Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Wisconsin must repudiate this Trump-ordered assault on voting and fair elections

Tuesday - July 26, 2022



(Photo by Jim Small | Arizona Mirror)

 
By Jay Heck
 
 

On July 20, Republican Wisconsin state legislators on the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR), at the behest of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), voted to suspend an emergency rule regarding common sense clerk corrections for small omissions on absentee ballot witness certificates. While this action should have no substantive effect on election administration for now-existing Wisconsin Election Commission guidance makes clear this correction process is permissible, it is yet another example of the many right-wing attacks on the ability of Wisconsinites to be able to vote and on the dedicated election clerks throughout the state who serve we, the voters.
 
In 2020, Republican and Democratic members of the Republican-created Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) voted unanimously, 6-0, to allow election clerks to make simple corrections to incomplete addresses of witnesses signing the outside envelopes of absentee ballots.
 
Clerks could not correct the voter’s information or do anything that would alter the intention or integrity of the ballot. But it made perfect sense that a clerk should be able to add the street address number if it was missing or the zip code to the witness’ address. And no one in Wisconsin disagreed until after the November 2020 election in Wisconsin. Then, former President Donald Trump and his allies launched an all-out attack on absentee votes and voters in Wisconsin and elsewhere, falsely claiming “fraud,” “ballot harvesting” and lodging other completely untrue, baseless, made-up charges with no proof, evidence or legal standing.
 
And because of that cowardly fear of a defeated former president, Wisconsin Republican legislative leaders and their lackeys on the rules committee moved last week to prohibit common sense absentee ballot envelope corrections or curing, as it called. This is insanity.
 
Why would the majority political party in the Wisconsin Legislature (due to their extreme partisan gerrymandering of state legislative districts) vote to make it more difficult for Wisconsinites to be able to vote? Or even not to have perfectly legitimate absentee ballots counted?
 
The answer is clear by now. Republican legislators and their conservative allies on the Wisconsin Supreme Court fear the voters, they fear democracy and they fear fair and free elections because they are still under the spell and control of Trump — who lost the 2020 election by a whopping 8 million popular votes, a decisive 306-232 Electoral College vote and Wisconsin by more than 20,500 votes. That result was confirmed by a post-election canvass, a recount and by every court, federal and state, that was brought in to rule on the outcome.
 
Trump, nearly two years after the fact, still will not accept his defeat and has threatened to endorse Vos’ conspiracy theorist Republican primary opponent this August if Vos doesn’t suppress voters and won’t join Trump in trying to overturn the 2020 election.

And LeMahieu, who knows better, apparently doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to Trump.
 
The rules committee action follows the July 8 hyper-partisan 4-3 decision by conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to prohibit the use of safe, secure voter ballot drop boxes, which have long been legal and utilized in Wisconsin as a means of safely and securely delivering absentee ballots to election clerks. Because of delays and the uncertainty of the U.S. Mail and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of secure voter drop boxes made perfect sense.
 
Again, Republican and Democratic election commissioners voted unanimously to accept the widespread use of the drop boxes in 2020, and there were more than 500 in use throughout 66 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. There was not a single incident or instance of a drop box being broken into, “stuffed” with “illegal” or illegitimate ballots or any problem with their use.
 
It was only after Trump and his subordinates like Rudy Guiliani and Sydney Powell concocted the post-election “Big Steal” lie that voter drop boxes suddenly became targets. Aided in Wisconsin by Trump apologists like Janel Brandtjen, Michael Gableman, Timothy Ramthun and goaded on by Minnesota’s “Pillow Man” Mike Lindell, voter drop boxes suddenly became evil and needed to be banned.
 
That wasn’t the only damage the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s conservative majority inflicted on voters with their misguided July 8 decision. They also made it much more difficult for voters, specifically voters with disabilities and elderly voters, to be able to return completed absentee ballots to their election clerks. They ruled that voters could not have a friend, neighbor or family member return the ballot for them. That constituted “ballot harvesting” and “voter fraud” in the view of conservatives and, apparently, a majority of the Republican Party. This makes no sense at all unless the goal is to suppress the vote in Wisconsin.
 
Voter suppression is precisely what all of this is about. It began in 2011, when the Republican-controlled Legislature and then-Republican Gov. Scott Walker rammed through the most extreme and restrictive voter photo ID law in the nation — surpassing states like Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina with a long history of suppressing votes. And it has continued through the 2021-22 Wisconsin legislative session with the introduction of more than two dozen measures to make voting more difficult or to further restrict voting safely by absentee ballot or in-person early voting. Fortunately, the current governor, Tony Evers, has vetoed every one of these anti-voting, anti-American hyper-partisan proposals. But he is all that stands between them and their being enacted into law in the near future.
 
Republicans appear to have cynically calculated that these “ballot security” measures to suppress the vote may be harmful to some of their own voters, but that it will block more Wisconsinites who might vote for their political opponents. Republicans have targeted voters who reside in urban areas like Milwaukee, Madison, Racine and Green Bay. They have also homed in on college and university students by making it more difficult for that population to vote, even with a college-issued photo ID, than almost anywhere else in the nation.
 
Most cruelly, Republicans have targeted Wisconsinites with disabilities, the elderly and the poor who must rely on public transportation and don’t have or cannot easily obtain the required photo ID needed to vote in Wisconsin.
 
Republicans have not always behaved like this in Wisconsin. The question now is when, or even if, they will come to their senses and abandon this vicious assault on the very essence of our being as Americans, a promise that has made this state and this nation a beacon of freedom and hope in the world: our 233-year-old commitment to free and fair elections.
 
  

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Thursday, July 14, 2022

What you need to know to vote in the next election

Thursday - July 14, 2022



Voting has started for the August 9th Primary.
Make a plan for how you will vote.

The August Election is unique in that when we vote, we have to choose a party and ONLY vote for that party’s candidates. In Wisconsin, you can choose any party you want when you cast your ballot, but you can NOT cross over and vote for another party’s candidates on this ballot. Wisconsin is an “open” primary state. Meaning, that Wisconsin does not require voters to register with a party and therefore, voters can choose their party preference on the ballot when they vote. BUT keep in mind when casting your partisan primary ballot, you only choose one party and you only vote for candidates of that party on this ballot.
 
First, choose your method to vote in the August 9th Election.
 
You can choose which method works for you to cast your ballot. Vote by:
  1. mail-in absentee ballot,
  2. in-person absentee ballot - “early voting,”
  3. in-person on Election Day.
 
Your clerk is the best person to answer your questions about the details and deadlines regarding any of these methods. You can contact your clerk on MyVote.
 
Then, make a plan. Look over the information in this message to make sure you have what you need to vote in this important primary election, and share with others to help them be engaged voters.
 
In Wisconsin, your voting plan should include:
  1. Being registered to vote: There are multiple ways to register to vote including on Election Day. Find information about voter registration
  2. Having acceptable photo ID: You must provide photo ID to vote in Wisconsin. If you have a WI drivers license or state ID, you’re all set. Find more information about photo IDs that you can use for voting at Bring It to the Ballot.
  3. Knowing Your Ballot: Get to know what is on your ballot. Preview your ballot on MyVote.
 
Option 1: Vote by mail-in absentee ballots
 
Absentee ballots for August have begun to be mailed to voters. If you are choosing this method, make your request today! All registered voters may use www.myvote.wi.gov to request an absentee ballot by clicking "Vote Absentee by Mail." An acceptable photo ID must accompany your application, if you have not previously provided a copy of the ID.
 
You will receive your ballot in an official designated envelope from your municipal clerk. Remove all the contents, which should have one official, authorized ballot and one postage paid return envelope. There might also be additional instruction sheet(s). If your envelope is missing a ballot or return envelope, contact your clerk.
 
Use black or blue pen to fill out your ballot. Instructions for filling out the ballot are right on the ballot. Follow those.
 
Details about the Partisan Primary Ballot
 
First choose the party you wish to vote for the offices on the remainder of the ballot. After you choose the party, find the beginning of that party’s offices.
 
Continue to fill out the ballot, but only for that party. If you vote for multiple parties, your ballot will be spoiled and will not be counted. All the candidates running for offices will continue down the column and may continue into the next column. After the last office, you will see a note that says “End _____ Party Primary.”
 
Read the instructions on the front of your return envelope. The next steps need to be done with a witness in sight. These steps can and should be completed using social distancing unless the person is from your household. (NOTE: Witnesses, like voters, need to be 18 years or older and a U.S. Citizen.)
  • Put your marked ballot in the official envelope.
  • Complete your address in section 2 (some clerks complete this section for voters)
  • Sign and date your envelope
  • Your witness will also sign and provide their mailing address
 
Your ballot needs to be received by your clerk on Election Day to be counted. If you are mailing it, it’s a good idea to put it in the mail at least a week prior to Election Day. (For the August 9th Election, best to get it in the mail before August 1st).
 
Then you can also use MyVote to track your ballot, check your voter registration status, and make any updates to your voter file (like a change of address). Remember if you get stuck or have questions, your clerk contact information is also searchable on MyVote.
 
Option 2: Vote by In-person Absentee Ballot (Early Vote)
 
If you’d like to vote before Election Day in-person, check with your clerk on locations and times beginning July 26, 2022 and ending August 7, 2022. Each clerk sets their own locations, dates, and hours so it’s important to get specific information for your municipality. Casting your ballot early minimizes lines on Election Day, as well as fits best into your schedule. Visit your municipal clerk’s website or contact them to find out about your opportunities to vote early. 
 
Option 3: Vote In-person on Election Day
 
Prepare now if you’re going to vote at your polling place on Election Day, August 9. Polls are open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM on Election Day no matter where you vote in Wisconsin. You can register to vote on Election Day at your polling location if you need to register to vote. (See above note for more registration information.) You can look at your voter registration status and find your polling place all on MyVote.
 
Get more information on the candidates:
Get to know who wants to represent you and which candidate best represents your values before you vote. Find candidate and ballot information from the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin at Vote411.
 
Have questions or need some assistance?
Beyond the resources of your municipal clerk, help is just a call, text, or email away.
 
  • Call or text the WI Voter Helpline at 608-285-2141 and you will be connected to a nonpartisan person who can help answer all your questions. You can also request services such as getting assistance at the DMV to get an ID to vote or having someone witness your absentee ballot.
  • Voters with disabilities have the right to an accessible polling place. This includes the right to use an accessible voting machine, getting assistance marking a ballot, and using curbside voting. Call the Disability Rights Wisconsin Voter Hotline for assistance: 1-844-347-8683. Or email: info@disabilityvote.org. Additional online resources are also at the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition website.
  • Contact Vote Riders if you need immediate assistance with a photo ID to vote. You can get free, in-state ID assistance ASAP from the online form.
  • If you experience problems at the polls or have questions, there is help. Call Election Protection at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) for support from nonpartisan election protection volunteers with questions or to report problems.
 
Every election matters! Take the time to cast your ballot in August's partisan primary election.
 
Jay Heck
State Director of common Cause in Wisconsin
--------------------------

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

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

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Monday, July 11, 2022

Wisconsin Supreme Court's Decision to Make Voting by Absentee Ballot More Difficult and Burdensome

Monday - July 11, 2022


What It Means for Wisconsin Voters in the August Primary and November General Elections 

On Friday morning, the conservative, anti-voter majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 that the use of safe and secure drop boxes for the return of absentee ballots in Wisconsin must be severely limited from now on and that the return of absentee ballots to election clerks will also be severely limited to only the person filling out and voting with that absentee ballot. Both of these rulings will impose undue hardships and barriers to voting for thousands of Wisconsinites with disabilities and for elderly voters in particular, and for all voters generally.

The Teigen vs. Wisconsin Elections Commission decision was not entirely unexpected but is still massively disappointing to those of us who believe in fair and free elections in this state and that voting ought to be safe, convenient, simple and straightforward rather than more difficult, uncertain, onerous and burdensome that this decision now makes it and that the majority party in the Wisconsin Legislature has been trying to do for several years now.

In 2020, because of the nationwide COVID 19 epidemic, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) voted unanimously to allow the placement of safe and secure voting drop boxes as a reasonable and sensible way to return absentee ballots to election clerks, especially close to an election day because of the unreliability of the US Mail as the sole means of returning absentee ballots not cast in-person (as in early voting). By 2021, the number of safe and secure drop boxes had risen to 570 spread across 66 of Wisconsin's 72 counties. But, because Wisconsin statutes do not explicitly authorize the utilization of drop boxes, opponents who want to restrict voting sued to ban them and in Friday's misguided and unreasonably narrow ruling, conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed.

Likewise, WEC unanimously voted in 2020 to allow a neighbor, friend or family member to deliver the absentee ballot of a person with disabilities or an elderly voter to the election clerk but on Friday, conservatives outvoted the moderate justices 4 to 3 and outrageously stipulated that disabled voters or elderly citizens had to deliver their absentee ballots themselves, without regard to their physical ability to be able to do so. Fortunately, according to the Disability Rights Wisconsin, there are federal protections in place that will allow for assistance for voters with disabilities to return absentee ballots.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court was silent on the question of whether or not a family member, neighbor or friend can still simply take the absentee ballot of a disabled person or elderly voter and drop it in a US Mailbox.

As a practical matter, the implications for Wisconsin voters for the upcoming August partisan primary and the November general election seem to be these:

  • Safe and secure voter drop boxes that are "unstaffed" are now prohibited throughout Wisconsin. There is considerable doubt and ambiguity at the moment about whether or not a "staffed" drop box that is attached to an election clerk's office will be permitted to return your absentee ballot. For now, we would advise erring on the side of caution and either getting your absentee ballot in the US Mail in plenty of time (two weeks) before Election Day or delivering your own absentee ballot in person to your election clerk's office before Election Day.
  • If you are disabled or otherwise unable to deliver your own absentee ballot to your election clerk, call your election clerk's office to arrange for your ballot to be picked up and/or call Disability Rights Wisconsin "voter hotline" at 844-347-8683 for assistance.
  • You should place your own absentee ballot in a US Mailbox yourself, if you plan on voting by mail. But if you are disabled or otherwise unable to get to a US Mailbox by yourself, call your local election clerk and/or the DRW "voter hotline" at 844-347-8683.

    Our friends and legal experts at the Wisconsin voting rights law firm, Law Forward issued this guidance on Friday morning after the decision was released:

    Law Forward’s preliminary analysis of the decision and what it means, for now, for voting in Wisconsin

    • Drop Boxes: A majority of the Court determined that, under Wisconsin statutes pertaining to absentee voting, unstaffed absentee ballot drop boxes are not lawful. While there is some confusion, it also appears that a majority of the Court agree that staffed drop boxes are also unlawful.

    • In-person Absentee Ballot Return Assistance: The Court determined that, as a matter of Wisconsin law, only the voter may return their own ballot in person to the office of the municipal clerk. Notably, the Court did not resolve the conflict this causes with federal law, which provides that certain voters have the right to assistance of their choice in all aspects of voting. That conflict remains an open question.

    • Assistance Mailing Absentee Ballots: The lead opinion, and a majority of the Court, specifically declined to address the question of whether an elector may receive assistance in mailing their completed absentee ballot back to the clerk. Whether an elector may use such assistance remains an open question of Wisconsin law after this ruling (there is no law expressly prohibiting or allowing it), and the status quo on this issue has not changed. Nor does the opinion address federal law, which protects the ability of certain voters to cast their ballots using assistance.

    • WEC Guidance Moving Forward: A majority of the Court did not reach the issue of whether the WEC guidance on unstaffed drop boxes and absentee ballot return assistance constituted rules under Wisconsin law, which would require additional time and procedure. While this may be resolved in the future, this decision does not appear to change WEC’s authority to issue such guidance.

    CC/WI will update you with any new or different information about the decision, if need be, in the weeks ahead.

    The most important action you can take to counter this ill-advised, misguided Wisconsin Supreme Court decision and the continued voter suppression measures and actions being taken by those who seek to make it more difficult to vote in order to gain or maintain partisan political power is to make sure you are fully prepared, credentialed and ready to vote this August and then, again this November and also in the very critical and consequential Wisconsin Supreme Court election in April, 2023!

    Here is some information about voting which we encourage you to utilize and share with your family, friends, neighbors, and others who care about democracy and about free and fair elections in Wisconsin and in the nation:

    Have a plan to vote. Determine which one of these three methods to cast your ballot works best for you for the August 9th Primary Election and then for the November 8th General Election:
    • Vote an absentee ballot that is mailed to you, OR
    • Vote during a two week period prior to Election Day (times, locations, and dates vary by municipality so connect your clerk to find out your options), OR
    • Vote on Election Day between 7AM and 8PM.

    Register to vote and check your voter registration. Registering to vote online is available through July 20th at MyVote.wi.gov. You can also check your voter registration status to make sure everything is correct and up to date. After July 20th, you can register in person with your clerk or on Election Day when you go to vote.

    Help others to be registered and be ready to voteMyVote.wi.gov is the best place to start making your plan to vote, get answers to your questions, find important deadlines, and connect with your clerk. Additional information is at the Common Cause Wisconsin website.

    Our determination and resolve to ensure our voices are heard and our votes are counted has never been more important than now.

    Forward!

    Sincerely,
    Jay Heck
    State Director of common Cause in Wisconsin
    --------------------------

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

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

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    Thursday, July 7, 2022

    The 2021-2022 Republican Gerrymander in Wisconsin and the Upcoming November Election

    Thursday - July 7, 2022


    Cartoon by Phil Hands for the Wisconsin State Journal


    Which Side are Candidates for WI State Office On?

     
    In 2011, shortly after the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker rammed through into law the most secretive, expensive (to taxpayers), unfair and hyper partisan redistricting process in the history of Wisconsin and the most partisan of any state in the nation that year, Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) began to determine how to avoid a similar disaster from being repeated in the next redistricting process -- in 2021-22. CC/WI began the process of uniting pro- redistricting reform state legislators of both political parties, such as former State Senators Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and numerous State Representatives behind a single reform measure, best suited for Wisconsin.
     
    That measure was based on the non-partisan redistricting process that our neighboring state of Iowa had enacted into law and put into place in 1980 under a Republican-controlled Legislature and a Republican Governor (Robert Ray). It made perfect sense for Wisconsin to emulate Iowa as both states have similar state constitutions which specify that the state legislature in each state must have the final say in determining (voting for) the boundaries of newly drawn state legislative and congressional districts but both state constitutions are silent on what entity can actually draw and determine the district lines.
     
    Republicans (and Democrats) in Iowa, to better serve their taxpaying voters and reduce partisan wrangling and expensive litigation, ceded that specific responsibility to a non-partisan civil service entity called the Iowa Legislative Services Agency (LSA), which draws new state legislative and congressional district boundaries according to a very strict and specific set of non-partisan criteria and without any interference from the partisan elected state legislators whose districts the LSA are altering. Those criteria include keeping counties, cities, towns, and communities of interest intact and together, to the extent possible, something partisan Wisconsin Republican gerrymandering map-drawers routinely ignore. In Iowa, past election results are not viewed or considered when the LSA draws its maps, whereas in Wisconsin, preserving and expanding partisan political advantage and power is the primary consideration of GOP legislative leaders. Fairness and preserving the confidence of Iowa voters in the redistricting process is the overarching principle guiding the Iowa LSA and Iowa legislators and Governors of both political parties. Preserving and expanding hyper partisan political power and control and ignoring what is good for voters and democracy are the drivers of Republican legislative leaders (Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu) and their highly paid, gerrymandering map drawers in Wisconsin.
     
    What a sharp contrast in the results of the redistricting processes in the two states this year!
     
    In Iowa, Republicans, who possessed majorities in both state legislative chambers and the Governorship, came together with legislative Democrats to pass state legislative and congressional voting maps -- drawn by the nonpartisan Iowa LSA -- with near unanimity. No litigation, no lawsuits, no added cost to Iowa taxpayers.
     
    In Wisconsin, majority Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature rammed through their hyper partisan state legislative and congressional voting maps (even more unfair and slanted in their favor than in 2011) without a single Democratic vote. They were vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers and then went to both the conservative majority dominated U.S. Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. With significant cost and burden to Wisconsin taxpayers.
     
    The ultimate outcome of that expensive process (costing Wisconsin taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars) was that while Wisconsin's eight congressional district voting maps are a bit less unfair and partisan than in 2011 (and we now have two "competitive" congressional districts in the state), our state's 99 Assembly districts and 33 State Senate districts are now tilted even more unfairly in favor of Republicans. Wisconsin's redistricting process was one of the most polarizing, unfair, costly (for taxpayers) and undemocratic of any in the nation during 2021-22. Iowa’s process was one of the most fair and least litigious or costly to Iowa voters.
     
    And yet, the overall outcome in Wisconsin could have been even worse were it not for the tremendous energy, participation and support for a fairer and more non-partisan redistricting process on the part of thousands of engaged, dedicated Wisconsinites.
     
    CC/WI, our members, and other organizations were united behind the "Iowa Model" redistricting reform proposal, and we built a strong network of support for redistricting reform far surpassing anything that existed in Wisconsin just a decade ago. And the fight for a fair, non-partisan redistricting process continues.
     
    This year -- a critical election year in Wisconsin -- CC/WI will do what we have done in every election since 2012 -- issue a call for the support and willingness to co-sponsor "Iowa Model" redistricting reform legislation -- of all candidates for the Wisconsin Assembly and State Senate in 2022. We will issue this call after the August partisan primary so that voters will know who supports a fair, non-partisan redistricting process and who supports the corrupt status quo.
     
    We will also list the positions on redistricting reform (specifically the "Iowa Model") of the statewide candidates for public office in Wisconsin.
     
    Those candidates (both incumbents and challengers) who proactively contact CC/WI in support of "Iowa Model" redistricting reform legislation will be included on a "master list" of pro-reform, pro-democracy, pro-voter candidates that will continually be updated and made available to the media and the public, at large. Those who fail to contact us will not be listed as redistricting reform supporters.
     
    For your information, here is a link to CC/WI's testimony in the Wisconsin Legislature last Fall on the hyper partisan, unfair Republican gerrymandered state legislative and congressional voting maps. The state legislative maps were eventually approved by conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
     
    Please contact us with any questions or comments you may have about redistricting reform and gerrymandering. There will be more on all of this later in the Summer.
     
    Forward!
    Jay Heck

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

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

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

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