Today's newsletter is entirely devoted to summarizing the ongoing battle for fair election maps for our state. If you care about this issue — and you should, since every other issue we care about hangs on restoring fairness to our election districts — you need to call, write or email your state senator and your assembly representatives to oppose firing Meagan Wolfe, to oppose impeaching Janet Protasiewicz, and to oppose a sham nonpartisan method for drawing election maps. To find who represents you, how to contact them, and where they currently stand on the threat to impeach Justice Protasiewicz, go to Defend Justice.
The state of Wisconsin is in a fierce battle to retain even a semblance of representative democracy, a governing structure that relies on the ability of voters to choose representatives to its various governing bodies. (See Wikipedia: "Representative democracy, also known as indirect democracy, is a type of democracy where elected people represent a group of people, in contrast to direct democracy.") At the moment, we have a representative democracy in the executive branch of statewide governance. Four of the five top executive positions, three Democrats and one Republican, won their positions in the 2022 election. (The fifth was appointed after the person who was elected resigned.) At the apex of our judicial system, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is comprised of seven justices, all of whom have been elected to their seats. When Justice Janet Protasiewicz won her election against Dan Kelly by a resounding 11% in April 2023, the court's center of gravity shifted left. But that shift had been underway for the last several supreme court elections: for Justice Dallet in 2018 and for Justice Karofsky in 2020 — the one exception being the election of Justice Hagedorn in 2019. Clearly the resulting make-up of the court reflects the choices Wisconsin voters have made over the last six years.
The legislative branch of our government, however, is decidedly undemocratic in that the district maps have been drawn — first in 2011 and again in 2021 — to ensure a Republican majority. Recently Craig Gilbert asked Are Wisconsin's election maps 'rigged'? The answer, as he shows in the article, is YES: "the outcome had already been decided before any votes were cast. Forget about who the candidates are, forget about what the issues are, forget about what the polls say. The results in these legislative races were already 'baked in' by how the districts were drawn."
Our current legislature is again making an open frontal assault on representative democracy. In recent weeks the Senate and Assembly have taken three steps to help ensure that control of the legislature remains firmly in Republican hands and that state elections are overseen by someone the legislature chooses.
First, the senate, in the grip of a super-majority, voted on September 13 to fire Meagan Wolfe, the administrator of the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) (GOP-led Wisconsin Senate votes to fire nonpartisan official targeted by 2020 election skeptics). Originally, Wolfe was unanimously confirmed by the senate after it rejected her predecessor who had worked for the Government Accountability Board (GAB). To understand the scope of the ongoing power grab, we need a little bit of history. The GAB was originally created as a reform measure in 2007 and "had a nonpartisan structure unique among election boards in the United States, with G.A.B. led by six former judges appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate" (Wikipedia). Republicans subsequently decided that GAB was inadequate because it pursued investigations into former governor Scott Walker's recall campaign. So it abolished that agency and created the WEC in 2016, undoing the nonpartisan approach and substituting a commission comprised of three Democrats and three Republicans all of whom were to be appointed by partisans.
But that reform also apparently did not seem to do, because it failed to satisfy the election deniers and skeptics repeatedly — and falsely — questioning the results of the 2020 election. So the senate voted to remove Meagan Wolfe from her position. In response to the senate vote to fire her, Attorney General Kaul immediately filed a lawsuit arguing that "Senate Republicans don’t have the authority to oust Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe and accused them of attacking the state’s elections." The AP article informs us that "Senate rejection would normally carry the effect of firing her." Because the WEC had not nominated anyone to serve as the administrator, however, "a recent state Supreme Court ruling appears to allow her to stay in office indefinitely as a holdover." The history of the constantly changing structure of election administration in Wisconsin shows how Republicans keep trying to control our elections, presumably to influence outcomes in their favor.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has been threatening to impeach Justice Protasiewicz if she does not recuse herself when the lawsuits challenging the current electoral maps are adjudicated by the Supreme Court. There are several reasons why this effort undermines the state judiciary. Perhaps most importantly, it amounts to yet another effort to overturn an election. Just watch Rachel Maddow and Ben Wikler explain. The effort has attracted a slew of national media. Here's Reid J. Epstein in the New York Times: Why Republicans Could Impeach a Liberal Judge Before She’s Heard a Case (gifted article). In the Washington Post, Scott Bauer and David A. Lieb publish GOP threat to impeach a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice is driven by fear of losing legislative edge (gifted). And Washington Post opinion columnist Jennifer Ruben posts Wisconsin GOP entertains a constitutional crisis. Again. (gifted). See also a New York Magazine article: Will Wisconsin Republicans Pull Off the Ultimate Power Grab?
And as if that weren't enough indication that the legislature is desperately trying to retain its lopsided power through rigged maps, Speaker Vos surreptitiously concocted a bill he claimed would be a nonpartisan method of drawing new election maps based on the "Iowa model." Vos presented the bill, AB 415, to the Assembly without a committee hearing, Democratic input, or public scrutiny. The bill passed with several amendments, but decidedly DOES NOT present a truly nonpartisan process for revising the rigged maps currently governing our elections. Representative Deb Andraca immediately warned that "the 'Iowa Model' that Robin Vos is proposing is actually a Trojan horse that threatens to undermine democratic fairness. Vos' 'Iowa model' harbors a perilous loophole that hands over unmitigated control of drawing districts to legislators, granting them the leverage to redraw and replace maps entirely on the third round of the drafting process."
Jessie Opoien and Molly Beck explain Why Wisconsin Republicans suddenly embraced redistricting changes and Democrats want no part of it in a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel piece. "The move is aimed at bypassing lawsuits before the state Supreme Court that seek to rewrite the current GOP-favorable maps that were adopted in 2021." In fact, the bill that passed does not truly embody the Iowa model. In a bipartisan statement, two Iowa politicos say "the proposal currently in front of the Wisconsin Legislature cannot be accurately called the Iowa model because it lacks the elements that have been the foundation for our system’s success. The clearest and most consequential difference is that Wisconsin’s proposal rejects our system of judicial review. In Iowa, the legislature has limited opportunities to accept or reject the maps drafted by legislative staff. If lawmakers fail to reach consensus, the maps are drawn by the Iowa Supreme Court and enacted" (WisDems: Bipartisan Iowa leaders: 'The proposal currently in front of the Wisconsin Legislature cannot be accurately called the Iowa Model'). But in the bill the Wisconsin Assembly passed on September 14, the Assembly can redraw the third round maps any way they choose, as long as there is at least one Democrat willing to vote for the maps. Andraca calls out this feature: "This loophole acts as a gateway to continued gerrymandering, allowing them to reject nonpartisan maps and instead sanction their own, bias-laden versions. This isn’t simply a flaw in the system; it is a purposeful mechanism that Vos identified to facilitate an undemocratic seizure of control."
So there we have it: the legislature's three efforts to undermine what should be our representative democracy: 1) fire the state's administrator of elections and put in her place someone more amenable to political pressure from the right wing currently controlling our legislature; 2) remove Justice Protaseiwicz to prevent the Supreme Court of Wisconsin from potentially tossing out the rigged election maps and adopting fair maps in their stead; and 3) pass a Trojan horse bill that purports to institute a nonpartisan process for drawing new maps but which in truth simply allows the legislature to continue to draw unfair election maps after a lengthy, drawn-out process. This third gambit is sure to end up in the courts after all but too late to have new and fair maps in place for the 2024 elections. So as our Grassroots North Shore Co-chair Debbie Patel says, we can turn to the courts now or we can turn to the courts later. The big difference is what maps will be in place for the next elections. Josh Marshall, at Talking Points Memo, has posted a thorough interview with Ben Wikler discussing the many aspects of the GOP strategy. It runs about 14 minutes but I highly recommend watching it.
Wednesday, September 20
Mayor Cavalier Johnson Campaign Kickoff, 5:00 - 7:00pm
An Ox Cafe, 7411 W Hampton Ave, Milwaukee
Mayor Cavalier Johnson is working hard every day to make Milwaukee safer, stronger, and more prosperous for all. Thank you for your support! Levels of Support: $3,000 | $1,000 | $500 | $250 | $100. Donate. To RSVP for the event, email [email protected].
September DP Oz County meeting, 7:00 - 8:00pm
130 Wisconsin Ave, Grafton
Join us at our Grafton Office as we gather to hear speakers and catch up on the local and state politics influencing Ozaukee County – while spending time with like-minded people. All interested people are encouraged to attend.
Future Voters Fest, 4:30 - 6:00pm
La Plazita Parklet, 16th & Forest Home Ave, Milwaukee
The League of Women Voters, along with with their co-sponsors — Muskego Way Forward, UMOS’ Raices Youth Group, Safe & Sound, Milwaukee Christian Center’s Kosciuszko Youth Group, Boys and Girls Club and Cristo Rey High School Admission Office — are are hosting the Future Voters Fest. In the interest of appealing to youth to better understand the voting process, and by extension their families, this event will provide hands-on, engaging activities to provide youth with the idea that voting is a key responsibility in supporting our democracy. If you want to have a fun and informative place for children to learn about voting you should put this on your calendar. Please contact [email protected] if you have any questions or would like to contribute to the school supplies or giveaways. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FLYER IN ENGLISH AND SPANISH.
Thursday, September 21
Bay Bridge: Investing in Segregated Black Neighborhoods, 6:45 - 8:25pm
This is the 3rd of a 4 part discussion and action series. But each segment is also a stand-alone event. This is an opportunity to hold action oriented conversation around what we can do to desegregate Milwaukee. Author Leah Rothstein will attend our September discussion. You do NOT have to attend all sessions nor do you have to read the book. Please come for important problem solving & opportunity building. Register.
Saturday, September 23
Grassroots Glendale Defend Justice Canvassing, 12pm - 3pm & 3pm - 6pm
6563 N Crestwood Dr, Glendale
WE NEED YOUR HELP! Republicans threaten to impeach newly-elected Janet Protasiewicz. This is a desperate, unconstitutional, unprecedented, and obscene power grab to erase the votes of a million Wisconsinites and lock in their gerrymandered maps, the near-total abortion ban, and the plot to overturn the 2024 presidential election. We must make absolutely clear to Robin Vos and Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature that this attempt to nullify the last election is absolutely unacceptable. Join us to mobilize voters to call their Representatives! So please sign up!
Riverwest/Harambee Dems Weekend of Action Canvass, 12pm - 3pm & 3pm - 6pm
Art Bar: 722 E Burleigh St, Milwaukee
Weekend of Action Canvass to lay the groundwork for robust and successful elections in 2024. We're talking to people to get a feel for the issues they care about and thus to craft the right messages to reach them and turn them out. Sign up. The event repeats on Sunday, September 24.
Westside MKE Dems September Weekend of Action Canvass, 12pm - 3pm & 3pm - 6pm
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Milwaukee Field Office: 8405 W Lisbon Ave, Milwaukee
Join us the weekend of September 23rd/24th as we talk to folks in the community about the issues at the front of their minds heading into the pivotal 2024 election cycle. This is a great opportunity for new canvassers to get a feel for knocking doors, so bring a first-time canvasser along with you and get to know your Dem neighbors and the issues they care about! Sign up. The event repeats on Sunday, September 24.
Stand for Peace, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Capitol and Teutonia
Stand for Peace demonstrates for peace at a different intersection in Milwaukee County every Saturday.
UN International Day of Peace 2023: Peace Action WI Teach-In, 7:00pm
Zao Church, 2319 E Kenwood Blvd, Milwaukee and via Zoom
Ray McGovern, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer turned political activist will be joining us for a Hybrid meeting on Zoom. Right now, there is a heightened risk of nuclear war with Russia over NATO expansion and the war in Ukraine, and with China because of continuing military build-up by Japan, South Korea and the US in the Pacific region. Ray will speak on the important issues concerning the war in Ukraine and the many dangers it imposes. A discussion with community participation will follow after Ray McGovern speaks. Here's how to join with Zoom.
Tuesday, September 26
Chris Larson Backyard Fundraiser, 5:00 - 7:00pm
3233 S Herman St, Milwaukee
If the cooling weather didn't make it clear, we are getting closer to our annual end-of-summer backyard fundraiser. Please, join us for a great time.
- Good beer! At least 17 different varieties, including Oktoberfest, stouts, IPAs, and a couple of N/As so there's something for everyone.
- Good weather! So far, we've had great weather every year we've done it and I hope we can keep that streak alive.
- Good conversation about the latest political happenings! Have you checked the news lately?!
- Good people! That's where you come in.
Donate and RSVP.
Wednesday, September 27
Scout Wine Merchants, 4512 N Oakland Ave, Shorewood
You're invited to a reception to kick off Supervisor Liz Sumner's campaign for Milwaukee County Comptroller. Liz chairs the County Finance Committee and is a member of the Audit Committee. She is also a member of the Fox Point Village Board, giving her a unique perspective on complex municipal and county finance issues. Her candidacy stands strong on a platform of fiscal responsibility, transparency, and collaboration. She is committed to ensuring the financial health of Milwaukee County, making it an even better place to live, work, and grow. Donate and RSVP.
Saturday, September 30
Free Citizenship Clinic, 10:00am - 1:00pm
MATC Education Center at Walker Square, 816 West National Ave, Milwaukee
This clinic will offer Free legal assistance in filing naturalization applications. If you wish to participate, registering before the event is mandatory. Please register only if you believe you may qualify for citizenship. Eligibility requirements can be found in the registration link.
Stand for Peace, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Lincoln Memorial and La Fayette Hill
This week we are standing for peace in Ukraine with the Peace in Ukraine Coalition — Ceasefire and Peace Talks Now! No Nuclear War in Ukraine! Diffuse Nuclear War. Stand for Peace demonstrates for peace at a different intersection in Milwaukee County every Saturday.
SAVE THE DATE
Saturday, October 7
Hope Without Borders Picnic On The Farm Fundraiser, 12:00 - 8:00pm
Parve Family Farm, 5724 Division Rd, West Bend
We are excited to welcome you for a day of fall fun during the HWB Picnic on the Farm Fundraiser. Many things have changed over the years, but some things have not... our passion for serving local and global communities. We are so excited to tell you about our farming project in Tanzania, which is changing lives and inspired us to do more. Price includes a picnic style brat fry, cookie decorating; pumpkin decorating; petting zoo; games; silent auction; raffles; and even a pie baking contest. Buy Tickets and Register.
Monday, October 9
WIARA 2023 Power Lunch, 10:30am
Hilton Garden Inn Milwaukee Northwest Conference Center, 11600 W Park Pl, Milwaukee
Sponsored by Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, this is an event you don’t want to miss! Not only are we recognizing Labor, Community, and Elected Officials that go above and beyond to support Wisconsin retirees, but we’ll also be hearing from several exciting speakers – watch your email for the announcement! If you would like to nominate someone to be recognized click here for nomination process details. Individual tickets are $75. A table for 8 is $600. Lunch provides a choice of Salmon, Beef Short Rib, or Vegetarian. Changes to food choices should be emailed to [email protected]. Purchase your ticket on Action Network.
Tuesday, October 10
What is Happening with DEI in Our Schools, 5:00- 6:30pm
Turner Hall, 1040 Vel R. Phillips Ave, Milwaukee and online
For students, teachers, families, and folks who care about equity in our community. DEI efforts are under attack in our schools. Long-term systemic racism must be countered by long-term systemic anti-racism that lifts up and collaborates with marginalized people. Societies are stronger, richer and more resilient when they respect, value and learn from diverse cultures, knowledge, experiences, and ideas. Panelists: + Elisabeth Lambert, Wisconsin Education Law & Policy Hub + Diannia Merriett, Parents Advocating for Greendale Equity + Lashawnda Holland, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility - Wauwatosa School District + Alyson Weiss, Superintendent, Glendale River Hills + Nathan Russell, Founder, Suburbs for Equality. Moderator: Emilio De Torre, Milwaukee Turners. Doors open at 4:30 PM. Broadcast begins at 5 PM in the Palm Garden, on the first floor of Turner Hall. For in-person or for virtual attendance, please sign up.
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