Sen. Tammy Baldwin joins nonpartisan coalition seeking to expand national service programs

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has signed onto a bipartisan piece of legislation that, if passed, would expand national service programs significantly to help the country respond to and recover from the public health, economic, and social crises facing the nation in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act would double the number of AmeriCorps positions available this year to 150,000 and provide a total of 600,000 service opportunities nationwide over the next three years to unemployed youth and others looking to assist their communities. These positions could support a variety of response and recovery efforts based on community needs, including expanding food pantry capacity, mentoring and tutoring at-risk students, bridging health inequities by expanding access to COVID-19 screening and testing, and more. 

The legislation, led by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), is also cosponsored by surprising set of legislators not normally consisted as being on the same page, including Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jack Reed (D-RI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Angus King (I-ME), and Susan Collins (R-ME).

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOP succeeds in getting Wisconsin Supreme Court to overturn Evers’ ‘Safe at Home’ law

In yet another sign of the insanity that is gripping the state’s conservatives and the GOP in general, the Wisconsin Supreme Court yesterday struck down the state’s “Safe-at home” law, thus creating increased confusion over how residents of the state should deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

By a 6-3 vote, the court sided with the leaders of the Republican-controlled state legislature who challenged an attempt by the state’s executive branch, led by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Joining the GOP in challenging the order,which came from the state’s chief public health officer, were numerous business groups and organizations.

For more on this, check out this article from the Journal Sentinel.

If you are legally inclined, check out the the court’s complete Safe at Home decision. Thanks to Ken Knight for providing this from Ed Fallone, the Marquette University law professor who was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat on the state’s top court earlier this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin not the only state when voter suppression is alive and well; it is a nationwide effort

You are probably already aware that in Wisconsin there is an ongoing attempt by Republicans and conservatives to purge thousands of voters from the rolls, What you may not be aware of is this is not an isolated movement; it is happening all over the county. Unfortunately, we often do not get the whole picture when we read about efforts like this in Wisconsin. But here is an article that describes what is happening elsewhere in the United States.

To learn more, check out this article from Mother Jones.

Wisconsin Dems may be a role model for the rest of the United States; Karofsky win demonstrates value of digital outreach

Newly elected Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jill Karofsky.

 

So, how did Jill Karofsky upend incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly in the battle for Kelly’s seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court? The New York Times thinks it has the answer. In a On Politics report published today (April 14), the Times says it was smart use of digital media, and in particular, text messaging. The article suggests that because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, Karofksy’s campaign was forced to switch tactics–no more door-to-door canvassing–and it worked.

Read the full item from the New York Times

Judge Lisa Neubauer retains seat on appeals court; turns back Republican challenger, Judge Paul Bugenhagen

Judge Lisa Neubauer (center)

In another one of the pretend nonpartisan judicial elections, Lisa Neubauer, the chief judge of the District II Appeals Court, which is headquartered in Waukesha, defeated Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Paul Bughagen

Judge Neubauer attracted  228,670 votes (54%) to Bugenhgen’s 194,959 (46%)

In Green Lake, Neubauser, who was upset in an extremely close race last year by Brian Hagedorn when the two sought a seat on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, surprisingly topped Bugenhagen, 2,453 (54%) to 2068 (46%). By most accounts, Green Lake is a strong Republican county.

Green Lake County is one of the counties included in District II.

As with other so-called nonpartisan judicial elections in Wisconsin, this one also had strong political affiliations with Bughagen receiving support from Republicans and conservatives, while Neubauer was the favorite of progressives and Democrats.

Read article on the election from the Journal Sentinel.

Jill Karofsky upsets incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly for seat on the state’s top court

Newly elected Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Jill Karofsky spoke at the Jan. 4 meeting of the Green Lake County Dems & Friends.

 

Judge Jill Karofsky’s win in a fight for a seat on the state’s top court was a bit of a pleasant surprise

The Dane County Circuit Court Judge not only defeated incumbent Wisconsin State Supreme Court Judge Daniel Kelly for his seat on the state’s top court, she won by almost 10 percent, a strong showing in a race that had most pre-election day observers uncertain of its outcome.

Karofsky received 812,520 votes to Kelly’s 679,820. Together, they pulled in just over 1.5 million votes. Karofsky’s total reflects 54.5 percent of the vote; Kelly had 45.6 percent.

In 2019, the last time a spot on the top court was open, Brian Hagedorn, heavily backed by conservatives and Republicans, upset Lia Neubauer in a close race. Neubauer, who had the support of most Democrats and Progressives, had been favored. Hagedorn outpolled Neubauer by just over 6,000 votes, 606,414 to 600,433.

Officially, the contest on Tuesday was nonpartisan, but as with the Neubauer-Hagedorn battle, it was clearly a fight between the state’s two major political parties. 

President Donad Trump had publicly endorsed both Hagedorn and Kelly. Kelly had been appointed to the court in 2016 by former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Complicating the Karofsky/Kelly race was a number of unexpected issues. First, the CORVID-19 pandemic kept most people from voting in person on Tuesday. And in some locations, such as Milwaukee, only five polling places were open on Tuesday which resulted in long lines of people waiting for hours to vote.

Because of the pandemic, many voters voted via absentee ballots and there were reports of people requesting but not receiving their ballots in time to vote. Finally, according to other reports, some bags of absentee ballots were found sitting in some post offices after the polls closed on Tuesday, too late to be counted. 

A key to the Karofsky win appears to be the strong voter turnout. Last year, Neubauer and Hagedorn together earned 1,207,564 votes.  This year, Karofsky and Kelly collected a total of just under 1.5 million votes, for an gain of 300,000. Neubauer, in 2019, gained 606,433 votes. Karofsky, who ran a more aggressive campaign, topped her this April by about 212,000 votes. Kelly also did slightly better than Hagedorn,  his conservative benchmate, pulling in about 73,000 more votes than Hagedorn.

View article on the Karofsky/Kelley race from the Wisconsin Examiner.

 

 

Will the April 7 election in Wisconsin go down in history as one of the worst ever? Will every voter actually get a chance to vote?

Several states have already pushed out their spring general elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on voting. Here in Wisconsin, with the election just a week away, the powers to be still can’t agree on critical issues that are impacting the ability of people to vote.

For example, many polling places, such as schools, have closed down and have been closed for some time. Where will people go to vote? And there may not be enough poll workers to staff those polling places that are open. How are people who do vote in person going go maintain the desired “social distancing”?

For more on these critical issues, check out this article from the Wisconsin Examiner.

MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THIS OUT: A critical look at the Wisconsin Supreme Court race between Daniel Kelly and Jill Karofsky

If you are looking for an excellent analysis of the critical Wisconsin Supreme Court battle being waged right now by incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly, who was appointed to the bench by former Republican Governor Scott Walker, and challenger Jill Karofsky, who is a Dane County Circuit Court judge, this article from the Wisconsin Examiner, is an excellent read.

The thrust of the article is that the election will decide the direction of the court for years to come. Accordingly, if you are concerned about the fairness of our court system, you need to understand where both candidates sit on key issues.

Thanks to Ken Knight for alerting us to the article, which you can view and read here.

When you’re done with the article, please share it with everyone you know who has not yet voted, and urge them to share with their friends, neighbors, family, and acquaintances.

Conservatives and the Republican State Leadership Committee running misleading ads in effort to defeat Jill Karofsky

Judge Jill Karofsky is a candidate for the Wisconsin State Supreme Court seat now held by conservative Daniel Kelly, a Scott Walker appointee.

They have started, as expected. Conservative groups opposed to Judge Jill Karofsky have started running ads against her as she fights to take a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat away from seating Justice Daniel Kelley, who was appointed to the bench by former Republican Governor Scott Walker.

Karofsky and Kelley face off in the April 7 spring general election.

According to PolitiFacts, the ads contain wrong information. Why are we not surprised? In 2018, conservatives backing Brian Hagedorn, who was battling favored Lisa Nuebauer for a seat on the state’s top court, also launched a series of last-minute ads, mostly on television, that distorted her record. Neubauer was apparently caught off her guard and many observers feel the negative ad campaign helped Hagedorn, another favorite of the Walker administration, upset Neubauer.

Could the same thing happen to Karofsky, who is campaigning hard for the post? Guess we will have to wait and see. The irony, of course, is the election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court is supposed to be nonpartisan.  Clearly, it is not, with Kelly receiving considerable support for the state’s Republican Party and Karofsky earning support from many Democrats. 

Read more from the PolitiFacts article.

Marsy’s Law question is on your ballot. If you are not sure what this is, we offer several explanations

One of the items on your ballot this April (or now if you are voting early) deals with a somewhat controversial amendment to the state’s constitution that supporters of the referendum claim will enhance and protect victim’s rights. On the surface, this sounds great, but there are also opponents of the measure. In the media, it is called Marsy’s Law.

If you want to understand both sides of the argument, check out this 2018 article from the Pew Charitable Trusts website. 

If you want to know more about this, you can Google it and you will find a wealth of information that presents both sides.

Here is an article that describes how in Pennsylavia the ACLU and the League of Women Voters sued to prevent it being placed on the ballot.

View a PBS segment on the law.

Wisconsin Elections Commission urges absentee voting; make sure you are registered to vote

The Wisconsin Elections Commission strongly urges anyone who is concerned about Coronavirus COVID-19 exposure to make plans now to vote absentee for the April 7 Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary.

“If you are worried about getting to the polls on Election Day, make sure you are registered to vote at your current address and with your current name and request an absentee ballot as soon as possible,” said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief elections official.

Acting by Wednesday, March 18, is especially important for anyone who needs to register to vote, Wolfe said. “We want everyone who is eligible and who wants to vote to be able to do so safely,” she said. If your name or address has changed since you need to register with your current information.  You can check your registration status at myvote.wi.gov, click on “My Voter Info.”

The WEC is working closely with county and municipal clerks throughout the state to help them prepare for a safe and healthy election. The WEC is holding three webinars throughout the day Monday for clerks.

On Thursday, the six-member, bi-partisan Elections Commission took unanimous action to protect voters in nursing homes.  Wolfe said the Commissioners will be holding additional meetings in the coming weeks as further action is necessary to protect voters and election officials during the voting process.

WEC is also working closely with Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Department of Health Services.

How to Register to Vote by the Deadline

Wednesday, March 18 is the deadline for electors to register to vote by mail or online for the Presidential Preference Primary and Spring Election. After this date, electors must register in person in the municipal clerk’s office or at the polling place.

According to state law, mailed voter registration forms must be postmarked no later than the third Wednesday before the election. Online registration closes at 11:59 p.m. the same day.

Online voter registration is available at https://myvote.wi.gov. There are two ways you can register using the website:

  • People with a Wisconsin driver license or state ID card whose address is current with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation can complete their online registration immediately. People who need to update their address with DOT can accomplish that online and complete their online registration.
  • People without a Wisconsin driver license or state ID card can fill out the voter registration form online, then print it, sign it and mail it to their municipal clerk’s office along with a proof-of residence document. The website has detailed instructions. If you do not have a printer where you are, you can save the completed form as a PDF and make arrangements to have a family member or a friend with a printer, or a copy center, to print it for you.

Voter registration forms that can be printed and filled out by hand are also available here in English: https://elections.wi.gov/forms/el-131-fillable

Voter registration forms that can be printed and filled out by hand are also available here in Spanish: https://elections.wi.gov/forms/el-131-spanish

Remember, the deadline to register online or by mail is Wednesday, March 18.

Voters who miss the deadline may also register in their municipal clerk’s office until the Friday before the election, April 3 or at the polls on election day.

How to Request an Absentee Ballot

There are several ways registered voters can request absentee ballots. If they have internet access, the easiest way is to sign up at MyVote Wisconsin, https://myvote.wi.gov.

Just look for the “Vote Absentee” button near the top of the page. On a mobile phone, use the menu button in the upper right corner of the website. There is a three-step process that starts with putting in your name and date of birth, followed by requesting your ballot. If you don’t already have a photo ID on file with your clerk’s office, you can upload a copy. Mobile phone users can take a picture and upload it to MyVote. Absentee ballot requests submitted this way go directly to your clerk’s office, and you can track your ballot by returning to the website.

Voters can also request absentee ballots by mailing, emailing or faxing their municipal clerk’s office. You can find your clerk’s contact information on MyVote Wisconsin. These requests must be accompanied by a copy of your photo ID.   If you already have a photo ID on file from previous absentee requests under your current registration, you will not need to provide it again.

Voters who are indefinitely confined, meaning they may have difficulty getting to the polls for reason of age, illness, infirmity, or disability are not required to provide a photo ID.  Voters in care facilities can have a representative of the facility confirm the resident’s identity instead of providing a photo ID. More information on photo ID and exemptions can be found at bringit.wi.gov

The deadline for registered voters to request an absentee ballot be mailed to you is the Thursday before the election, April 2. However, the WEC urges voters not to wait, due to possible delays in mail delivery.  If you get an absentee ballot mailed to you, you can still decide to vote at the polls on Election Day if you haven’t returned it.

Your absentee ballot must be received in your clerk’s office or at your polling place by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Again, the WEC urges voters to request and return ballots as soon as possible.

Next Steps

At its March 12 meeting, the Commission affirmed that it is ready to meet for an emergency meeting if health officials issue additional guidance that impacts elections.  At this time the Commission has not considered any additional changes to the process, dates or deadlines for the April 7 election. The Commission is also working with state leaders to determine the legal mechanisms for making future changes should they be needed.  

“The Commission and WEC staff recognize that this is an evolving situation and will continue to rely on the guidance of public health officials.  We all stand ready to adjust as directed to ensure the safety of clerks, poll workers and voters,” said Wolfe.

 

 

 

Karofsky and Kelley debate live on WisconsinEye Thursday noon

Judge Jill Karofsky

Just got word that the debate Thursday, March 12, 2020, between Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly and challenger Judge Jill Karofsky can be viewed live at noon on WisconsinEye.org. It is slated to start at noon. If you miss the debate as it happens, you can view it later on WisconsinEye.org.

 

From A to Z, Allen and Zimdars headline March 7 Green Lake County Dems & Friends meeting at Caestecker Public Library

This is another in the continuing series of informative, stimulating, and exciting meetings being hosted monthly by the Green Lake County Dems & Friends.

This Saturday, March 7, we’ll hear from Mary Allen, the district administrator of Schools in Green Lake, and Nate Zimdars, an announced candidate for the state Senate seat being vacated by long-time Republican Luther Olsen.

Allen will explain why the Green Lake School District is asking voters to approve a $4.3 million (over four years)  referendum on April 7. Zimdars will discuss his desire to represent us in Madison.

Green Lake School District Administrator Mary Allen

While Allen’s presentation will zero in on the district’s needs, her presentation’s backdrop is the fact that unlike most of the state’s school districts, the Green Lake District does not receive school aid funding from the state. 

Additionally, since the GOP-led legislature, under the leadership of former Republican Governor Scott Walker capped the amount a district could raise annually, districts across the state have not been able to pay for needed physical plant improvements without going to referenda. 

Nate Zimdars spoke at an earlier Green Lake County Dems & Friends meeting.

The question voters in the district are being asked is: “Shall the School District of Green Lake, Green Lake County, Wisconsin be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $810,000 for the 2020-2021 school year, by $975,000 for the 2021-2022 school year, by $1,200,000 for the 2022-2023 school year and by $1,400,000 for the 2023-2024 school year, for non-recurring purposes consisting of operational costs to maintain instruction programs, staffing, and technology and capital project costs associated with facilities maintenance?”

Come to our meeting tomorrow to learn why Allen and the Green Lake School District want an affirmative answer to the question.

Zimdars, from Ripon, will explain why he is seeking election in a district that has been gerrymandered by Republicans to favor their party. 

 

Overflow crowd hears Matt Rothschild’s admonition to keep working for fair maps

 

 

An overflow group of approximately 60 concerned voters attended a presentation last night in Montello on fair maps. The presentation, featuring Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, was the first of two “community conversations” sponsored by the Marquette County Democratic Party and Fair Maps Midstate. 

Rothschild, a virtual walking encyclopedia of Wisconsin politics, told the gathering that drew attendees from five counties, that their fight for nonpartisan redistricting or fair maps was a vital component of a multi-pronged effort to do away with the state’s highly gerrymandered voting districts.

At the same time, Rothschild, who is headquartered in Madison but who is a regular visitor to communities across Wisconsin, told the attendees in Montello, which is in Marquette County, that the battle to create nonpartisan voting districts won’t happen soon.

“This is not a sprint,” Rothschild said, “it is a marathon race, and those of us who are seeking to ensure that in the future we have voting districts that are competitive and that reflect communities of interest, need to be prepared for a long battle.”

Rothschild said that as long as the state’s legislative leadership is not willing to consider a nonpartisan approach to creating voting districts using a process based on the Iowa model where the redistricting process is done by an independent organization, not elected officials–it is up to the voters of the state to apply pressure on their elected officials, primarily the members of the state’s Assembly and Senate, to force fair maps.

Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, spoke Wednesday evening in Montello.

This is already taking place, added Rothschild. He cited votes taken in many of the state’s 72 counties, and in many municipalities in favor or resolutions supporting fair maps, or the placement of non-binding referendums on ballots. To date, 50 counties have passed referendums supporting fair maps.

For example, the Fair Maps Midstate group, with the Marquette Co. Dems taking the lead, was successful in getting the Marquette County Board to vote in favor of placing a referendum question on the ballot for the April 7 election. 

When voters are given a chance to express their support for fair maps, Rothschild says, their voices have been loud and clear that voting districts created by politicians, which is what we currently have in Wisconsin, are not fair and not supported.

Rothschild cited a Marquette University Law School poll that showed that 72% of the respondents, including majorities of Democratic, Republican, and independent voters favored a nonpartisan process for redistricting.

Despite this “overwhelming support,” Rothschild says the state’s current GOP-dominated legislative leadership won’t even allow bills in favor of fair maps to reach committees, which is required before legislation can be considered by the full legislature.

Rothschild also said that while Gov. Tony Earl, a Democrat, is creating a People’s Maps Commission, that won’t include elected officials, the commission won’t have any real power; that the power still resides in the legislature. In response to a question about the role of the Commission, Rothschild said it will create its own version of fair maps and then compare it to the maps that will be drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2021 after the 2020 census data is made available. 

Gov. Evers and supporters of fair maps hope that by contrasting the maps, public sentiment in favor of the Commission’s maps will be strong enough to force the legislature to redraw its maps so that they are more “fair.”

 

 

 

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