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.”
Robin Voss, the Republican leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly, was quoted on Monday in an article on the Wisconsin Law Journal website as saying, it’s incomprehensible how anything that was set up and supported almost entirely by Democrats could be considered nonpartisan.
The article also says that Gov. Evers said again Monday that the commission will have no allegiance to any particular political party.
“We have 5.5 million people in the state of Wisconsin,” Evers said. “I think we can come up with a bunch who are nonpartisan.”
According to the article, The commission will draw its members from all eight of the state’s congressional districts. The appointees are expected to be experts in nonpartisan redistricting. Elected officials, “public officials,” lobbyists and political party officials will be prohibited from serving.
The Legislature is now controlled by Republicans. The exact makeup of the Legislature that will vote on new maps in 2021 will be determined in November’s elections, but Republicans are expected to retain their majorities.
As reported previously in a number of articles from various sources, the respondents to a Marquette University Law School poll from January 2019, indicated that 72% of the respondents said they support plans to have a nonpartisan commission draw up electoral maps. Only 18% thought the Legislature should devise the maps.
Three more Republican lawmakers have jumped on the growing Fair Maps bandwagon by expressing their support for the good government bill that calls for ending gerrymandering in Wisconsin. There are now six Republicans openly support the legislation.
AB 303 would assign the redistricting process to the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau, instead of allowing the political party in power the ability to create districts that favor that party and its members.
In an editorial that ran on the Jan. 15 madison.com website, taking redistricting out of the hands of the politicians could save Wisconsin taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees because the nonpartisan process, modeled after what is called the Iowa model, would significantly reduce and perhaps eliminate the costly legal battles that now almost a given after partisan redistricting.
The Marquette County Democratic Party, with support from other members of the Four-County Coalition (Green Lake, Adams, and Warshara) is taking its efforts to promote fairness in future elections to the Marquette County Board on Tuesday evening, Jan. 21.
During the meeting, which is open to the public, Frank Buress, who ran against Republican Joan Ballweg for her seat in the Wisconsin State Assembly in 2018, will present two two nonbinding resolutions for the Marquette County Board of Supervisors to consider. One will address redistricting inequities (Fair Maps) and the other overturning the disastrous Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at 77 W. Park Street, Montello.
The effort to obtain public support for fair maps took a hit last week when a similar attempt in Ozaukee County was stymied by a legal opinion from that county’s corporate counsel that said, in essence, that the Board could not discuss the issue because it had no legal authority over redistricting, which is a state government issue.
That opinion, which was not one put forth previously by other Wisconsin municipalities considering citizen requests for redistricting reform, allowed the Ozaukee Board to vote down the attempt to have a referendum on the ballot in that county.
To date, more than two-thirds of Wisconsin’s counties have passed some sort of motion in favor of fair maps.
The Ozaukee County Board on Wednesday declined an opportunity to join the growing list of counties taking stands again partisan redistricting. It did so after 21 supporters of a proposed nonbinding referendum that would have given voters a chance to express their opinions on the need for a nonpartisan districting process spoke in favor of the measure. No one spoke in opposition.
Their support, however, fell on deaf ears as the Board instead relied on an opinion from its corporate counsel that that the Board had no authority to even discuss a referendum affecting something it had no control over, such as redistricting. Ozaukee County is one of several counties surrounding Milwaukee County that traditionally vote Republican. All of the elected county officials are Republicans.
Judge Jill Karofsky, one of two Democrats seeking to unseat incumbent Wisconsin State Supreme Court Judge Daniel Kelly, has released a list of more than 500 “community leaders” who have endorsed her. You can view the list here.
Karofsky will speak at the Green Lake County Dems & Friends meeting on Jan. 4, at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake.
Karofsky, Kelly, and Marquette University Law School professor Ed Fallone, will be on the primary ballot on Feb. 18. The top two vote-getters in that race will go on to the general election on April 7 . Karofsky and Fallone spoke at the Valley Victory Heritage Dinner in Neenah last month.
Kelly, was appointed to the bench in 2016 by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker after helping Walker and the GOP fight suits challenging the contentious Republican redistricting plan developed in 2011.
Josh Silver gets it. He understands what is going on in our country today and best of all, he offers solutions to our ills.
Josh Silver was one of the primary speakers at the Fair Maps Summit in Marshfield in November. The summit was sponsored by a coalition of allied groups setting aside their own agendas to discuss a common objective: dismantling gerrymandered voting districts and the implementation of nonpartisan, independent districting commissions. Ultimately, it is about ensuring fair and equal representation.
Silver, who is the director Represent Us, and advocacy group based in Massachusetts, said he came to Wisconsin and Marshfield was he was impressed with the efforts of allied groups in Wisconsin to tackle the gerrymandering issue. Several members of the Green Lake County Dems & Friends organization attended the event in Marshfield.
Below is a Ted Talks presentation similar to the one he gave in Marshfield.
Here is what Sen, Tammy Baldwin had to say after receiving a letter from a constituent asking if she supported the For the People Act:
“The American people need to trust that their government is working for them, not the powerful special interests in Washington. Hardworking American families are struggling to get ahead and can’t afford to have special interests in a cozy relationship with the government. The time is now to take bold legislative action that reforms our political system, increases transparency and restores faith in our democracy.
“That is why I am a proud cosponsor of S. 949, the For the People Act – a sweeping package of reforms that would fix our broken political system and make government work for the people. This landmark legislation would restore the promise of American democracy by making it easier to vote, ending the dominance of big money in politics and ensuring that public officials work for the public interest.
“The right for every citizen’s voice to be heard through the ballot box is the cornerstone of our democracy. S. 949 improves access to voting through expansion of voter registration and early voting methods while fighting back against the assault on voting rights like voter roll purges and discriminatory ID laws. This bill would also end partisan gerrymandering to prevent politicians from picking their voters and making Americans feel like their voices do not count.
“We must also reform the way we finance our campaigns and end the rule of big money in our elections. The For the People Act will shine a light on dark money by requiring political organizations to disclose their donors, levels the playing field for small donors and strengthens regulation and oversight by Congress and the Federal Elections Commission. This allows everyday Americans to exercise their due influence in a post-Citizens United world.
“In addition, this legislation helps to ensure that government officials are working on behalf of the common good, not powerful special interests. S. 949 includes my Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act, which slows the revolving door between corporations, Wall Street and Washington. It also prohibits “government service golden parachute” bonus payouts, strengthens ethics requirements, and combats conflicts of interest.
“On March 8, 2019, the House passed its version of the For the People Act, H.R. 1, and the bill now awaits action in the Senate. Please be assured of my support for this legislation that helps to restore our democracy and put power back in the hands of the American people where it belongs.
“Once again, thank you for contacting my office. It is important for me to hear from the people of Wisconsin on the issues, thoughts and concerns that matter most to you. If I can be of further assistance, please visit my website at www.baldwin.senate.gov for information on how to contact my office.”
The final results are in and as expected, Health Care and the Environment, the early leaders in the Green Lake County Dems & Friends poll of attendees at the just concluded Green Lake County Fair, were the final two top issues of concern.
The poll, admittedly unscientific and definitely unofficial, but lots of fun, closed Sunday at the end of the 4-day fair run.
So, who participated in our poll? Well, young and old, male and female, Democrat and Republican (including 6th District Congressman Glen Grothman, a Republican and a good sport), and a group of young 4-Hers who, while too young to vote in real elections, cared enough about the issues to register their votes with us.
As indicated, Health Care, with 168 votes, was the top issue of concern, with the Environment close behind at 160. The Environment, as the table below shows, was the leader after the first day, but Health Care rallied and led the rest of the way.
Education finished third with 129 votes.
Agriculture was third with 65 votes, followed closely by Voting Rights with 60.
Everyone who voted was encouraged to make two choices with the provided smiley faces; most did.
While the rain Saturday night ended the polling prematurely, attendees at the Green Lake County Fair still demonstrated a lot of interest in Green Lake County Dems & Friends’ unscientific, completely unofficial poll to learn what issues were of the most concern to voters heading into the 2020 election year.
Health Care, the No. 2 issue after the first two days of voting–the Environment was No. 1–is the new leader with a three-day total of 145 votes. The Environment is now No. 2 with 136 votes.
Helping Health Care take over the top spot was a relatively large margin on Saturday. Health Care had 52 votes Saturday before the rain came, while the environment had 33 votes Saturday.
The No. 3 top issue after three days? Education with 111 votes.
Check out the table below for the day-by-day totals, plus the grand totals for the first three days of the four-day event.
Fairgoers participating in the Green Lake County Dems & Friends poll on Friday said that Health Care was their top issue or concern. Second was the Environment.
This is a reversal of Thursday’s results, where the Environment was the first day leader with 44 votes
Health Care earned 63 votes Friday, the largest one-day total so far. A close second on Friday, was the Environment with 59 votes.
This means that after two days, the Environment is still the overall leader with 103 votes. Health Care’s two-day total is 93.
See the table below for more information on the vote totals. Our poll, which is new this year, is an admittedly unscientific and unofficial undertaking. So, what. We and the fairgoers participating in the poll are having fun, while also gaining some insights into the opinions of those attending the fair.
The early results are in and attendees at the Green Lake County Fair have spoken.
Their top issues of concern heading into the 2020 elections are (drum roll please) the Environment and Health Care.
Next up: Voting rights and education.
Although it was expected to be one of the leaders, the Environment, with 44 votes, had a 14-point lead over Health Care’s 30 after the first day of the fair in this unscientific, unofficial, but extremely fun poll.
Although the big lead for the Environment and Health Care was a bit of a surprise (some observers felt it would be closer), these vote totals are only for day one of the four-day annual event.
Today’s results could end up making the race closer. Today could also see voting rights (and its allied issues, such as redistricting) and education close the gap.
Trailing the leaders, after the first day, was Agriculture with 12, Infrastructure with 8 and Other with 5.
In total, 140 votes were cast on Thursday, the fair’s opening day.
Voting (such as it is) continues today, Saturday, and Sunday. Look for the final results Sunday night.
There are 72 counties in Wisconsin. Forty-seven of the counties, well more than half, have passed resolutions in favor of nonpartisan redistricting or gerrymandering.
Green Lake County is one of the holdouts.
At the Green Lake County Fair, now underway in Green Lake, the Green Lake County Dems & Friends are asking fairgoers to sign petitions urging fair maps that will be presented to the County Board.
Green Lake County Dems & Friends chair Linda Wilkens says she and the local Democratic Party organization are hoping that the county board will add Green Lake County to the list of counties that are responding to citizen demands.
She points to a Marquette University Law School poll taken earlier this year that suggested that 72 percent of Wisconsin’s voters support gerrymandering and nonpartisan redistricting. In addition, those 72 percent said they support a nonpartisan redistricting process such as the one now used in Iowa. Finally, 62 percent of all Republicans in Wisconsin are in favor of this approach.
For more on the issue of fair maps and nonpartisan redistricting, check out these articles: