the case of the rigged maps

I'm writing and sending this newsletter a few days early because on Tuesday, November 21, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on Rebecca Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, the case concerning the election maps currently in effect in Wisconsin. (Access the complete brief from the Fair Maps Coalition.) Although the case the justices have agreed to hear does not look directly at the partisan gerrymandering we have been living under since the 2011 maps were signed into law by then Governor Walker, they have ordered the parties to address four questions. The Fair Maps Coalition summarizes the four key questions:

  1. Do the existing state legislative maps violate the contiguity requirements contained in Article IV, Sections 4 and 5 of the Wisconsin Constitution?

  2. Did the adoption of the existing state legislative maps violate the Wisconsin Constitution's separation of powers?

  3. If the court rules that Wisconsin's existing state legislative maps violate the Wisconsin Constitution for either or both of these reasons and the legislature and the governor then fail to adopt state legislative maps that comply with the Wisconsin Constitution, what standards should guide the court in imposing a remedy for the constitutional violation(s)?

  4. What fact-finding, if any, will be required if the court determines there is a constitutional violation based on the contiguity clauses and/or the separation-of-powers doctrine and the court is required to craft a remedy for the violation? If fact-finding will be required, what process should be used to resolve questions of fact?

You'll find the Supreme Court order accepting the part of the case pertaining to the four questions above here.

The issue of contiguity is apparently tangled up with the constitutional requirement that electoral maps also respect municipal boundaries. An interesting article in Propublica — Wisconsin’s Legislative Maps Are Bizarre, but Are They Illegal? — discusses the dilemma, though in a way that seems to leave malign Republican intent out of the explanation!: "In the interior of her district, the 91st, sits a free-floating chunk that actually belongs to the turf of the adjacent lawmaker, Republican Karen Hurd. That may seem odd, but what is often left unsaid in discussions of Wisconsin maps is that the islands are not random parcels created by mapmakers to advantage Republicans at the behest of a Republican legislature. Rather, the irregular blobs largely follow municipal maps that reflect the history of Wisconsin cities and villages adding to their tax base by annexing bits of land in nearby areas. The practice often leaves towns with irregular maps and legislative districts with holes and satellites."

University of Colorado Law Professor Doug Spencer, an expert in redistricting, knows of no other redistricting cases that hinge on what "contiguity" means. He defines contiguity as a district that is drawn without the need for the map maker to lift up her pencil. "According to the legal complaint, the majority of Wisconsin’s Assembly districts are noncontiguous — each consisting of between two and 40 disconnected pieces of territory. Two-thirds of the state’s Senate districts are noncontiguous — each with between two and 34 disconnected pieces."

Several of the leaders of Grassroots North Shore are planning to go to Madison to watch the proceedings beginning at 8:45am and running for 80 plus minutes. But you don't have to get in your car before dawn to watch. WisconsinEye will be broadcasting the hearing live.

Watching is not the only thing you can do. Go to a noon rally to show your support for fair maps. Milwaukee will be the scene of a rally at noon at the Milwaukee State Office Building (819 N. Sixth St, Milwaukee). Other rallies at noon will take place at the Brown County Court House in Green Bay (100 S. Jefferson St, Green Bay) and at the Eau Claire County Courthouse (721 Oxford Ave, Eau Claire).

The Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) brief submitted by the Wisconsin Justice Institute and the Fair Maps Coalition (of which Grassroots North Shore is a member) lays out the problem: "Polling data shows that by overwhelming margins citizens who vote for both parties want a nonpartisan redistricting process."

Seventy-two percent of voters say they prefer redistricting of legislative and congressional districts to be done by a nonpartisan commission, while 18 percent prefer redistricting be done by the legislature and governor. Majorities in each partisan group favor a nonpartisan commission for redistricting…. Less than 30 percent of each group preferred redistricting be done by the legislature and governor (Marquette Law School Poll, January 24, 2019).

Wisconsin's future direction hangs on the outcome of this case. This handy graphic to the right displays what large majorities of the people of Wisconsin want but cannot get because legislators in seats gerrymandered to make them safe for the incumbents do not have to pay attention to all their constituents. And that's how a party that garners more the 50% of the total statewide vote for the Assembly ends up with only 35 of the 99 seats.

The Events listings are thinning out and will probably remain a bit sparse until after New Year's Day. But there's still plenty of good events for you to review. Below this paragraph you will find video recordings of events you may have missed and links to a few podcasts you might find interesting.

On Sunday, November 12, Grassroots North Shore presented Can Democrats Win the Messaging War in 2024? with featured speakers David Pepper (author of Saving Democracy), Melissa Agard (WI Senate Minority Leader), and Mandela Barnes (President of Power to the Polls). In case you missed it, you can watch the recording.

The Nov. 13 public issues forum "Fact or Fiction: Dispelling Abortion Care Myths" — presented by the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County — lived up to its billing. The presenters provided clarity on abortion-related topics that are subject to disinformation, such as anti-abortion billboards falsely depicting stages of fetal development. View the recording here.

Recordings are now available of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin's three programs on Preparing for Elections in 2024. Issues Briefing Session 1: Redistricting in Wisconsin; Issues Briefing Session 2: Citizen Action at the State Level — Proposed WI Constitutional Amendments, Part 1 and Part 2; and Issues Briefing 3: Overcoming Barriers to Voting & Election Administration Challenges.

And here are some podcasts you might like.

  • A daily weekday dose of somewhat rehabilitated, former-ish Republicans, The Bulwark Podcast is hosted by Charlie Sykes, a Wisconsin native and formerly a prominent "conservative" talk show host on WTMJ in Milwaukee. But he has seen the error of his ways and is now a frequent talking head on MSNBC. He was and is a never-Trumper. Episodes tend to take about 3/4 of an hour.

  • A weekly update on some aspect of the legal quicksand closing in on Dirty Don, Prosecuting Donald Trump is co-hosted by Andrew Weissmann and Mary McCord, both veteran federal prosecutors. Each episode runs a few minutes over 30 minutes.

  • Strict Scrutiny, hosted by "three badass constitutional law professors" — Leah Litman, Kate Shaw, and Melissa Murray — the weekly episodes dissect (mostly) US Supreme Court cases. They did do a show titled "Trump's Legal Defense is Dumb AF," though. The episodes tend to be a little cheeky but convey important legal information those of us who are not lawyers can grasp. The episodes tend to run an hour plus 8 - 12 minutes.

  • For a truly, entertainingly quirky show, try Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Those of you who remember the cable show of the same name will recognize the inimitable style Olbermann brings to the news. And if you happen to be a sports fan, as he has always been, you'll find a segment of each episode full of delightful, arcane sports information — often about baseball. The episodes vary in length, with some about 40 minutes and others over an hour. He posts new content four days a week.


Tuesday, November 21

DMV Voter Registration, 12:00pm

The LWVWI Voter Services Committee invites any interested member to participate in our upcoming Voter Services Community Conversations. The purpose of this series is to create a space for League members interested in voter services to join together in conversation around a voter services topic each month. These informal conversations will be held over zoom. Each session will have one or more discussion leaders who are knowledgeable about the topic. Sessions will be held over the noon hour on the 3rd Tuesday of the Month. Each conversation will begin with 15 minutes of free form networking with the topic driven conversation to begin at 12:15pm. Join the Zoom call.

Thursday, November 23

Thanksgiving Day!

Friday, November 24

Jewish Museum, 1360 North Prospect Ave, Milwaukee

Did you know that Black Friday is the name given to one day in London in 1910 when a group of 300 women marched to the Houses of Parliament as part of their campaign to secure voting rights for women? The devastating day earned its name from the violence meted out to protesters by the Metropolitan Police and male bystanders. In honor of these brave suffragettes, women buy one admission, get one free today only! Bring your best friend, mother, sister, or daughter to learn about Women Pulling at the Threads of Social Discourse. The exhibit explores how female artists, using textiles as their medium, subvert the social expectations of crafting by lambasting this soft medium with social and political awareness. Book tickets.

Saturday, November 25

Stand for Peace, 12:00 - 1:00pm
St. Paul and Water, Milwaukee

Stand for Peace demonstrates for peace at a different intersection in Milwaukee County every Saturday.

Tuesday, November 28

Marisabel for Milwaukee Kickoff & Fundraiser, 5:00 - 7:30pm
Amalinda, 315 E Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee

Marisabel Cabrera is a Wisconsin pro-choice and LGBT leader. Join Team Marisabel supporters for an intimate evening of fine dining bites and snacks, inspired by the flavors of Spain & Portugal, incorporating local ingredients. Featuring beloved Chef Gregory Len, James Beard Award Nominee 2022, 2023. Hosts: former Rep Sandy Pasch and many more! Learn more about Marisabel. RSVP REQUIRED.

Sarah Harrison Campaign Kickoff, 5:30pm
19115 W Capitol Dr #100, Brookfield

Join us on Thursday, November 28 at North Star Bistro to kick off Sarah Harrison’s campaign for State Assembly District 13! AD13 includes Brookfield, Elm Grove and a little scoop of Tosa. Sarah is running for Assembly District 13 to restore our reproductive freedom, fully fund our public schools, and invest in our local communities. As a small business owner and mother of two teenagers, Sarah understands the challenges we face in AD13. Donate and RSVP.

Wednesday, November 29

On the Issues: Wisconsin Election Outlook, 12:15 - 1:15
Eckstein Hall | Lubar Center (1215 W Michigan, Milwaukee) and online

Lubar Center Director Derek C. Mosley will talk with Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll and professor of law and public policy; Craig Gilbert, Lubar Center Fellow, and longtime journalist in Washington, D.C., whose election analysis appears in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; and Julia Azari, professor of political science at Marquette University and a regular contributor to national discussions of politics. They will discuss Wisconsin's 2024 election outlook, including the effects of changes in voter demographics and highlights of polling data on some of the state's most significant issues. Sign up.

Saturday, December 2

Elect Her, 10:00am - 1:30pm
Jake's, A Lakeland Community - 529 Ontario Avenue, Sheboygan

Have you considered running for office? We bet you're more qualified than you think. Running for office gives you the chance to be a champion for your community. Just one in four elected leaders are women. But when they run, they win at the same rates as men — the problem is that not enough enter the arena. Engaging women early is key to increasing the number of women leading at schools, in communities, and in politics. LWV of Wisconsin, LWV of Sheboygan County, and Sheboygan County Youth Voters are joining efforts to offer a free, half-day nonpartisan training on how to run for political office. We are partnering with Running Start to give participants access to their proven Elect Her curriculum that gives young women the confidence, capabilities and connections they need to run and win! Register.

Stand for Peace, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Locust and Oakland, Milwaukee

Stand for Peace demonstrates for peace at a different intersection in Milwaukee County every Saturday.


Saturday, December 9

Stand for Peace, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Highway 100 and North Ave, Milwaukee

Stand for Peace demonstrates for peace at a different intersection in Milwaukee County every Saturday.

Tuesday, December 12

Marisabel for Milwaukee Southside Campaign Launch Birthday Celebration and Holiday Party, 5:00 - 7:00pm
Broken Bat Brewing Co., 135 E Pittsburgh Ave, Milwaukee

An event to celebrate the Holiday Season and Rep. Marisabel Cabreras Birthday. Featuring host: Milwaukee Common Council President Jos Prez. Sign up.

Friday, December 15

Waukesha Dem Party Drag Show & Game Night, 7:00pm
Schuetze Recreation Center Activity Room, 1120 Baxter St, Waukesha

Join us for our first ever drag show and only fun-raiser of 2023! This will be a fun night of bingo, games, photo ops, and fun! All funds raised will go to support our 2024 plans to win local races before re-electing Tammy Baldwin and Joe Biden! Waukesha County will be #Crucial to winning Wisconsin, your donation sets us up for success. There will be prizes, fun, BBQ catering, and MORE! Buy Tickets.

Monday, December 18

Join Us for a Rally and Fundraiser for Evan Goyke for City Attorney! 5:00 - 7:00pm
Best Place at the Historic Pabst, 917 W Juneau Ave, Milwaukee

Join Host Senator LaTonya Johnson for a special event for Evan Goyke. This is a time to sign nomination papers, get yard signs, raise money, sign up to endorse, support, and volunteer! Donate and/or sign up.

Wednesday, December 20

Oz Dems Monthly Meeting, 7:00 - 8:00pm
1930 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.

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