Heading toward justice

Yesterday was historic as the House Select Committee wound down its work and issued four criminal referrals recommending that the Department of Justice charge the ex-president for inciting an insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding, conspiring to make false statements (this is about the fake electors scheme), and conspiring to defraud the United States. All the national news outlets, of course, covered the story but many — like the New York Times and the Washington Post — are behind paywalls. So here are a few free discussions of the executive summary (which you can download here): Daily Kos, Axios, CNN, and MSNBC.

Stories about the January 6 Select Committee have, however, been eclipsed already by a flood of news coming out of Congress and the White House. If you only read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, however, you'll be pretty much in the dark. I can find no account of the Select Committee's meeting yesterday. There is, however, a startling and welcome article about how voting patterns in the suburbs have shifted a lot over the last four election cycles. As a subhead in the piece by Daniel Bice shows, "There have been huge voting shifts away from Republican Party in the Milwaukee suburbs." Apparently that shift is apparent in the suburbs around Madison too. In the Ozaukee city of Mequon, for example, this last election saw a "22-point swing (from plus 22.3 Republican to plus 0.8 Republican)." It may still be red-ish, but just barely. Even places like Elm Grove, while still in the GOP win column, are shifting significantly: "a 21-point swing (from plus 25.9 Republican to plus 4.8 Republican)."

The shifts Bice notes are encouraging but we cannot afford to overlook supposedly nonpartisan issues. For example, I could not find much coverage of two Wisconsin constitutional amendments that may be passed in time to be placed on the ballot for the April 4 election. Both have to do with elections and both were passed once (first consideration) in the 2021 legislative session. They need to be passed again (second consideration), in the 2023 legislative session after which they are to be ratified by the registered voters in the state.

The first one prohibits "the use of a donation or grant of private resources for purposes of election administration." It is aimed squarely at the so-called "Zuck bucks" that provided funds to some election administrations throughout the state and the nation in 2020. Get an explanation of Mark Zuckerburg's grants to election administration here. You can read the full text of the proposed amendment here.

The second proposed amendment is more concerning because it seeks to further tighten the restrictions on who can vote in the state. Here's the Legislative Reference Bureau's analysis of what it would do:

Currently, the constitution provides that every United States citizen age 18 or older who is a resident of an election district in Wisconsin is a qualified elector of that district. A qualified elector is an individual who is eligible to vote in Wisconsin, subject to requirements established by law, such as voter registration.

This constitutional amendment, proposed to the 2021 legislature on first consideration, provides that only a person who is a qualified elector may vote in an election for national, state, or local office or at a statewide or local referendum.

The actual language of the amendment, available here, changes the wording to read "only a United States citizen age 18 or older" and strikes the language "every United States citizen age 18 or older." The revision may seem trivial to non-grammarians but its intent is to be more restrictive and perhaps to pave the way to require proof of US citizenship in order to register to vote. Or to prevent any Wisconsin municipality from allowing non-citizens to vote in, say, school board elections, as some areas around the country have recently done.

Both amendments have to pass the new legislature (called second consideration) and then be ratified by the people. The actual language that will be on the ballot will be "simplified" and probably written so as to obfuscate the actual meaning of the amendments. We'll discuss this issue in greater detail if it appears that these amendments will be on our ballots on April 4.

A basic elections page is now available at Grassroots North Shore so you can see what offices will be on the ballot in various municipalities. Some information is still missing, though. In Milwaukee County, there will be an election for Appeals Court District 1. Sara Geenen is running against incumbent William Brash. If you live in the county, you can sign her nomination papers. We won't be able to fill in candidate names and online resources until we know who has qualified for the ballot in each race, probably not until the end of the first week in January 2023.

There appear to be no events listed for the next week or so on the Milwaukee County Democratic website. The organization is discarding its current web presence and moving to a new one on a new platform. I will link to it when it is ready. Stand for Peace, however will be operating as usual on Saturday, December 24, from noon to 1:00pm, at Silver Spring and Port Washington and on Saturday, December 31, from noon to 1:00pm, at King and North Streets. Visit the upcoming calendar for future locations. And the Democratic Party of Ozaukee County is holding its monthly meeting on Wednesday, December 21, at 7:00pm, both online and in person. The calendar on their website directs interested parties to their Facebook page for information. The office is located at 1930 Wisconsin Ave , Grafton, 53024.

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