ethics at UW-Parkside, and starting an issue advocacy organization for Waukesha County.

Hansen served as the chair of the 5th Congressional District for Democratic Party of Wisconsin for four years and on the administrative committee for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for six years. She has also served on the boards of arts alliances and music organizations, the Kiwanis Club of Waukesha, on committees of the Waukesha Business Improvement District, and blogged for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“It seems that we are overwhelmed with information but much of it is not the information we need to be informed voters and advocates. Newspaper staffs have been decimated, and much of the “news” on social media is not reliable. Thank goodness for organizations like CC/WI who study the issues, break through the noise, and tell us what’s really going on,” Hansen said.

"I am excited about the prospect of helping to restore Wisconsin to its once proud position as a national leader in embracing non-partisan political reform with bipartisan support and cooperation," she added.




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...