Forward!

Good news, everyone! The Democratic Party of Wisconsin's Organizing Director, Anna Surrey, has agreed to support our current effort to contact people on the original voter purge list. That's the list of 200,000+ names that the Wisconsin Election Commission had identified as having moved, having changed a name, or simply having neglected to vote for several elections in a row. The purge list was apparently compiled in fall 2019, but was not intended to be executed until after the November 3, 2020, election. However, the GOP challenged that decision in court and the case has gone to the Wisconsin Supreme Court where a decision is pending. Meanwhile, we see this as a terrific opportunity to reach out to voters, make sure they have re-registered (or at least check their registration status), and urge them to request an absentee ballot for the August 11 primary AND the November 3 general election.

For the seven North Shore communities, the research part of the voter purge protection project is well under way. We don't need any more people to look the names up in VAN to find out whether they have been identified by likely party and to find a phone number for them. We may need a few more people who are willing to call and leave a message or talk to the person on the list. We can then update information in VAN, making the lists we use to send postcards and to call voters for the two upcoming elections much better. So please, if you can reach out to people in our communities, sign up on our website.

The Democratic Party of Milwaukee County will be launching its version of this project in the next week or so. And it needs plenty of volunteers. There are more than 52,000 names on the list after those in the North Shore communities have been taken care of. I've already sent a list of names and contact info to the party to make VAN accounts for about 28 people who have volunteered with the party. But with so many people to find, the party is going to need a lot more help. So please sign up for the DPMC effort also.

I don't know about you, but my husband and I are still much safer at home. So we have plenty of time to watch edifying fims on TV. Slay the Dragon is one of them. The film addresses a number of issues with gerrymandering (the practice of designing electoral districts to make them as uncompetitive as possible). Arguably, this practice has essentially led to minority rule in this state for an entire decade. Even when Democrats get a substantial majority of the votes in elections for the State Assembly, as they did in 2018, Republicans retain 2/3 of the seats. This whole week the film is available to us for free. At the end of the week, you can talk with a number of Wisconsin luminaries about how we can end gerrymandering in Wisconsin. But to get a viewing time, you have to sign up. You will also receive a reminder about the panel discussion on Saturday, May 30, at 4pm.

The events list is a little fuller than it has been in the last month or so. And there are still several events that have apparently been suspended and not resumed even though the Safer at Home order was lifted two weeks ago. There may also be a few events that are taking place in person. If you decide to go to such an event, make sure you can do so safely. The CDC recommends that we all wear masks in public, that we maintain at least 6 feet of clear space between us and other people, and that we practice good hand hygiene whenever we leave the house to run errands or to meet with others.

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Chaos reigns

Our state Supreme Court has done it again. Now, apparently, it's every village and hamlet, county, town, and city for itself. We can't even call it a patchwork of COVID-19 orders or rules or whatever. It's simply chaos, leaving people like me totally confused. And upset. What is permitted and what is not; what is open and what is not; what is least risky and what is high risk? These are the kinds of questions people might have. And it's unclear where you can go to get answers.

The Wisconsin State Journal has made an attempt to answer the safety question. The article covers activities such as going to a dentist to get your teeth cleaned, or having your hair cut, styled, or colored. But of course no one article can offer sound advice about risks in every situation.

The Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Service's page for Administrative Orders does not appear to have issued its own Safer at Home order. What it has instead is a "pledge" you can take together with information about what staying at home means, why people should do it, and what activities are permitted (though this element seems to be unchanged since before the WI Supreme Court nullified the Governor's Safer at Home order).

On the other hand, the municipalities surrounding the City of Milwaukee — including the seven communities in Milwaukee County that are covered by Grassroots North Shore — did issue a stay-at-home order to take the place of the statewide one that was nullified. It expires at midnight on Thursday, May 21. It's not clear what will happen after that but the order does state

The prior Wisconsin Safer at Home Order worked to flatten the curve of infections of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin saw meaningful gains from this proactive step. Milwaukee County data demonstrated that there was an initial peak of COVID-19 cases in early April, but COVID-19 cases have been trending upward in recent weeks and have surpassed the previous peak. With increasing testing capacity, we anticipate increased detection of new COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks that will correspond with identifying significant community transmission. This is a crucial time for Milwaukee County to maintain the momentum in containing COVID-19 in our community and halt further dissemination of the disease....

Future decisions will be based on the COVID-19 data for the county and upcoming orders will necessarily remain fluid and will be based on the above factors as well as emerging data and research.


You can keep up with the latest at the North Shore Health Department. Look for its Reopening Public Spaces page.

Ozaukee County shares a Public Health Department with Washington County. Here's the information about current orders there:

If you choose to reopen your business, you are not in violation of Safer at Home or orders issued by the health department. Under the direction of the Ozaukee County Board Chair, the Ozaukee County Administrator, and the Washington County Executive, the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department will issue no countywide orders limiting the public or businesses at this time in response to the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in our counties. The health department will address any localized COVID-19 outbreaks on an individual basis and continue to provide follow up for positive cases and conduct contact tracing. We urge you to refer to our Blueprint FAQ for recommendations on how to safely reopen our counties.


It's unclear whether cities, villages, and towns in the county can issue their own, separate orders.

The League of Progressive Seniors also has a petition so that signatories can pledge to keep everyone safe. The petition preamble states "The League of Progressive Seniors believes NO ONE is expendable. Not older adults. Not workers. No one. We're all in this together." It aims to send a message to our elected officials: "Open when it's safe. Protect the public health. Stop playing politics with our future!"

While we work to make our state safer for all its residents, we don't want to forget that there's a super-important election coming up in November. The presumptive nominee for the Democrats, former Vice President Joe Biden, is holding a virtual rally for Milwaukee on Wednesday, May 20, at 3:30pm. Let's give Joe a healthy dose of our love and devotion by showing up, online, and cheering him on. Let's not let the political pundits — especially the Debbie Downers — conclude that there's an enthusiasm gap for VP Biden. Get all the details and attend the online rally.

Let's also plan ahead just a bit. During Fair Maps Week (May 24-30), we urge you to watch Slay the Dragon, a film highlighting gerrymandering travesties. At the end of the week, when everyone has watched the film, you can talk with a number of Wisconsin luminaries about how we can end gerrymandering in Wisconsin. Sign up for a viewing and also for a reminder about the panel discussion on Saturday, May 30, at 4pm.

And in Grassroots North Shore news, we have two major projects under way right now. The first is our postcards to Ozaukee voters initiative. Volunteers are writing the cards now and sending them out next week. We could use some additional support in the form of funds for stamps. So be generous and donate what you can. We want to reach as many potential voters in Ozaukee as we can, partly to persuade them to vote blue and partly to urge them to vote absentee and be safe. Kick in a little.

Our second initiative is an effort to reach voters who may be purged from the voter rolls. We've acquired the list of names on that purge roster who were registered to vote in our North Shore communities but who may have moved or who may be on the list in error. Using the Democrat's VAN database, we will be looking up the likely party of each name and noting the phone numbers of those who are strong or leaning Democrats. Then we will be trying to reach each one by phone to find out their registration status and to help them navigate myvote.wi.gov to re-register if necessary. If you can help us, please sign up to research, to phone, or to do both. We hope to be ready to begin shortly after Memorial Day and to have finished the project before we turn our attention to the August 11 primary, the Wisconsin State Fair (assuming it takes place), and the Democratic National Convention currently scheduled to begin on August 17.

The events list is beginning to include more virtual ones but it also has some that have been suspended or canceled. Given the confusion about the status of stay at home orders in our state, people should probably contact the venue or sponsoring organization if at all possible to get up-to-date information. What I have included here is what the Southeast Wisconsin and Milwaukee Dems calendars show. Given how much more open for business Ozaukee County already is, it might also be worth consulting the Ozaukee County Democrats' calendar.

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newsletter 05/12/20

In case you missed it (ICYMI):

The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments today concerning the legitimacy of Congressional subpoenas for *president Trump's business and tax records from Deutsche Bank, Capital One, and his accounting firm, Mazars USA, as well as the legitimacy of a grand jury subpoena to Mazars USA issued by the District Attorney of New York County. Because the Court is conducting its business by teleconference, the public could listen in. So I did. The oral arguments were riveting, but to this layperson ultimately confusing. Although a decision will not be issued until June or July, no doubt pundits at SCOTUSblog.com and elsewhere will tell us how to think about these cases between now and then,.

And on Capitol Hill, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, and *president Trump’s coronavirus testing czar, Adm. Brett Giroir, testified before a Senate committee. Dr. Fauci was apparently quite outspoken and warned about pursuing too much economic activity too soon. Here in Wisconsin, the special election in the 7th Congressional District was carried out as planned. According to Craig Gilbert in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there has been "a dramatic shift from in-person voting to voting by mail." Grassroots North Shore people made hundreds of phone calls to urge voters to request absentee ballots and to support Tricia Zunker, the Democratic candidate for the seat. Several of those phone banking yesterday reported that the system had run out of names for them to call! A great sign that Dems were reaching every voter in the sprawling, 26 county district. It's of course heavily gerrymandered so winning it for Dems was always going to be an up-hill battle. But we're proud of our efforts, win or lose.

Here in Wisconsin, there is some hopeful news: new cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin drop below 200 for the first time in May and the State meets five of six goals required for the next phase of reopening. The latest Marquette poll shows that survey respondents continue to trust Governor Evers more than the Republican-led Legislature on when to begin reopening and relaxing restrictions related to the outbreak, but support for restrictions among Republicans has diminished significantly. And former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead the current incumbent by 3%, unchanged since the last survey.

And in the best news yet, older Americans are getting pretty sour on our Tangerine Man in Chief. Daily Kos reports that his "favorability among voters 75 and older has suffered a significant double-digit tumble in the last month, from 56% approval in March to just 34% in April. Civiqs polling has similarly shown an erosion among voters 65 and older, particularly white independents." With more than 80,000 American deaths from coronavirus illness, and an economy in a coma, we have more important things to be concerned about than tRump's fortunes. But it doesn't hurt that those who are most vulnerable to the virus are beginning to question our so-called leadership at the Federal level.

The events list is still slim but there are several virtual events that may be worth your while. Check them out.

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Will You Help Tricia Zunker Win?

Does working to elect Tricia Zunker in the 7th Congressional District special election a week from today seems somehow less important than other things in your life these days? Well, think again. Not only is it important in its own right to recapture David Obey's former seat in Congress. It's important to help elect former VP Joe Biden — or at least prevent the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in D.C. from being reinstalled by an act of Congress.

So, supposing there is an Electoral College tie as a result of the November 3 election. How does the election get resolved? The House of Representatives, that's how. Each state's delegation gets one vote. As currently constituted, Wisconsin's delegation — four Republicans and three Democrats — would undoubtedly cast its vote for he-who-shall-not-be-named. But it's the NEWLY ELECTED HOUSE that will vote on January 6, the new members having been sworn in on January 3. And that's why the winner of the 7th CD election is so important. If Zunker wins, the state delegation will be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans (barring an upset victory in one of the other congressional districts on November 3). You can read all about it on the 270 to Win website.

The moral of the story, as you know: elections matter. Still, in order to win gerrymandered districts like the 7th Congressional District, we absolutely must turn out every voter we can. The last day for voters to request absentee ballots is Thursday, May 7. After that date, we will be doing what's known as "ballot chasing." Not only will we be calling every Democrat in the district. We will be calling everyone who requested an absentee ballot to make sure they received it and to urge that they return it as soon as possible.

You can choose whether to use the ThruTalk Dialer — that's a system that makes the calls through your computer and displays a 608 area code to the recipient — or to use the Open VPB software — that's a system that displays the name and phone number of the person you are to call and then you dial the number using your own phone. Either system works, but the Dialer is faster and more efficient. Both systems record responses on the screen so no one needs to enter any data manually. For right now, you will be calling voters who have not yet requested absentee ballots. I hope you will choose one and devote at least a couple hours to this effort. The simplest way to get started is to visit a page of instructions and links the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has put together. If for some reason, that page does not work for you, here are links to the dialer, the script the dialer uses, to a video of training to use the dialer (the password is 1K!AV859), to the most recent OpenVPB, and a brief guide for using the OpenVPB. Please sign up to call but before you do, learn a little about Tricia Zunker and her campaign.

There is at least raw data suggesting that voting in person on April 7 resulted in an increase in covid-19 cases with this caveat: we don't yet have enough data to make the causal connection yet. But the correlational connection is certainly visible in the graph a Daily Kos blogger has produced. So it's a good idea to continue to use absentee ballots if at all possible. Grassroots North Shore has published an extensive "how-to" guide for using myvote.wi.gov to request absentee ballots for the August 11 and November 3 elections. At the end of the text you will also find links to two videos that also walk the viewer through the process. And the Politics/Elections/Campaigns committee of GRNS is working to ensure that the seven communities in Milwaukee County's North Shore provide a request form to every registered voter. Shorewood seems likely to provide a printed copy and a detailed voter guide in the quarterly publication that it sends to all residents. Both Bayside and Whitefish Bay mailed request forms to all registered voters for the April election and River Hills seems to have done so by email. We hope these villages will do so again. Glendale is going to discuss the effort at its May 11 City Council meeting. So that leaves Brown Deer and Fox Point as the odd villages out. We'll be working on them!

Our strategy for reaching voters in Ozaukee County will rely on targeted postcards. Starting in a couple of weeks, we will be organizing volunteers to write postcards to likely Democratic voters in the county, urging them to request absentee ballots and to support Democratic candidates down the whole ballot. Assembly districts, a state senate district, and a congressional representative will be elected in November. We need to elect strong progressives to the state legislature as well as to the US Congress. If you want to help us reach voters in Ozaukee County, contact me at nancyannkaplan@gmail.com, or Norma Gilson to let us know. And whether you can volunteer to write postcards or not, we need your financial support for this project.

Meanwhile, the news on the coronavirus front is grim. An unreleased CDC report with data modeled by FEMA and obtained by the New York Times anticipates an explosion of covid-19 cases over the next few weeks and on into the summer. Although there is some reason for skepticism about the numbers (see the piece by Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo), the document predicts that the count of new cases will rapidly balloon to 200,000 per day and the death toll will reach 3,000 per day by June 1 — a mere three weeks from now. Naturally, the White House claimed the model was faulty. Regardless, Wisconsin cases continue to climb in spite of the "Safer at Home" measures we have taken. In other words, we need to redouble our efforts at social distancing and block our ears to the shouted (and armed!) demands that economic activity be resumed immediately. The Wisconsin plan — The Badger Bounce Back — is available on the Department of Health Services website. So far, the state is meeting only one of the seven criteria for renewing full economic activity. Two others do not yet have enough data to evaluate their status.

Again this week, the events list is slim and many entries announce cancellations or suspensions. A few look as if they might be happening despite the "Safer at Home" order but I can't be sure. They're still on the calendars on which the list is based but it would be prudent to call ahead before attending. The one event with no contact information is the meeting of the DPMC Issues Committee. The chair of that committee has been ill and so may not have updated the listing. I doubt that the meeting will take place since the Amalgamated Transit Union Building where it is scheduled to take place is of course closed.

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what we did and what we'll do

Before we get to the specific things you can do to help turn Wisconsin towards a better future, let me just acknowledge the wonderful work Grassroots North Shore volunteers have accomplished since we started this new year and then, in March, ended up "Safer at Home." Before we all retreated to safety from the coronavirus, we held a series of postcard parties at the office and sent more than1000 postcards to potential voters asking them to vote for Jill Karofsky and to request an absentee ballot by filling out the request form at myvote.wi.gov. Judge Karofsky handily won that election, thanks to her strength among those who voted absentee! I like to think our postcard efforts helped with the victory. (She has an op-ed in the New York Times criticizing the decisions from the Wisconsin and US Supreme Courts that in effect ruled that the state had to hold an in-person election on April 7, regardless of the risk to public health. It's definitely worth a read.) And then we followed up by making more than 3200 phone calls into the North Shore and Milwaukee.

Over the past few weeks, we organized a different process for writing postcards so people could participate from home. We created postcard kits for volunteers — cards, instructions, sample scripts, stickers for the front of the cards, names and addresses, and of course stamps. The kits were then delivered to the porches and garages of the volunteers, who wrote and then mailed at least 30 postcards each. In this way we mailed 1200 cards to potential voters in the 7th Congressional District, again recommending that they request an absentee ballot for the special election being held on May 12 and that they vote for Tricia Zunker in that election. (Tricia has been endorsed both by Emily's list and by Senator Elizabeth Warren!) I'm hoping that our efforts pay off in this election too. But win or lose, we can all be proud of the 40 volunteers plus the all the organizers who put the kits together and drove them to volunteers' houses. And proud too of all the people who made thousands of phone calls in the lead-up to the April election.

It's not too early to begin our work for the next two elections in Wisconsin — our fourth and fifth this year, if you can believe it. In case you didn't know, we have a partisan primary on August 11 and of course a general election on November 3. No one knows right now what the Covid-19 pandemic will look like in our communities on either of those dates. So we are continuing to advocate for voting absentee. That means requesting that a ballot be sent to you at an address you specify. The ballot comes with a "certification envelope" for returning it to your municipal clerk. The certification envelope must be signed by the voter, who must also specify her/his voting address, and by a witness who must also record her/his address (but does not need to be a Wisconsin voter or someone who resides in the same district as the person whose ballot certification he/she is witnessing).

Part of our plans include conversations with municipal authorities about how they will be conducting the August and November elections. We'd like Brown Deer, Bayside, Glendale, River Hills, Shorewood and Whitefish Bay to send every voter a request form for an absentee ballot. Glendale's mayor, Bryan Kennedy, wants the requests for mail-in ballots to get to the clerks by July so that there is no last minute rush. A tsunami of requests late in the electoral process was responsible in part for some of the problems experienced throughout the state in the April election and we want to avoid repeating those problems in the next two. Bayside and Whitefish Bay both did this for the April election, with incredible turnout results. The City of Milwaukee has already agreed to this vote-by-mail strategy. So we are hoping that the seven suburban communities in Milwaukee County that Grassroots North Shore includes will follow suit. For our communities in Ozaukee County (which has lately seen significant increases in support for Democratic candidates), we plan to target voters likely to support candidates like Deb Andraca in the 24th Assembly District, Emily Siegrist in the 23rd Assembly District, and Neal Plotkin, in the 8th Senate District.

Once we know what all the municipalities plan, we will begin our postcard campaign with a message tailored to each community. At that point, we are likely to call for additional volunteers. In the meantime, our Politics/Elections/Campaign Committee will devise a method for helping people who have difficulty with a key step — providing a copy of their photoID (not a selfie!) with their request for an absentee ballot. The second obstacle to voting by mail comes with the ballot itself. Each certification envelope has to be witnessed. But that is hard for people who live alone, are quarantined, or are just maintaining sound social distancing policies. So we will need to come up with solutions to help those people too.

For right now (and here comes the request), we would like to support Tricia Zunker by making phone calls into the 7th CD, first requesting that people arrange to vote by mail (that's what we'll be doing this weekend) and then urging people to send their absentee ballots in as soon as possible. We'll be doing the second message over the traditional Get Out the Vote period: May 9, 10, 11, and 12. I hope you'll give us a little of your time. All the information you need to make calls is in the next couple of paragraphs, but as yet I don't have the links available for you to sign up as a volunteer for this action. So please just send me an email — to nancyannkaplan@gmail.com — letting me know when you want to make calls.

There are two methods of participating: through a Dialer that uses your computer to make the calls automatically for you and through the Virtual Phone Bank that provides you with a name and a number to call but with this system you have to use your own phone and dial the number yourself.

The Dialer will be available from 9AM to 8PM. Here is the guide to the Dialer, which includes the link to log in to the dialer to begin making calls. Here is a recording of a Zoom training we did on April 22 that walks through the CD7 Race and how to use the dialer. Access password: 1K!AV859.

The Open VPB is available from 9am to 9pm. You access it here. If you have not used the Open VPB before, you will need to create an Action ID account. The process is quite easy. Just follow the onscreen directions. You can also access a guide to using the Open VPB and a recorded Zoom training the DPW produced. Access password: a9^.^p!6.

Tricia Zunker is more than worthy of our organization's support. She is a Ho-Chunk Supreme Court Justice, a veteran, school board president, a professor, a lawyer, a mom, and the Democratic nominee for the critical WI-07 special election on May 12. The 7th Congressional District is a swing district that Rep. Obey previously held for 42 years. If elected, she would be Wisconsin's first Native American representative, and only the third Native American congresswoman in the nation's history. Flipping this seat is the path to a new presidency by turning Wisconsin blue, and whoever wins it now could play a critical role in determining the presidency. The Wisconsin Jewish Dems is holding a virtual fundraiser for her on Thursday, April 30 (sign up through the events list below). We hope we can count on you to work the phones for her.

And just in case you are wondering how at least one foreign country views what's going on in the US, I want to direct you to an opinion piece published in the Irish Times. Unfortunately, the essay is behind a paywall: on the original site you can read only the first couple of paragraphs. So, in a move that at least stretches the boundaries of copyright law, someone named "Ferri Tales" published the full piece on his own blog. Here's a link to that content. And here's a bit of the piece, just enough to give you some of the flavor:

However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful....

It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – willfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.

The events list that follows has a few virtual meetings and some in-person meetings that might actually be canceled or postponed but which are still listed on the calendar for some reason. It would be wise to check if you can before you make plans to attend.

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Why voting by mail matters

Did in-person voting on April 7 result in a spike of COVID-19 infections or didn't it? We don't yet know. Why? Because we have not seen the kind of widespread testing that would tell us. AND we have not (yet) see a spike in the kind of serious symptoms that would require hospitalization. But we still have some lessons to learn from the experience of holding the April 7 election. First, have a look at an essay by Charles Stewart, III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, and Co-Director of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project. His piece, Important lessons from the Wisconsin primary, points out that "turnout was surprisingly high" for a nonpartisan election and that "the subtle-but-real leftward shift in Wisconsin’s electoral landscape continues." He then outlines four specific lessons:

  1. It is possible to rapidly expand vote-by-mail even when you’re not prepared for it....
  2. In-person voting is still necessary.
  3. A surprisingly good primary [and good nonpartisan election] does not guarantee a surprisingly good general election.
  4. Wisconsin’s electoral landscape is shifting.

A key explanation for the leftward shift of our electorate may well have been our unwavering focus on encouraging our voters to request and return absentee ballots by mail. An analysis by the New York Times, Vote by Mail in Wisconsin Helped a Liberal Candidate, Upending Old Theories, shows that Jill Karofsky "performed 10 percentage points better than her conservative opponent in votes cast by mail than she did in votes cast at Election Day polling places, a gap that powered a surprising 11-point victory...." Reid Epstein, the author of the article, writes "the gap suggests that Democrats were more organized and proactive in their vote-by-mail efforts in an election conducted under extraordinary circumstances, with voters forced to weigh the health risks of voting in person against the sometimes unreliable option of requesting and mailing in their ballots."

The key lesson we need to draw from the analysis: we have to redouble our efforts for the August 11 and November 3 elections. Our hard, though sometimes hurried, efforts to mail thousands of postcards to potential voters in our North Shore communities paid huge dividends. We are also mailing 1200 postcards to potential voters in Wisconsin's 7th CD, where Tricia Zunker is waging an uphill battle for the congressional seat vacated by Sean Duffy months ago. The election is on May 12, so we won't know whether our efforts and other similar ones by other groups will have made a difference until weeks from now. But we are already gearing up to begin another round of postcards to North Shore voters. And that's where you come in.

We've had a gratifyingly large group of volunteers writing postcards both before the April 7 election and for the special election in the 7th CD. We've been able to provide each volunteer with a kit complete with postcards, names and addresses, sample scripts, instructions for what to do, and, of course, stamps. The kits are assembled and delivered to each volunteer's door: no one needs to take any risks to get the job done. But we need funds, especially for stamps, to reach a large enough number of voters. So, along with every candidate for office and every progressive organization known to humankind, we are holding our virtual hands out. Please give what you can — 100 postcard stamps cost $35 and we need thousands to make a difference!

Yesterday, Craig Gilbert published a piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that tracks Wisconsin's voting trends. What he sees is "signs of cracks" in what were once the deepest red WOW counties. Washington, Ozaukee, and Waukesha counties are still voting for GOP candidates, of course, but Democrats are making significant inroads, especially in Ozaukee. Gilbert notes that "The drop in the conservative margin in all three counties was bigger than it was statewide." We don't have to win races in these counties to make a big difference in the outcome of elections for statewide offices. Now if we can make some inroads in the votes for legislative districts that have been so gerrymandered, Wisconsin might be able to return to its sensible, and progressive, roots.

I'm returning to providing a weekly list of events. Several are happening virtually while some are simply suspended or canceled. I hope you'll find the information useful.

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Oh what a beautiful morning!

We won! BIG!! And what with all the shenanigans surrounding this election — the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court both making last-minute rulings favoring the GOP positions — we got plenty of national press. I'll only point you to one, however. The Washington Post's story, published today, highlights not only the HUGE Jill Karofsky victory by more than 10%, but it also reviews the outstanding string of victories Democrats have worked to achieve since 2018. Go read it. It's sure to brighten even this sunny day.

You can review the full statewide results at the Journal Sentinel online.

Ok, with that out of the way, it's on to the next battle: the special election for a representative in the 7th Congressional District, to be held on May 12. And we have a plan for that. We've recruited at least 35 people to write postcards to people in that CD. At an average of 30 postcards each, that means almost 1100 cards. With stamps! And we need your (financial) help with this project. In short, we're doing what we rarely do: asking for donations to fund a specific project. Please be as generous as you can during these anxious times.

The next Wisconsin election is August 11 — 4 months from now. But it's not too early to request an absentee ballot for that election and for the November 3 election. To do it online, go to myvote.wi.gov. If you have already requested absentee ballots for the remaining two elections, you don't need to do this. But if you voted in-person absentee (early voting) for the April 7 election or if you requested an absentee ballot for the April 7 election but not for the other two elections this year, you need to get this matter taken care of sooner rather than later. If we make the requests now, municipal clerks will be better able to plan and we are less likely to see the kinds of bottlenecks that resulted in many voters failing to receive their absentee ballots in time.

The results of the election are in but the cost in public health has to be tracked over the next week or so. I hope to have something to share with you by next week's newsletter.

On the national electoral front, former President Obama endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden today. Senator Sanders has also endorsed former VP Biden. The primary is effectively over. What remains is the contest for ideas. Deep in a Wired story from last week comes this acknowledgement of Senator Sanders's effect on the substance of the campaign: "It’s largely thanks to him that Biden will no doubt run on the most progressive platform in decades." The left wing of the party will continue to work for its principles and ideas. Senator Sanders has promised as much. And former VP Biden seems open to at least some of the ideas Sanders supporters have championed.

If you want to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is holding informational sessions to help you. Sign up for one.

Finally, there's the ongoing struggle in Wisconsin to combat the coronavirus. Governor Evers has proposed a long and robust list of actions to help fight the infection and to support the people of Wisconsin as we continue to observe the "Safer at Home" order he issued on March 25. Among them are these proposals:

  • Eliminate the one week waiting period for receiving unemployment benefits and provide state-funded back pay for any lost benefits resulting from the delay in suspending the waiting period;
  • Prohibit disconnection of utilities from a rental unit during a public health emergency;
  • Protect against evictions and foreclosures during a public health emergency;
  • Expand the Emergency Assistance program during the public health emergency for families in need who are facing homelessness;
  • Provide funding for local governments and health departments to ensure they are able to respond to this crisis and maintain public services;
  • Increase funding for the Wisconsin Works Program to assist individuals who want to work but are unemployed due to the public health emergency (individuals may be eligible for benefits under Wisconsin Works even if they aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits);
  • Increase funding for Wisconsin food banks to ensure Wisconsinites' basic needs are met;
  • Allow waiver of penalties or interest on late tax payments;
  • Expand access, support, and services for child care workers and centers;
  • Grow the funds available for WEDC’s programs to provide economic relief to small businesses;
  • Allow out-of-state and recently lapsed licensed health professionals in good standing the ability to practice during the public health emergency;
  • Provide an additional $20 million in broadband expansion grants to increase internet access for the health, agriculture, and education sectors; Increase funding for Medicaid providers to support the healthcare system’s response to the public health emergency; and
  • Require that telehealth services are covered by insurance as in-person services normally would.

To put pressure on a recalcitrant legislature, please call and lobby your assembly representative and your state senator. If you don't know who they are or you don't have their contact information handy, you can look them up!

Although the list of events is sparse, I've chosen to begin including them as more virtual events begin to appear. Attending an online event may not be the same as going to one in person, but this is the world we inhabit now. And besides, what else do you have to do?

 

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What are you planning to do today?

How about a little socializing? We're calling people who have already requested an absentee ballot to remind them to get it back to their municipal clerks as quickly as they can. That might mean putting the postage prepaid certificate envelop in the mail box. Or it might mean a little excursion to put it into a drop box or mail slot at the village or city hall. Please help make these fun and easy calls by using this link: https://www.openvpb.com/vpb_bycode/8788B3J-738557.

If you don't already have a log in through ActionID, you'll be asked to make an account — it's simple and easy to to so. Just follow the prompts. Once you have made the account, you will be directed to the phone bank. The screen will show you who you are calling and the phone number. The script with the prompts to record responses is also visible. Once you save a call, you'll be directed to the next one. This election is vital. We need your help. And besides, what else is so urgent in your stay-at-home life? So do some good while you're doing some good! https://www.openvpb.com/vpb_bycode/8788B3J-738557.

Here's a list of where to go to turn in an absentee ballot as of March 31 at 11am.

  • Bayside: mail slot in front door of Village Hall

  • Brown Deer: a cream colored mailbox in front of Village Hall

  • Fox Point: mail slot in front door of Village Hall

  • Glendale: mail slot in front door of City Hall

  • River Hills: mail slot in front door of Village Hall

  • Shorewood: drop box in the parking lot

  • Whitefish Bay: 24-Hour Night Depository located in the entrance of the Village Hall

  • Cedarburg: on the south side of the building next to the doors

  • Grafton: in the parking lot

  • Mequon: next to the doors in the parking lot on the right

Ballots must be received in the clerk's office by 8pm on April 7 (Election Day). Because of uncertainty about the speed of the US Mails, it might be best to put absentee ballots directly into these depositories if possible. Absentee ballots can be requested at late as 5pm on Thursday, April 2. But after tomorrow, any absentee ballot that has not already been mailed to a municipal clerk should be dropped into a depository to ensure that it arrives at the clerk's office on time. (If you still need an absentee ballot but have trouble with completing the request because you can't upload a picture of your photoID, you can mark the box that says you are "indefinitely confined" in box 6 of the form. Then call the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's Voter Protection Hotline at 608-336-3232 for additional help).

There are a few signs of progress in our collective struggle to contain the pandemic of COVID-19 infections. Although Wisconsin is now reporting 1200+ confirmed cases and 20+ deaths, a company that tracks fever data through its technology-enhanced thermometers sees what may be a nationwide flattening of the curve, as a slow-down in the rate of new infections is often called. Today's NYTimes has the story. The account suggests that the ~30 states that have issued "stay-at-home" orders (aka "safer at home" as we know it here) are being successful at slowing the rate of infection. So keep up the good work, people!

For up-to-date and granular information about where there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our area, the NYTimes also has really helpful information that is easy to find and to use.

Some of the useful data from that NYTimes interactive: the number of cases in Wisconsin = 1267. Most cases are in Dane County (183 cases, 2 deaths) and Milwaukee County (633 cases, 10 deaths). Ozaukee has 36 cases and 3 deaths so far. Washington County has 34 and Waukesha County 93. Neither of those counties has reported any deaths. Most Wisconsin counties have reported at least 1 case. Remember: these numbers reflect confirmed cases. And where there is a single confirmed case, there are surely many, many more cases that have not been confirmed, either because those who are ill are just toughing it out at home or because testing is still not widespread and is generally reserved for those who need hospitalization.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online has a stream of updates on news about the coronavirus in our area, but because it is updated every few hours, it is difficult to aggregate the data and to figure out where we are at any given time. However, this morning there was one piece of good news that did not appear in the NYTimes: "Milwaukee County reported just 10 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday morning, the smallest batch of new cases the county has reported in more than two weeks" Live coronavirus updates, 7:40am posting, March 31, 2020). One data point, or even two, cannot make a trend. But it's a start!

There's some discussion about whether people should use masks (NOT the medical masks that should be reserved for essential personnel and health care providers) like those made at home whenever they must go somewhere where there are likely to be a lot of other people (see C.D.C. Weighs Advising Everyone to Wear a Mask). You can make your own at home. And you can make some to give to hospitals and other essential personnel who are not engaged in the most intensive care of COVID 19 patients. You can download a printable pattern from the NYTimes. With a sewing machine and a few other supplies, you can also make masks at home to contribute to Froedtert by contacting Norma Gilson. She is willing to pick up the masks you make and deliver them to the hospital. Or you can mail them to her. In any case, all you need to do to get started is to contact her.

Besides staying home as much as possible, hand washing the proper way remains the best defense against this illness (indeed any communicable illness). The internet abounds with videos of how to do a proper job of it. Here's one from Johns Hopkins Medicine. And here's a "purple paint" demo that uses a slightly different method.

Finally, although there's a lot of "wash your hands" advice out there, there's not as much information on just how soap does the job. So for your delight and edification, here's an explanation from Vox.

I didn't even bother to look at the events lists in the online calendar I consult for this weekly newsletter because I want to encourage everyone to STAY HOME. But there may be some virtual events you might want to participate in. You can consult the calendars on our website.

 

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Information You Can Use

Dear {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}} — 

Events seem to be accelerating. So I feel it's necessary to send important information to our Grassroots North Shore email list. I hope it is useful to you. And feel free to pass it along to others who could use it.

First, everyone needs to "shelter in place" until the Governor and the Wisconsin Department of Health say otherwise. The full "Safer at Home" declaration is available online if you want to read it.

Absentee ballots: you should request yours and ask everyone you know to request theirs by visiting https://myvote.wi.gov. If you use a smartphone, uploading a picture of your photo ID is pretty easy. If you don't have a smartphone or if you run into trouble, just click the box on the request form to declare yourself "indefinitely confined." Then you will not be required to furnish a photo ID with your request.

If you need to register to vote or to update your name or address on your voter registration file, you can still do so online at https://myvote.wi.gov until March 30. After you update your record, you can then use the same site to request an absentee ballot.

Please vote the whole ballot. Grassroots North Shore has endorsed Judge Jill Karofsky for Wisconsin Supreme Court. You can see our endorsement online. We also recommend that you vote "YES" on the Milwaukee County referendum urging the legislature to approve a nonpartisan process for drawing the next round of electoral maps. Although we are not endorsing anyone for Milwaukee County Executive, we do have statements from Senator Chris Larson and Representative David Crowley on our site so you can find out something about how they would govern before you cast your ballot.

Once you receive your ballot and fill it out, you will need a witness's signature on the envelope you will use to return the ballot by mail. If you live alone, this step can be challenging. Here's a suggestion: Work out a system with a neighbor to get a signature without exposing yourself or anyone else to much risk if you can. To keep the recommended 6 feet of distance between the two of you, you might arrange to meet outside, place the filled and sealed envelope on the ground or a table between you, and back up until you're 6 feet away from the envelope. Then your neighbor can approach the envelope, sign it, and back away from it so you can retrive it and put it in the mail.

You might also want to call the Voter Protection Hotline the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has now set up. The number is 608-DEM-3232 (608-336-3232). The hours are 8:30am to 5pm. Please pass this information along to everyone who might need it.

Green Bay has filed a lawsuit to delay the election and move it to an all mail process. Several mayors have also been working on this issue. Grassroots North Shore has joined with a number of groups in the area to push for the election to be postponed also. But while we await the outcome of these efforts, everyone should try to vote by absentee ballot and everyone should urge everyone they know anywhere in the state to do the same.

Finally, here is a list of agencies that people might need to help solve a range of problems during the period when we are all staying home.

Organization Contact Information
Wisconsin Unemployment 201 E. Washington Avenue, Madison, WI 53703, (608) 266-3131
Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) PO Box 7970, Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7970, 1-866-HEATWIS (432-8947); email
Wisconsin 20/20 (WEDC) 201 E. Washington Avenue, Madison, WI 53703; 608-210-6700
Job Center Business Services 888-258-9966, email
Feeding America - Milwaukee 1700 W. Fond du Lac Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53205; 414-931-7400 or 800-236-1208
Medicaid Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 1 West Wilson Street, Madison, WI 53703; 608-266-1865, email
Wisconsin Health Fund 6200 W Bluemound Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53213-4145; 414-771-5600
Milwaukee Health Department email

Be in touch with friends, family, neighbors. And be safe.

 

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stay at home but vote!

Again this week, I am not including any events in the newsletter. Governor Evers has announced a "Safer at Home" policy today that effectively means that all but essential businesses and services will be closed from 8am on Wednesday, March 25, until Friday, April 24 at 8am. The order spells out a fairly generous definition of what is considered "essential" (see the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article for a partial list of exempted types of stores), but we should all be staying home unless we need groceries, pharmacy items, or health care or we are taking care of someone else. Think of it this way: any other outing is a threat to your health and life or someone else's.

And that means voting by mail! So far, Governor Evers is not considering postponing the election. He is considering canceling all in-person voting, both in the weeks ahead of the election (early voting) and on election day itself. So only absentee ballots would count. This is a terrible idea and should be resisted unless the Governor significantly improves how absentee ballots are distributed. A group of voting rights organizations — Voces de la Frontera, Souls to the Polls, and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin among them — are urging people to call (at 608-266-1212) or email the Governor's office to demand that he postpone the election, as many other states have already done. Alternatively, you could urge him to send an absentee ballot to every registered voter and waive the photo ID requirement so that everyone who receives a ballot can vote. People who have moved and have not re-registered, people who are not registered at all, and students leaving universities might still be unable to vote, though.

Meanwhile, request an absentee ballot yourself by going online to myvote.wi.gov and following the prompts to "Vote Absentee." The easiest way to complete this process is to use your smartphone (a cell phone that has internet connections and a camera). Before you begin the process, you might want to watch a video that Citizen Action has produced. The clip walks through the entire process, including the step that most people find most challenging: taking and uploading a picture of your photo ID. If you don't have a smartphone or can't complete the online process for some other reason, you can print one and mail it. If you're ambitious and can reach people who may not be able to complete the online process easily, you could print several and put them on a porch or somewhere safe outside and let people know they can pick one up from you. If you are a participant in the online service Next Door, that might be a reasonable place to post. In most cases, people can drop the request off at their municipal office but call ahead to make sure. All the municipal buildings in the seven North Shore communities in Milwaukee County are closed to the public now, though government operations continue.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit on March 18, 2020, that called for a new deadline of April 3 for electronic and by-mail voter registration. On Friday, March 20, Judge William M. Conley issued an order that online registration remain open until March 30. The lawsuit "is also seeking to drop a requirement that voters provide photo identification when requesting absentee ballots, and to allow any absentee or vote by mail ballot postmarked by April 7 to be valid for the election." For now, Judge Conley denied the other requests, "leaving open the possibility that they could be dealt with down the road with additional briefing" (CNN.com, Friday, March 20. 2020). Keep an eye open for further rulings.

Although the extended deadline for registering to vote will potentially enable thousands of Wisconsites to participate in the April 7 election and those that follow, many voters — whether already registered or not — continue to encounter a range of problems with access to the ballot. In response to that issue, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin will shortly be launching its Voter Assistance Hotline. Trainings for staffing the hotline are happening today, Wednesday, and Thursday with shifts beginning Wednesday, March 25, at 8:30am - 1pm and 1pm - 5pm. Please sign up for trainings and shifts! Now is the time to do something to help your state while you are required to be at home. And if you or someone you know has had trouble completing the request for an absentee ballot, encourage them to call the Voter Assistance Hotline. Unfortunately, I do not yet have the number, so I will be sending out an additional email again this week when I do get the information.

Grassroots North Shore also needs your help to phone voters in our North Shore communities. We cannot canvass but we can contact voters to support Judge Jill Karofsky and to help voters request absentee ballots. Whitefish Bay and Bayside are automatically sending request forms to all registered voters in their communities. If you know of other communities doing this, please let me know (nancyannkaplan@gmail.com. Most important: sign up to make calls at our Weekend of Action (3/28-29) page. Time is of the essence, so please sign up today. I will email you a script, instructions and a set of links to get you started. The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is technically April 2. But the ballot must be received at the municipal clerk's office by 8pm on April 7. So absentee ballot requests may not be practical if people don't know about the process in the next few days or put off making the request until quite late. You can begin phoning as soon as you receive the link to the virtual phone bank!

In this kind of medical crisis, hospitals and health care workers need the support of their communities. Froedert is asking for donations of Personal Protective Equipment (aka PPE). PPE includes surgical and N95 masks, goggles, disposable gloves, and paper gowns. Donations of new, unused PPE can be directed to 262-532-5000 or purchasingassistant@froedtert.com or dropped off in the donation box at the Integrated Service Center, N86 W12999 Nightingale Way, Menomonee Falls, WI 53051.

Those of you who can sew may want to help make masks, which continue to be in short supply. You can find one such pattern online. This pattern will set you back $8 but there are surely others you can find that are free. Happy searching. Although these kinds of masks are not as protective as N95s, they may still be useful for the general public. At the very least, wearing one discourages people from touching their faces! Another strategy for that difficult-to-perform practice — since we touch our faces constantly and unconsciously, apparently — is to wear a halloween mask. So be a super hero: wear a mask and wash your hands!

You should keep up to date on what is happening in Milwaukee and Ozaukee Counties by consulting reputable sources like the North Shore Health Department and the Washington/Ozaukee County Health Department. Other good sources of information are the Wisconsin Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.

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