Monday, December 20, 2021

End of the Year Democracy Check List for a Tumultuous Year in Wisconsin

Monday - December 20, 2021



 
What a year 2021 has been! After a very hard-fought, close but fair election in 2020, the struggle to protect and preserve our democracy here in Wisconsin and nationally has never been more challenging -- all through this year. But consider all we have done, together, to keep Wisconsin from spiraling ever downward into the abyss of injustice, tyranny, and the complete end to free and fair elections and the silencing of our voices and, instead, have accomplished to protect the Badger State!

Together, we have:
 
  • Sounded the alarm and pushed back hard against the more than 25 anti-voter bills that sought to suppress voting rights and penalize election officials instead of trying to improve election administration procedures. You flooded the Wisconsin Legislature with 3,682 letters opposing these measures and over a thousand letters to Gov. Tony Evers to thank him for vetoing them. We stopped all of them.
 
  • Kept shining the light on the secretive 2021 redistricting process and called out partisan gerrymandering efforts by Republicans. You inundated the Legislature with 1,554 letters against their unfair voting maps.
 
  • Increased and strengthened public support for redistricting reform legislation based on Iowa's 40-year-old and highly successful non-partisan redistricting process. You blanketed the Wisconsin Legislature with more than 5,566 letters in support for the redistricting reform and expanded the number of Wisconsin counties that have now passed voter referendums or county board resolutions in support of non-partisan redistricting for the state to 56.
 
  • Written hundreds of letters to the editors and citizen opinion editorials to your local media in support of expanded voting rights and redistricting reform and against attempts to make voting more difficult for senior citizens, people with disabilities, college, and university students and for people of color in African-American, Latinx, Asian-American and Native American communities.
 
  • Testified with CC/WI at public hearings in the Capitol and elsewhere, both in person and virtually for fair voting maps and against voter suppression in unprecedented numbers. Hundreds of you testified or registered against the gerrymandered Republican state legislative and congressional maps in October and not a single citizen supported the unfair, rigged maps drawn in secret by G.O.P. legislative leaders with no public input.
 
  • Participated in the single largest state virtual "town hall meeting" last August on redistricting reform and ending partisan gerrymandering, organized by CC/WI that featured the two legislative sponsors of the bipartisan "Iowa Model" redistricting reform legislation, State Sen. Jeff Smith of Eau Claire and State Rep. Deb Andraca of Whitefish Bay. More than 300 of you registered and attended and hundreds more saw the event later, on YouTube.
 
  • Continually called out and pushed back against the "Big Lie" about the 2020 election results and against the conspiracy theories and fake "investigations" being pushed by Trump lackeys like Michael Gableman, State Rep. Janel Brandtjen and others who have slandered and lied about the good and courageous work of Wisconsin election clerks and officials and have continued to try to undermine public confidence in free and fair elections. They are failing in their repeated attempts to erode public confidence in our state's very well-run and highly regarded election process.
 
Thank you for all the actions you took, conversations you had, and time you have invested into supporting democracy in Wisconsin in 2021. Your advocacy and your voice is what keeps this state and this nation from drowning in despair and worse. It literally keeps us afloat! Since our founding in 1970, the motto of Common Cause has been: "Hold Power Accountable." That's what you did during the past year. And it has made a tremendous difference for all of us.
 
Here are a few more things you can do before the end of 2021! Keep this email handy through the end of the year and do what you can to strengthen democracy:
 
Be vote ready for the 2022 elections! They will be more critical than any mid-term election in memory! Check your voter status and make any updates to your voter registration if you have moved or changed your name since you last voted. All this can be done quickly at MyVote.wi.gov. The Spring Primary Election is February 15th, 2022. That's less than two months away. Vote!
 
Our friends at All Voting is Local developed a Factsgiving informational webinar to help you correct misinformation and speak the truth about the scam investigations into the 2020 election during the holiday season. Watch the recorded webinar.
 Tell Vos to end this charade immediately and stop wasting our taxpayer dollars on attacking Wisconsin election officials, undermining public trust and confidence in our elections and in trying to make it more difficult for Wisconsinites to vote. This fishing expedition has no limits and no defined scope and is an open-ended raid on the Wisconsin treasury. The Common Cause letter writing tool makes it easy to send your message.

If you're looking for a way to make an important and meaningful impact in 2022, consider becoming a poll worker. It's one of the most important roles you can play to help ensure a free and fair election. Being a poll worker means you will be helping people to vote safely and ensuring that as many people as possible can cast their ballot.
 
Writing a letter to the editor in your local newspaper will reach many other voters in your community. You can utilize this very simple-to-use Common Cause Letter to the Editor tool! This current letter is "ready" for you to write about the Gableman sham election review. Try it out now. It's easy and fun. Let us know if your letter is published. Make your voice heard and make a difference using this important community resource.
 
Clerks have had an extremely trying and difficult past couple of elections! In 2021 they should have been able to do some forward thinking about elections and plan for 2022. Instead, they have been wrongly and aggressively targeted by those trying to undermine these dedicated and professional public servants and the job they did so very well administering elections in 2020. Show your clerk some love and send a thank you note. Find their mailing address on MyVote at the link.
 
It is so simple and very easy to use the tool Common Cause developed to write to both your State Senator and your State Representative and demand a public hearing and then a vote on the redistricting reform legislation, Senate Bill 389 and Assembly Bill 395 in the weeks ahead, before the 2022 election season kicks into high gear and the 2021-22 legislative session ends in March. Take less than a minute and do it now, even if you have before. Repeating your demand for reform is effective and necessary! You will feel better for having done so, trust me!
 
Here are some opportunities to support federal legislation to protect voting rights, end partisan gerrymandering and other pro-democracy measures. Many of them are remote. Visit often as the opportunities will continue to update.
 
☐ Be sure to get rest and find some calm at the end of the year
Take some much needed and well-deserved time for yourself and away from all things political! Everyone needs to "recharge" their democracy "batteries" and take some down time. You will be better for having done so and revived to keep going when you need to during 2022!
 
☐ Share this email list with others
Pass along this list and encourage your family and friends to be engaged in democracy. The only way to preserve and protect democracy is to enlarge the number of participants who engage in this ongoing struggle.
 
☐ Consider making a year-end contribution to Common Cause in Wisconsin
You help us to be proactive, outspoken, and effective. Mail your check or credit card payment to Common Cause in Wisconsin, P.O. Box 2597, Madison, WI 53701-2597. Or call 608-256-2686 with your credit card information.
 
We very much look forward to working right beside you in the year ahead. We appreciate your activism and your concern and care about our state and our nation more than we can express. Thank you so, so much and best wishes for you and yours to be healthy and happy during this Holiday season and in the new year!
 
On Wisconsin. Forward!
 
All best to you,
 
Jay Heck and Erin Grunze
--------------------------

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

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

Read More...


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Misguided State Supreme Court Ruling for "Least Change" Voting Maps Creates Urgent Need for Redistricting Reform

Tuesday - December 7, 2021




"Iowa Model" Legislation Must Get a Public Hearing and Vote
 
The narrow, conservative 4 to 3 majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court last week issued a deeply flawed and completely misguided decision regarding the criteria it says it will utilize to determine what Wisconsin's state legislative and congressional district maps will look like for the next ten years. The 2021 redistricting process went to the state supreme court after Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the hyper partisan, extremely gerrymandered voting maps rammed through the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature without a single Democratic vote, last month.
 
The G.O.P. maps, drawn in secret with almost no public input and without a single person (other than Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu) speaking or registering in support of them at the October 28th public hearing, are an updated version of the maps passed by Republicans in 2011 when they perpetrated the most extreme and partisan gerrymander in the nation that year.
 
The conservative majority Wisconsin Supreme Court "opinion" last week, was deeply flawed and illogically reasoned -- the work of ultra-right wing Justice Rebecca Bradley, whose completely fabricated concept of "least change" as the basis for adjudicating state legislative and congressional voting maps has no legitimate basis in either law or logic. Dissenting progressive Justice Rebecca Dallet pointed out that “no court in Wisconsin, state or federal, has ever adopted a least-change approach.” She went on to say, “The least-change principle is found nowhere in the Wisconsin or U.S. Constitutions.” In other words, Rebecca Bradley concocted a brand new concept simply to support extreme Republican-gerrymandered voting maps.
 
Bradley also completely misinterpreted a U.S. Supreme Court majority decision three years ago in Rucho v. Common Cause in which Chief Justice John Roberts basically "punted" partisan gerrymandering to the states because he didn't want federal courts playing such a major role in redistricting cases. But Bradley opined last week that the Wisconsin Supreme Court shouldn't consider extreme partisanship in adjudicating state legislative and congressional voting maps because partisanship was a legislative matter, not one that courts ought to consider. That directly contradicts what Roberts and the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled -- that it is precisely the province of state courts, like the Wisconsin Supreme Court, to judge, whether or not, a redistricting process is too partisan, unfair and/or unjust. Rebecca Bradley and the three other conservatives on the Wisconsin high court badly botched this decision.
 
The Wisconsin Supreme Court will consider redistricting proposals in December and in mid-January is likely to hear oral arguments before issuing a final determination of how the state legislative and congressional voting maps will look for the 2022 election and beyond. Whether or not and to what extent federal courts may intervene in this matter isn't clear at the moment. But we shouldn't expect that a federal court will contradict the misguided Wisconsin Supreme Court's apparent intention to extend extreme partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin for another decade.
 
What can be done to counter the disgust and dismay that most Wisconsinites feel right now about what the gerrymandered Republican majority in the Wisconsin Legislature and now, the conservative activists on the Wisconsin Supreme Court have done to defy the will of the people and extend and cement into place their rigged voting maps for another ten years? The answer is clear and simple. We must redouble our effort and determination to change the current corrupt status quo.
 
Obviously, the current redistricting process in Wisconsin is completely in need of reform, as we have been advocating for years now. The antidote to this poisonous gerrymandering has long resided in our neighbor to the west, Iowa, which adopted a fair, non-partisan redistricting process way back in 1980. And, it was put into place by a Republican Governor and a Republican-controlled Legislature there!
 
Legislation, with bipartisan support, to establish a similar process in Wisconsin, has been introduced in the last seven legislative sessions and has not received so much as a public hearing since 2009! Here is what you can docontact both your State Senator and your State Representative and demand that they support the bipartisan redistricting reform legislation introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature in June based on our neighboring state of Iowa's non-partisan redistricting process. Senate Bill 389 and Assembly Bill 395 is the "Iowa Model" legislation whose lead sponsors are State Sen. Jeff Smith and State Rep. Deb Andraca, who discussed the measures in the August 17th CC/WI webinar.
 
It is simple and very easy to use the tool Common Cause developed to write to both your State Senator and your State Representative and demand a public hearing and then a vote on SB 389 and AB 395 in the weeks ahead, before the 2022 election season kicks into high gear. Take less than a minute and do it now, even if you have before. Repeating your demand for reform is effective and necessary. You will feel better for doing so!
 
Instead of despairing, be determined to take action and to demand change. That's the only way reform and change has ever occurred -- in Wisconsin or in the nation. When circumstances looked most bleak, citizens rose up and channeled their frustration into positive action and, ultimately, change. What American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said nearly a century ago has never been more true than it is now, today: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
 
On Wisconsin! Forward.
 
Jay Heck
CC/WI Executive Director
--------------------------

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

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

Read More...


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Starting with the truth, CCWI provides recommendations for Wisconsin's elections

Wednesday - December 1, 2021



Common Cause Wisconsin comments today at the Wisconsin Elections Commission public meeting
 

TO: Members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission and Staff

FROM: Jay Heck, Executive Director of Common Cause in Wisconsin

DATE: December 1, 2021

RE: Statement from Common Cause Wisconsin on the Legislative Audit Report 21-19: Elections Administration


Dear Chair Jacobs, Members of the Commission, and staff,

I’m Jay Heck and, since 1996 I have had the privilege of serving as the Executive Director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, the state’s largest non-partisan political reform advocacy organization with more than 8,000 members and activists. We are Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, liberals and everything in between -- united in our commitment to transparent, accountable state government, fair elections, the preservation of our democracy and the kind of politics that serve all of the citizens of Wisconsin – above board, civil and honest.

And today, we are here to provide public comment on a few recommendations from the Legislative Audit Report released in October 2021 regarding election administration during the November 2020 elections in Wisconsin. We have prepared a condensed public statement for you now and a longer written statement with additional details.

First and foremost, we must not overlook and diminish the very significant fact that, according to experts in Wisconsin and across the nation, the 2020 election here is considered to be among the most securely run and administered in recent state history. It would benefit this commission in proceeding with the handling of the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) report to agree on this indisputable point. Only with that, as the common point shared by all Wisconsinites, it is then possible to carefully and objectively examine the election procedures that were in place in Wisconsin during a unique and unprecedented public health crisis.

Additionally, Common Cause Wisconsin supports that the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) should have been able to review, address and discuss the LAB’s findings directly with the LAB, prior to the public release of the report. All discrepancies between the LAB’s findings and WEC response and those differences and corrections should have been noted in the report before the report was publicly released. The process of releasing this report was inconsistent with past LAB procedure with regard to confirmation of the accuracy of the report. Unfortunately, the procedure of the release of the report has taken focus away from the critical analysis and recommendations of the report and given additional fodder to partisans who seek to undermine our democracy and to further curtail the ability of Wisconsinites to vote.

Finally, elections in Wisconsin, and elsewhere can always be improved. And there is opportunity to accomplish this constructively and responsibly. But it ought to start from the premise that the 2020 elections in Wisconsin were successful and remarkably well conducted. The most important question these recommendations should be answering is about how we can improve the voting experiences for Wisconsinites? How do we improve voter accessibility? And also, how do we improve and support poll worker and election clerk trainings? How do we ensure that there is sufficient and accurate voter information and data? How do we protect voter drop box access? How do we make sure elections are adequately funded throughout Wisconsin through the state budget process? Common Cause Wisconsin supports the following recommendations for improving election administration:

Risk-Limiting Audits


One area the LAB report points to as a way to strengthen the validity of election results is through risk-limiting audits (RLAs) (LAB report p84-86). RLAs can give strong assurance that the reported outcome is what a full hand count would find. Unlike other audits in Wisconsin that focus on the performance of the voting equipment, RLAs focus on validating the election results. Basically, a risk-limiting audit is a statistical methodology that shows the machine tabulated results are consistent with a full hand count. Risk-limiting audits have been piloted and performed in many states over the past several elections including, Michigan, Ohio, California, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Indiana. Recently, Texas has also passed a law to begin risk-limiting audits in their state. Risk-limiting audits are not partisan. Rather, RLAs are an adopted, rigorous, and disciplined method to ensure security and confidence in elections in a routine and transparent process based on scientifically-sound best practices, not on “thrown together investigations” because a losing candidate did not accept the outcome. The state would create parameters of the RLA and provide a uniformity of practice that is carried out by election administrators, not the individuals who are on the ballot and have a stake in the outcome of the election. Wisconsin should consider a pilot program for risk-limiting audits for 2022.


Automatic Voter Registration


The LAB report makes several recommendations regarding voter data. Common Cause Wisconsin suggests that WEC consider Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) to increase the accuracy of voter rolls and improve the security of election administration. The benefits of AVR are clear as twenty-three states have already implemented an AVR system to their election systems. If implemented, an integrated registration updating procedure would enhance the accuracy of the voter registration rolls by ensuring that voters who have moved also submit an up-to-date registration. It would also reduce the number of voters who must receive the ERIC Movers Mailing, the Four Year Maintenance Process mailing, and reduce the number of voters who need to update their voter registration with the clerks or at the polling place on election day. An AVR system in Wisconsin would be an incredible cost savings, improve voter information accuracy, and increase convenience for both voters and election officials. It is time for Wisconsin to update our systems to include automatic voter registration.


Drop Boxes


The LAB report shows a sample of the use of drop boxes across Wisconsin and gives recommendations to WEC and the legislature to set standards for how drop boxes are constructed, maintained, and secured. (LAB report p46-48 plus appendix 9). These recommendations should be implemented by setting a standard rather than setting a limit on drop boxes. All drop boxes that meet the requirements for construction, maintenance and security should be allowed to be installed by the municipal clerk to best serve the voters of that community. Drop boxes are useful, legal, and popular. We must ensure every Wisconsinite who wants to can cast a ballot, and that means protecting drop boxes, mailing absentee ballots, and preserving the right to return a sealed absentee ballot to a clerk.


Absentee Ballot Certificates/Envelope Cure Processes


The LAB also provides opportunities to strengthen areas of Wisconsin’s election administration that need clarity and standards. One such area is around absentee ballot certificate/envelope cure processes (LAB report p40-46). Currently, each municipal clerk decides to what extent voters can correct mistakes, but this is not required. Clarification and standardization should be provided to the clerks and the voters on the process of curing an absentee ballot certificate/envelope. The clarification should include the timeline for clerks to give notice to the voter when their absentee ballot envelope needs to be cured so the voter can make corrections in time for their ballot to be counted. This clarification should also include how that notice is given by the clerks to the voters. Additionally, clerks should be allowed to correct errors with reliable information, such as fixing a witness’s address or printing the witness’s name, and clarification should be made on how these corrections are to be documented. Just as election administration takes many forms across the various states, curing processes do too. However, across the country, currently 30 states have a uniform statewide curing process. It is time for Wisconsin to also adopt statewide standards for curing an absentee ballot certificate/envelope. Minor and inadvertent errors on an absentee ballot certificate/envelope should not prohibit a voter from the opportunity to correct these errors and have their vote counted. Clerks should also be provided clarity for their process to assist voters. This process should seek to yield the greatest number of votes counted holding both voter and clerk accountable while the process is uniform and clear. Unfortunately, in the latest legislative session, SB 212 / AB 198 sought only to bring uniformity to this cure process by means of adding unnecessary punishments to clerks and reducing opportunities for voters to have the ballots counted. This piece of legislation was not the answer to the absentee ballot certificate/envelope cure process problems.


Poll Worker Training


The LAB report makes recommendations to improve Wisconsin’s poll worker training to increase common knowledge and understanding of election administration across Wisconsin’s over 1,850 municipalities to ensure that election procedures and rules are consistently and accurately applied (LAB report p10-17, appendix 7). When poll workers are not adequately trained, voters risk being disenfranchised by wrongfully being turned away, not provided lawful accommodations, or polling site wait times and confusion increase. Currently, state training requirements are minimal and inconsistent. WEC’s training materials are a good resource for clerks to use and this support, along with frequent retraining and testing should be required for poll workers, chief inspectors, and special voting deputies. 


Accessibility


While the LAB report affirmed the accuracy and security of the 2020 elections, it did not address to what extent election officials are complying with laws that protect the rights of voters with disabilities and ensure the accessibility of our elections. These rights are protected by state and federal law, yet voters around the state continue to be denied accommodations required by these laws such as curbside voting or assistance completing their ballot. WEC needs additional resources and authority to provide oversight and enforcement including for the WEC Polling Place Accessibility Audits program conducted on Election Day, and the WEC Accessibility Supply Program.


The recommendations from the Legislative Audit Bureau cannot occur without the financial support of the legislature to make them happen. The LAB’s recommendations need additional funding for them to be a success and for voters to receive any benefit from their implementation. Simply calling for WEC to make improvements without providing the requisite additional resources and personnel to accomplish those changes simply will not cut it with anyone, least of all with the voters of Wisconsin who deserve to be served better.

There is always room for improvements and adjustments that can be made to better election administration and security. These are evolving matters from one election to another and always deserve to be reviewed and updated. Such reviews occur after every election. Election officials, clerks, and poll workers performed extraordinarily well under the unique and extenuating circumstances of the 2020 elections, again, which are considered to be among the most secure and successfully administered elections in recent history. It is critical that a review of 2020 be based on truth in order to be able to factually assess the value of the LAB report and the recommendations that have been put forward for public inspection and consideration.

Thank you.

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

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

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

Read More...