After a century as a trailblazer for progressive democracy reforms, Wisconsin has become what one local union leader ruefully calls “a kind of laboratory for oligarchs to implement their political and economic agenda.” This assessment, delivered by David Poklinkoski, president of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2304, captures Wisconsin Democrats’ dim view of the brazenly partisan redistricting plan masterminded by GOP Governor Scott Walker. But the redistricting plan, so central in empowering Walker and his legislative allies to roll back social reforms in Wisconsin, is now the target of a federal lawsuit. First heard by federal judges in May, the suit is now before an appeals court that is expected to rule this summer. That ruling could reverberate in other states around the country with heavily GOP-tilted electoral maps. While a few Democratic-controlled state governments have district maps that favor their party, the 2010 Republican electoral sweep set off a nationally-coordinated and harshly partisan round of redistricting in states where both the governor and legislative majorities were Republican. Now, Republican-imposed plans in a number of other states—including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas—stand to be affected by Wisconsin’s redistricting ruling, which will be handed down by the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals.
Articles about voting issues in Wisconsin.
Whether Wisconsin’s unique nonpartisan elections board was a failed experiment or was so successful that it became a political target, this much is true: It goes away this week. Targeted for elimination by Gov. Scott Walker and fellow Republicans who control the Legislature, the Government Accountability Board officially disbands as of Thursday. It was the only nonpartisan elections and oversight board in the country. In its place are two new commissions made up of partisan appointees that will regulate Wisconsin’s elections, ethics, campaign finance and lobbying laws. Those new commissions look a lot like the partisan panels that were widely disparaged as ineffective before they were replaced by the GAB eight years ago.
Wisconsin: As the Government Accountability Board ends, what’s the future for campaign finance regulation? | The Capital Times
Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, the election and campaign agency that its supporters laud as a pioneering success and its critics call a failed experiment, ends this month after nearly a decade in existence. The board, born in bipartisanship from the state’s caucus scandal in 2001, when both parties ran political campaigns from the Capitol, was the only nonpartisan model of its kind in the country with six former judges appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate to oversee elections. It was armed with a budget unfettered by Legislative oversight to investigate campaign finance, ethics, and lobbying complaints. Its dissolution on June 30, which came with a rewrite of the state’s campaign finance rules, signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Scott Walker, is a necessary reform to some, but step backwards for others who question whether violations of campaign finance law will be aggressively policed and how citizens will know from where money flows to politicians.
Wisconsin: Legislature’s budget committee approves $250,000 for voter ID education | Wisconsin State Journal
The Legislature’s budget committee Monday approved spending $250,000 for a public education campaign on the controversial voter ID law. The campaign, details of which still must be settled by the new Elections Commission, would inform the public about the need to bring a valid photo ID to vote in the upcoming fall primary and general elections. The money would pay for radio and television public service announcements, website ads, online videos and possibly ads at movie theaters, on buses and on social media. The campaign includes English and Spanish ads newspapers can run, but doesn’t include funds for print ads, spokesman Reid Magney said. The committee passed the motion unanimously with one member absent after addressing concerns raised by a Republican lawmaker that the campaign would be a “waste of money” because most people already know about the law.
Wisconsin: Joint Finance Committee to consider voter ID education campaign, GAB transition | The Cap Times
The Legislature’s budget committee will meet next week to discuss funding a voter ID education campaign and transitioning the state Government Accountability Board into new elections and ethics commissions. Last month, the GAB requested $250,000 from the Joint Finance Committee to educate voters about Wisconsin’s voter ID law before the 2016 presidential election. The agency has proposed two informational campaigns with different combinations of radio, TV and digital advertisements. One option would also include pre-show advertisements at movie theaters, interior bus ads and sponsored Facebook posts. Gov. Scott Walker approved the voter ID law, which requires certain forms of photo identification to be shown at the polls in order to vote, in 2011.
A federal judge will not put a lawsuit over Wisconsin’s voter identification law on hold while another similar challenge is pending in a different court. The U.S. District Court in Milwaukee on Wednesday posted a note in the court file saying the state Department of Justice’s request for a stay in the case was denied. The state requested on Monday that the case be put on hold. The American Civil Liberties Union wants to allow people to vote in the August primary election even if they are having trouble getting the required ID.
Groups advocating for voting rights said they will soon ask a federal judge to allow people to vote in Wisconsin’s August primary election if they are having trouble getting a required ID. The request comes even as attorneys for the state Department of Justice are trying to put the case on hold. The American Civil Liberties Union will be filing a motion in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee soon to make sure “voters who face a reasonable impediment to getting an ID” can still vote with an affidavit, said the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project attorney Sean Young on Tuesday. A federal appeals court in April ruled that the ACLU and another group challenging the law, the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty, could seek such an order. Under the law, voters must show one of the following in order to vote: a Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card, a U.S. passport, military ID card, college IDs meeting certain requirements, naturalization certificates or IDs issued by a Wisconsin-based American Indian tribe. Residents can apply for a state ID with the Department of Motor Vehicles but must prove personal details and citizenship.
Wisconsin Assembly district boundaries that Republicans drew up five years ago have robbed Democratic-leaning voters of their voices, attorneys argued as they wrapped up a federal trial over whether the lines are constitutional. Gerald Hebert, an attorney for a group of voters who sued over the boundaries, told the panel the boundaries represent the worst example of gerrymandering in modern history and punish Democrats and their supporters by diluting their voting strength. “Their right to vote is fundamental,” Hebert said during closing arguments. “It’s our voice in the government. It’s the only voice many of us have. It’s not right to target people and harm them because of their voting history. What did they do? They had the nerve to participate in the political process and go to the polls.”
Backers of Bernie Sanders are pushing for a vote at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention this weekend that they hope will pressure the state’s superdelegates to switch their allegiance from Hillary Clinton to the Vermont senator. The vote on the nonbinding resolution, set for Saturday afternoon, will come on the second day of the convention. On Friday, party leaders and those running for office, most notably Senate candidate Russ Feingold, will speak to delegates at the meeting in Green Bay. The party convention is designed as a way to rally Democrats heading into the election season. Feingold’s rematch against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is the biggest race on the ballot, but Democrats are also eyeing the open 8th Congressional District seat in northeast Wisconsin and hoping to make gains in the state Legislature, where Republicans control both the Senate and Assembly. The keynote speaker at the convention on Friday night is U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
Wisconsin Assembly district boundaries that Republicans drew up five years ago have robbed Democratic-leaning voters of their voices, attorneys argued Friday as they wrapped up a federal trial over whether the lines are constitutional. Gerald Hebert, an attorney for a group of voters who sued over the boundaries, told the panel that the boundaries represent the worst example of gerrymandering in modern history and punish Democrats and their supporters by diluting their voting strength. “Their right to vote is fundamental,” Hebert said during closing arguments. “It’s our voice in the government. It’s the only voice many of us have. It’s not right to target people and harm them because of their voting history. What did they do? They had the nerve to participate in the political process and go to the polls.”