Better Late Than Never

My apologies for the day-late newsletter. Yesterday was just a crazy day in my household. Today, though, is calm and collected.

On Sunday, May 2, Grassroots North Shore held "Mopping Up Wisconsin's Map Mess," a big event about gerrymandering in this state. More than 200 people registered for it. Deborah Patel, who leads the North Shore Fair Maps Action Team, moderated an outstanding discussion panel consisting of Deb Andraca, Assembly Representative for District 23; Mel Barnes, Staff Counsel at Law Forward; and Carlene Bechen, Grassroots Organizer for the Fair Maps Coalition. The video of the event is now available on our YouTube channel. It's well worth your time.

If you want to find out more about the #EndGerrymandering movement in Wisconsin, sign up to attend the next meeting of the North Shore Fair Maps Action Team, on Monday, May 10, at 7pm on Zoom. The meeting, "Across the Divide," will feature folks across the political divide (and from across the country), all working to #EndGerrymandering. The May 10 featured speaker will be Walter Olson, Senior Cato Fellow and Republican co-chair of the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission. This meeting will also feature speakers from a variety of political perspectives. Wisconsin was gerrymandered by Republicans. Maryland was gerrymandered by Democrats. No matter where it happens, it hurts us all. Please sign up. You should also sign up to get one or more #EndGerrymandering yard signs. They're free. And they help raise awareness of the issue with your neighbors and passersby.

Right now, the legislative session is in full swing, dealing with a number of issues supporters of Grassroots North Shore care deeply about. But it's really hard, sometimes, to be informed about legislative events until after they happen. Middle Wisconsin, a non-profit and volunteer run online magazine, has recently published an article explaining how and why to sign up for the legislative notification service for topics that may interest you. Have a look. You might want to dip into the other articles on offer also.

Looking ahead: Our next Grassroots Town Hall event, "Green is Good!", will take place on Sunday, June 13, from 7pm - 8:15pm. On Zoom, of course. Co-sponsored by Wisconsin Conservation Voters, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Jewish Democrats, the program will feature Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy; Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes; and Lisa Geason-Bauer from Evolution Marketing. Kevin Kane from the Green Homeowners Association will moderate the panel. So save the date! Or better yet, RSVP now.

Looking back with an eye toward next year: Here's some granular detail from the April 6 election for the seven North Shore suburbs in Milwaukee County. (Ozaukee County data should be featured in a forthcoming newsletter). The data include vote totals, percentages and turnout by community and by ward for the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction and for the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Branch 3 — two of the races in which Grassroots North Shore endorsed a candidate and about which we sent postcards to Democratic women in our communities to urge them to vote. Of course, we cannot claim all the credit for the higher-than-statewide turnout averages in our area, but it looks as if our postcard effort helped our candidates win pretty decisively (except in Ward 2 in River Hills!).

Finally, there is a lot happening in national news that we suspect will affect our local election outcomes, chief among which is today's decision (or punt, perhaps) of the Facebook Oversight Board regarding "the former guy's" presence on the platform. Essentially, the Board concluded that the decision to ban the former president was well-founded at the time but that its "indefinite status" would need to be revisited in six months. In other words, Zuckerberg will have to make the decision himself, six months from now. Meanwhile he-who-shall-not-be-named will have to remain unable to use Facebook or Instagram. (He's been permanently banned from Twitter.) The Board also took the occasion to issue a well-deserved reprimand of Facebook for its failure to provide defined standards for indefinite suspensions. (See Talking Points Memo for one take on this development.) So, some reprieve there but no ultimate decision. Which is unfortunate. The silence from that quarter has been wonderful.

Read more
1 reaction Share

Elections matter

The first set of data from the 2020 census has been released and the news is somewhat better for Democrats than they had feared. Although reliably blue New York and California are both slated to lose a congressional seat while reliably red Texas will gain two and Florida one, the population shift to the Sun Belt was not as big as some thought it would be. So the elections for Congress in 2022 do not look as dire for Democrats as they could have been. That said, it's important to stress that the outcomes of elections are essentially governed by three processes: 1) the electoral district maps — who draws them and how they are drawn; 2) who is able to vote and who does vote — the rules and regulations around voter registration, the number and distribution of polling places, the rules for early voting and vote by mail, and so on; and 3) who is empowered to count and certify the vote. All three areas are under stress from Republican legislatures nationwide, including our own.

The first concern — who draws the district maps for Congress and for the state legislative houses — has been much in the news over the last few years as cases disputing them have focused on both racial and partisan gerrymandering. To learn more about what is at stake in Wisconsin, come to our "Mopping Up Wisconsin's Map Mess" on Sunday, May 2, from 7pm - 8:30 pm. The event will feature our own 23rd Assembly District representative, Deb Andraca, the lead sponsor of a bill to address gerrymandering in Wisconsin that will soon be introduced in the legislature. The following week, the North Shore Fair Maps Action Team is holding its meeting on Monday, May 10, at 7pm with featured speaker Walter Olson, Senior Cato Fellow and Republican co-chair of the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission. Wisconsin was gerrymandered by Republicans. Maryland was gerrymandered by Democrats. The team has invited Mr. Olson to speak because gerrymandering is pursued by both parties when they're in power. No matter where it happens, it hurts us all.

The second concern right now is the barrage of laws designed to make voting harder for people — especially people of color, young people, the elderly, and the disabled — to have access to the ballot box. Such laws restrict the pool of voters by implementing strict voter ID laws, by limiting the use of vote-by-mail, by putting obstacles in the way of registering to vote, by closing or moving polling places, and many other restrictive practices that discourage participation in elections. Many of these practices have already been implemented in Wisconsin, but that doesn't mean they cannot be tweaked and tightened some more. So, for example, Republicans are proposing to require people who want to vote early in person to fill out a request for an absentee ballot first and then fill out the certification envelope once they have received a ballot and have voted, doubling the paperwork and the time it takes to complete the process. (Right now, the certification envelope does double duty by acting as the request for the ballot as well as the voter's certification of identity.) There are a number of national groups who are pushing back to try to keep Republicans from further restricting voting rights. And the national press has been following these developments pretty closely.

The third area has received less attention, perhaps because Americans have had faith in the fair administration of elections until now. But as the "audit" currently under way in Arizona (and soon to be repeated, apparently in Michigan) shows, those who count and certify votes have significant power over the outcome of elections. For a deeper discussion of this issue, see Rick Hasen's NYTimes op-ed, "Republicans Aren’t Done Messing With Elections". Hasen explains why the newly passed law in Georgia allowing the legislature to remove county election officials and replace them with people they appoint is so worrisome. Introducing clearly partisan processes and people into the administration of elections undermines efforts to ensure that elections are administered without partisan interference. In effect, it makes it possible to "find" votes or to "uncover fraud" when the outcome is "undesirable." This last concern is deeply troubling.

Right now, Wisconsin's governor, Tony Evers, will veto gerrymandered maps, more restrictive access to voting, and attempts to tamper with clean and fair election administration. But not everywhere is so fortunate. And if we fail to re-elect Governor Evers, we are likely to fall prey to these same efforts to pollute our elections in the future. To stay on top of these issues, follow Rick Hasen's Election Law posts. And sign up for the May 2 gerrymandering event and/or the May 10 North Shore Fair Maps meeting.

The For the People Act (S. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are antidotes to much of the mischief taking place in the states. But election and voting issues are hardly the only serious problems we face right now. The Criminal Justice Reform Team is meeting at 6pm TONIGHT to discuss three competing and confusing approaches to much needed reform. The team is meeting with key legislators and tracking the progress of a bill Representative David Bowen is drafting to begin the process of collecting reliable data on various criminal justice practices. Please consider joining to help in this effort. You can still sign up for tonight's meeting.

Read more
1 reaction Share

A look at 4/6

The Events list is pretty short this week, so forgive me if I indulge in a longish analysis of our last elections with an eye toward turning Wisconsin a brighter shade of blue.

But before we get to that matter, I want to call your attention to an upcoming event and an great opportunity to engage in the important issue advocacy work we are doing this year in preparation for the big elections coming up next year.

On May 2, from 7-8:15pm, Grassroots North Shore is sponsoring a nonpartisan event about how the electoral maps that were drawn in 2011 have cemented one-party control of the legislature for the past 10 years — even when the other party's candidates, in the aggregate, got more votes. The event on gerrymandering — Mopping Up Wisconsin's Map Mess — features Representative Deb Andraca, Statewide Organizer for the Fair Maps Coalition Carlene Bechen, and Attorney Mel Barnes from Law Forward. The program will be moderated by our own Deb Patel and is being co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County and by the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition.

On the issue advocacy front we have several opportunities in front of us. What we want to do right now is have people WRITE. So join our Writers' Club. Write letters to the editor of local and state news outlets. Identify your assembly representative and state senator in Madison and then write to them. Write to your representative in Washington, DC. Write to your senators in Washington, DC. Write, right?

Now to the elections. One of the recurring issues all advocacy organizations face is measuring their effectiveness. And Grassroots North Shore is no different. As a proxy for our postcard project's effectiveness in the 7 communities of the North Shore in Milwaukee County, we've turned to the "unofficial vote totals" available at the Milwaukee County Clerk's office. The ward-by-ward outcomes show that Underly won in a landslide in every North Shore ward except one (River Hills, Ward 2, where a total of 160 votes were cast and where Kerr won about 56% of them). In the aggregate of these communities, Underly won 71% of the vote! She even won big in Brown Deer: 57% to 43%.

We can't take all the credit, of course, and we don't yet have turnout numbers. But the results were just as strong for Katie Kegel, who won her race for Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Branch 3, 66% to 34%. And she carried every North Shore ward, including the River Hills ward that preferred Deb Kerr. The number of North Shore votes cast in this election was somewhat smaller than the number cast in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction — 15,606 in the Superintendent race and 13,582 in the judicial race. But given how low-key the judicial race was, it seems reasonable to attribute at least some of Kegel's blowout win to the endorsement of Grassroots North Shore and to our outreach with postcards and phone calls to North Shore women.

Looking to the trends in the whole state, then, we can begin to see how the hard work we have all put in has played out. Daily Kos published an extensive analysis of the Superintendent race. It's long and detailed but well worth the time it takes you to absorb it. Past performance is not a perfect recipe for future outcomes, but the piece does provide us with some guidance about how to maximize our own efforts. Here's some key information from that article.

The post argues that Kerr's use of Republican talking points, especially about re-opening schools and Underly's support from teachers' unions. Dissing the unions and insisting that schools re-open during the pandemic turned out to be a big-time loser. But the article goes further in looking at the role of suburban counties in the 2020 presidential election.

It might be tempting to dismiss any tea leaves from this contest: It was a spring election in an off-year, turnout was relatively low, and both candidates were, technically, Democrats. But turnout was in fact up 30% compared to the last election for schools chief in 2017, and it would serve us well to look a little deeper into the nature of Underly’s 58-42 landslide win in a state that was one of the closest in the 2020 presidential election....

The continued GOP decline in suburbia proved critical in Wisconsin in 2020, turning what had been a narrow win for Donald Trump four years earlier to a narrow victory for Biden last November. Particularly informative are the three suburban counties that surround Milwaukee: the so-called “WOW” counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington).

The corralation between the percent of the population with at least a bachelor's degree and the movement toward voting for Democrats is pretty strong. Comparing the vote percent for president in 2012 to the vote percent in 2020, the shift toward Democrats is clear in Ozaukee and Waukesha where the percent of the voting population with a bachelor's degree is much higher than the state average. (The percent of voters with higher education degrees is in the parentheses.) Here's what the comparison looks like:

COUNTY
2012
2020
SHIFT
Dane
(51.4%)
D+43.5
 
D+52.6
 
D+9.1
 
Ozaukee
(49%)
R+30.3
 
R+12.1
 
D+18.2
 
Waukesha
(44.5%)
R+34.5
 
R+20.8
 
D+13.7
 
Statewide
(30.1%)
D+6.9
 
D+0.7
 
R+6.2
 

There's a lot more to analyze about both elections but the key takeaway for me is that working to win the votes of people in both Milwaukee County and Ozaukee pays big dividends, even if we don't win outright in the redder areas. We just need to reduce the margins between GOP votes and Dem votes.

Read more
1 reaction Share

It's Time to Clean House

Our mission this week is twofold: cleaning up our environment by starting at home and cleaning up our elections by drawing fair maps. Let's dive in.

This week is Earth Week. So we have a Mythbusters program scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, April 14, from 7-8:30pm, with our friend Kevin Kane, of Green Homeowners United. He'll debunk the myth that you can't afford to make your house green. There will be ample time for discussion and Q & A. So sign up.

Also, Wisconsin Conservation Voters is hosting an Earth Week Series you may want to attend:

In thinking about a longer term, we need to be focused on infrastructure — not roads, bridges, ports, and broadband, actually, but our election infrastructure. Especially the way electoral districts for state and federal representation are constructed. In truth, many political ills in Wisconsin — and indeed in many parts of the nation — are based on gerrymandered electoral maps. The polarization we experience in so many areas is at least in part a product of the way our electoral maps make incumbency virtually invincible. Because districts are in effect drawn to protect those already in power, elected representatives don't really face viable competition in elections. The only real competition for them arises from challenges within their own party's primary. And because only really dedicated — and usually highly partisan — voters tend to vote in political primaries, elected officials are often rewarded for moving to and pleasing the most partisan voters. Wisconsin's current electoral maps were structured just that way in 2011.

But we have a chance to revise the maps as a result of the 2020 census. And nothing could be more important to our political future than using fair maps for our elections going forward. We need electoral maps that ensure voters choose who represents them, rather than the current maps that representatives drew to "choose" their voters. That's why Grassroots North Shore is hosting a program on what we can do about gerrymandering in Wisconsin in a webinar on Sunday, May 2: Mopping Up Wisconsin's Map Mess, from 7-8:15pm. As we get organized for the big elections in 2022, we need to lay the groundwork now to ensure that we will have a more representative state senate and assembly going forward. So please make plans to join us on May 2 for our event on fair election maps.

For a really outstanding article about the process and effects of rigged electoral maps, you can't do better than to read Ryan Grim's essay in The Intercept. The New York Times also had a great op-ed piece in yesterday's online publication on "prison gerrymandering" — the pernicious effects of counting incarcerated people where they are serving their sentences rather than counting them where they come from and will return to after they complete their sentences. A key effect, of course, is to shift political power and funding from urban areas where most of those in state and federal prisons live, to rural and predominantly white rural areas where prisons tend to be located.

Now on to the Events for the coming two weeks.

 

Read more
1 reaction Share

It's Election Day!

In this morning's Washington Post, Robert A. Pape, professor of political science at the University of Chicago and director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST), discussed a forthcoming report on CPOST's analysis of the 377 Americans who have been arrested or charged so far in the Insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The analysis aimed to find commonalities among who the insurrectionists are and where they live. Here's what they found:

"Those involved are, by and large, older and more professional than right-wing protesters we have surveyed in the past. They typically have no ties to existing right-wing groups. But like earlier protesters, they are 95 percent White and 85 percent male, and many live near and among Biden supporters in blue and purple counties....

[B]y far the most interesting characteristic common to the insurrectionists’ backgrounds has to do with changes in their local demographics: Counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic White population are the most likely to produce insurrectionists who now face charges....

Put another way, the people alleged by authorities to have taken the law into their hands on Jan. 6 typically hail from places where non-White populations are growing fastest."

The piece ends with a recommendation: "Understanding where most alleged insurrectionists come from is a good starting point in identifying areas facing elevated risks of further political violence. At the very least, local mayors and police chiefs need better intelligence and sounder risk analysis." Read the whole thing and learn a little about the role of the "Great Replacement" theory as the source of the rage that drives this political violence.

On a slightly different issue of violence in our communities, did you know there are only 10 violence interrupters working in the City of Milwaukee? And that these essential workers put in 40-hour plus weeks yet use what little free time they have to work side jobs, most often as Uber drivers, because of their poor pay? The neighborhoods of Milwaukee deserve a greater investment in their safety. Join the GRNS Gun Violence Prevention action team, Moms Demand Action, and WAVE to advocate for more resources for gun violence prevention in the state budget. Here's how:

  1. Sign up to meet with your legislator during the Moms Demand Action advocacy week, April 12-16. Moms will email you with more info about the meetings, the budget items, and how to prepare.
  2. Testify at a virtual Joint Finance Committee budget hearing, April 9, 21, 22, or 28.
    • Learn more about the budget hearings.
    • Need training on how to share your story when testifying? Sign up for WAVE's statewide virtual training on April 14th at 3 pm
  3. Also, check out WAVE's take action menu for easy actions to contact the Joint Finance Committee and your legislator.

Finally, here are two important issues and actions you should consider joining:

  • The League of Progressive Seniors is holding a rally in Whitewater on Friday, April 9, in conjunction with a Budget Listening Session in support of Medicaid Expansion and to send a message to Robin Vos, Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly. Vos says we don’t need Medicaid Expansion. But we see friends and family members fight cancer, live with dementia, and cope with chronic pain. If we are going to age with the support we need and the dignity we deserve, Wisconsin must accept the $1.6 billion Medicaid Expansion funds. The League is organizing a Van for people who need a ride. But if you can drive to Whitewater for this rally, please plan to join in. You can RSVP to Jackie Boynton or Karen Royster.

  • Attend the Fair Maps Issue Team meeting on Monday, April 12, at 6pm to hear Harvard Law Professor Nicholas Stephanopolous, a specialist in Election and Constitutional Law. Professor Stephanopolous was part of the Whitford Legal team that took Wisconsin's challenge to gerrymandering to the US Supreme Court, and is a founder of PlanScore, a group of legal, political science, and mapping technology experts tackling the challenge of making redistricting fair and easy to understand. Sign up.

And an important reminder: polls are open until 8pm tonight. If you have not yet voted, get yourself to your polling place. Grassroots North Shore has endorsed Jill Underly for State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Katie Kegel for Milwaukee Circuit Court, Branch 3. See our recommendations here. But no matter who you choose on your ballot, be a voter!

Read more
1 reaction Share

We're down to the wire

Time is flying. We have only 3.5 days to finish calling women who are strong Democrats in the North Shore to help elect Jill Underly as the next State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The importance of this position is often overlooked. And because there are no other truly high profile races on Milwaukee County ballots in the election on April 6, a lot of the women we are calling are simply unaware of the race and of how crucial it is to vote in this election. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction — Governor Evers's former position! — sets vital policies for the state's educational system, overseeing school libraries, teacher qualifications and the like. Dr. Underly has strong qualifications for this role. And we especially note that she opposes expanding the role of vouchers and siphoning more money from public education. Please spend a couple of hours today, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday contacting women and encouraging them to vote. You can download the Grassroots North Shore version of the script here and access the phone bank if you already have an ActionID from last year's election efforts. For assistance with creating an ActionID, download these simple instructions. These are easy calls to make: all the people on the list are strong Democrats. And we are leaving messages. So make a difference and participate in this vital election.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party is hosting Get Out the Vote shifts for Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (Election Day). I urge you to sign up for one or more of their shifts also. Like the phone bank Grassroots North Shore is running through Friday, April 2, these phone banks allow you to work from the safety and privacy of your own home. But unlike our own phone bank, the Dems have set up shifts with specific start and end times and you will "show up" at a Virtual Staging Location where you can attend an orientation session before you begin calling. So this is another way you can contribute the election effort this spring!

While we're on the local political beat, I want to call your attention to two requests from the Ozaukee County Democrats. They're looking for 20 people to sign up for shifts to staff the Ozaukee County Fair, July 28 - August 1. They need your commitment by March 31 (tomorrow)! So do the right thing. Otherwise, the Democrats won't be at the Fair! Click here. Our Oz supporters might also be interested in joining a virtual community organizing discussion with the new Regional Organizing Director, Ayden Romer. There will be a Zoom meeting at 7pm on April 2 to discuss the progress that we’ve made as a county, what we and the state party can do to improve, and workshopping next steps for after the April 6 election. Sign up.

Here's some hopeful news about COVID-19. Although we are witnessing an uptick in new infections, rates of hospitalizations, and deaths from the disease, we may be within sight of achieving something like "herd immunity" if vaccination rates hold — but we still have a ways to go. Dr. Walensky, the Director of the CDC, warned about a fourth surge that seems to be imminent. She warned that she has a feeling of "impending doom" as case loads begin to accelerate again. So the good news is that the vaccines effectively protect people from becoming infected and thus from transmitting the disease to those not yet vaccinated. But the cautious news is that we must still practice mitigation strategies like masking and social distancing for another couple of months. That's not so hard, now, is it.

If you have a strong stomach, you can watch the trial of Derek Chauvin live on the New York Times site. All the major news outlets are of course covering the trial with reporting and analysis aplenty. In somewhat less blanketed coverage, the defamation suit Summer Zervos brought against Donald Trump has been allowed to move forward, the highest court in New York State has ruled today. As the Times reports, "The case could yield the first deposition of Mr. Trump since he took office in January 2017, compelling him to testify about his behavior during the period of time in 2007 and 2008 when he and Ms. Zervos were in contact, as well as during his first campaign." Keep an eye on this one. We may yet get a cheery dose of schadenfreude.

Here's wishing everyone a safe and happy Passover, Easter, or just a wonderful spring.

Read more
1 reaction Share

Our Congressional Reps Misbehave, again

he New York Times, The Independent, Vanity Fair, Esquire, CNN, and ABC News for just a few of the ridiculous things he has opined in the last week or so. But Glenn Grothman is bidding to compete. His latest? Statehood for DC isn't warranted because D.C. doesn't have any mining! And lately he's been an active and vocal antagonist of the Black Lives Matter movement. They're such embarrassments to our state. We have a great opportunity to get rid of both of them in 2022. Let's go get 'em.

The Minocqua Brewing Company has already made a good start, developing messaging and putting up three digital billboards on Highway 29 and Business 51 in Central Wisconsin. And it has begun an UpNorth podcast. The second episode — "Squeaky Cheese and Smoking Meat" — is now available. About a month ago, Kirk Bangstad, the Minocqua Brewery owner, decided to "celebrate the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris with some 'Biden Beer' and ', la'" (ie., comma-la). The beers were, briefly, available in Milwaukee but quickly sold out. Bangstad's efforts came from frustration with what he perceives as slanted news coverage in the area. As he wrote in an email, "For too long, the Northwoods has been plagued by newspapers that have long-since dispensed with the notion of "balance" and instead regurgitate the misinformation of the alt-right to our communities. I saw this when I ran for State Assembly and wanted to do something about it." He's an inspiration to us all!

There are a couple of important online events coming up this week and beyond that deserve your attention.
  1. The Gun Violence Prevention Team meeting will take place on Wed. March 24th at 7 pm. On the agenda: discuss and develop a strategy for advocating for more resources for violence prevention as part of the state budget. The team especially needs folks in Sen. Duey Stroebel's district to join. But given the events in Atlanta and in Denver, nothing could be more pressing. Please RSVP and join the team.

  2. Wisconsin Budget Listening Sessions:

Right now, Grassroots North Shore is sending postcards and making phone calls in support of Dr. Jill Underly, candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Katie Kegel, candidate for Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Branch 3. And we need some help. These activities require volunteers, of course, but they also require funding we need to raise to continue getting turnout in our BLUE 'burbs to be as high as we can make it. If you want to volunteer for this effort, email me[email protected]. To help us pay for election activities, DONATE through ActBlue or send a check to Grassroots North Shore, 5600 W. Brown Deer Road, Brown Deer WI 53223. Please put "elections" on the memo line. And don't neglect to vote. You can still request an absentee ballot — the safest way to vote — and return it to your community's drop box.

Finally, a heads up: Save the Date for the Grassroots North Shore event on ending gerrymandering through laws, the courts, and most importantly the court of public opinion. Sunday, May 2, 7pm, on Zoom. Speakers will include Carlene Bechen from the Fair Maps Coalition; Deb Andraca, Assembly Representative (23rd district); Mel Barnes of the law firm Law Forward; and Chris Ford, chair of the People's Map Commission. Further details will be announced soon.

Read more
1 reaction Share

it's warming up

There's a lot going on right now, but we should take a few moments to breathe deeply and relax a bit. The Biden administration is off to a blazing start. Not only are the vaccinations getting into arms faster than anticipated, but the American Rescue Plan (i.e. Covid-19 and economic stimulus) passed last week and is already going into effect. And key figures in the administration, including the president himself, are on a week-long tour to educate people about the plan and to emphasize its impact on the lives of every American.

Here in Wisconsin, though, we have an important election coming up. The key statewide race is for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Grassroots North Shore held a candidate forum with the two women running for the position. There are substantial differences between their positions on key issues. So you should watch the taped forum to hear the differences and make an informed choice. Grassroots North Shore is endorsing Dr. Jill Underly both because of her breadth of experiences in the Wisconsin education system and because she is clear about her opposition to funding private schools with public money. See our full endorsement.

Grassroots North Shore is also endorsing Katie Kegel for Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Branch 3. We are especially excited by her fresh thinking about sentencing. There are many other local races for your community on your ballot. You can find a sample ballot and request an absentee ballot at myvote.wi.gov and you can also find out who is running for what on our 2021 Races page. Drop box information for returning absentee ballots is here and information about in-person early voting is here.

Grassroots North Shore is working hard on the April 6 election. It's important to us, and I hope to you too, to be engaged in EVERY ELECTION. So we're appealing for your help. We need your donation — no matter how small — to finance our activities, including phone banking, sending postcards and producing flyers to hand out at North Shore libraries. You can donate online or send a check to Grassroots North Shore, 5600 W. Brown Deer Road, Brown Deer WI 53223. Please put "elections" on the memo line.

And of course, we'd welcome your participation in our efforts to reach voters through the Weekends of Action being held by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. The shifts — on Saturday, March 20, and Sunday, March 21, as well as March 27 and 28, will include a brief training for those who are new or just need a refresher. Sign up for either or both weekends!

Finally, a word or two about Ron Johnson, an embarrassment to our state if there ever was one. He's gotten a lot of national coverage for his racist defense of the January 6, 2021, insurrection — in the Washington Post, at CNN and others. Not to mention the coverage in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Ousting him from office next year is among our highest priorities. It's taken Wisconsin more than half a century to live down the shame of Joseph McCarthy. We cannot afford to leave Johnson in the US Senate for another term!

Read more
1 reaction Share

what's in our immediate future

Don't miss the live forum with the candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction — Jill Underly and Deborah Kerr — that Grassroots North Shore is holding on Sunday, March 14, at 7pm. Via Zoom of course. The forum will be introduced by Ingrid Walker Henry, vice president of Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association (MTEA), and will be moderated by Pablo Muirhead, Shorewood School Board member. Sign up to attend. The Zoom information you will need will be embedded in the response email you receive when you sign up.

Even though the position does not control the budgetary support for schools in Wisconsin, it plays a vital function in educating Wisconsin's children. As the UpNorth News explained, "The state superintendent oversees the state’s more than 400 public school districts and typically is directly involved in education funding proposals. The position also offers direction on a range of issues, from operating schools during the pandemic, curriculum, teacher licensing and online education." The election for this statewide, nonpartisan race is April 6 at a polling place near you. But you really shouldn't wait until Election Day. You can request an absentee ballot at myvote.wi.gov and return it via your community's drop box (find out where yours is). We will also have in-person voting information for North Shore and Ozaukee County communities when it becomes available.

We can also announce the formation of a new Issue Action Team for Violence Prevention. Led by Anneliese Dickman, the team will meet to get organized and to hear from Reggie Moore and Jamaal Smith from the Office of Violence Prevention, part of the Milwaukee Health Department in the city. The meeting is set for Wednesday, March 10, at 7pm on Zoom. Please sign up to join this group! We've formed Issue Teams around two other topics: Fair Maps and Voting Rights and Criminal Justice Reform. The Fair Maps Team is meeting on Monday, March 8, at 7pm and you can sign up. The Criminal Justice Reform group has not yet scheduled its next meeting, but you can contact Dan O'Keefe for more information. If you'd like to lead an Issue Team on some other topic, please contact Paul Geenen at [email protected].

And in a fun, but still serious, way, the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County is sponsoring an Instagram Art Contest for all Milwaukee and Waukesha County Area High School Students. It's called "Express Yourself: Hear Me, See Me, Follow my Lead" and runs through March 16. the site includes the rules for participating. It's a great way for young people to make their voices heard. So if you know any high school students in Milwaukee or Waukesha counties, let them know about this contest.

The CPAC convention is mercifully over but not before introducing the nation to the Golden Trump Idol and not before the "former guy" reprised what he apparently thinks are his greatest hits. Sixty one of 62 court cases alleging voter irregularities that he brought after the November election were dismissed And yet the Republican Party has introduced at least 165 bills in state legislatures all over the nation to try to make it harder for people to vote. Republicans apparently believe that the only way they can win is if the "wrong people" can be prevented from casting a ballot. Here in Wisconsin, where there was no voter fraud, we're seeing efforts to curtail absentee voting, to gum up early in-person voting with extra paperwork, and to restrict the use drop boxes. (See also this article that explains the ranked-choice voting proposal for congressional races as well as the GOP efforts to suppress votes.)

The right to vote is coming under attack everywhere. These attacks are layered on top of efforts to rig the electoral maps to retain what amounts to minority GOP rule in this state and in the country. It may not be an election year with a large number of important state and national offices up for grabs, but that does not mean we can rest easy. The threats to the franchise and the threats to our democratic republic are mounting. We need to join the struggle now to preserve what we can of our imperfect union. In the coming weeks, Grassroots North Shore will have events and actions to engage you in this effort. Stay tuned.

Read more
1 reaction Share

Looking at the future

With the impeachment trial behind us, the Biden administration is losing no time in aggressively pursuing its agenda. Tonight, President Biden will hold a town hall in Milwaukee, with moderator Anderson Cooper, at 8pm CST. You can watch it on CNN or streamed live on CNN.com. See a listing of all the ways to view it here. And while we're listing events you should not miss, sign up to participate in Grassroots North Shore's celebration of our successes in the last year. It's easy to forget that in spring 2020, we helped Jill Karofsky win her seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, followed up in November by helping to award Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes to the Biden/Harris team, and then helping put Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the US Senate in January 2021. And YOU are the people who made it happen! So join us, Sunday, February 28, at 7:00pm CST.

Here's a couple of things you ought to know about the threat to voting rights in Wisconsin. As Jay Heck, Executive Director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, recently explained, "Republicans in the Legislature recently unveiled a partisan proposal to apportion eight of Wisconsin's electoral votes by congressional district beginning in 2024." If such a plan had been in place in 2020, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would have received four electoral college votes, despite winning the popular vote in the state, and the Drumpf/Pence ticket would have received six! And that's not all. Heck goes on to speculate that "Republicans also may try to restrict the ability of voters to utilize absentee ballots. They may ban the use of safe and secure voter drop boxes and other collection methods. They hope to vastly restrict the definition of 'indefinitely confined' voters, and to further limit early in-person voting opportunities. They may even move to eliminate Election Day voter registration, which has been in place in Wisconsin for decades."

Already, our GOP-dominated legislature has contracted with law firms — and committed $1million of taxpayer funds — to prepare for the lawsuits that are pretty certain to follow the redistricting fight this fall. The problem of drawing new electoral maps just became more complicated, moreover, because the Census Bureau now says demographic data will not be ready for release to the states until September 30, 2021. The timeline for Wisconsin (and all the other states, too, no doubt) will be seriously compressed this year, making the use of the courts both more likely and more fraught. Republicans will draw gerrymandered maps, Governor Evers will veto them, and the courts will have to adjudicate, as they did in 2001, in 1991, and in earlier redistricting years. As it happens, our Fair Maps Team is meeting tonight, Tuesday, February 16, at 7:00pm CST to discuss how electoral maps are drawn. You can join in by signing up.

Our Criminal Justice Reform team is also holding a meeting this month with Julie Grace of the Badger Institute to discuss criminal justice policies. Although the Badger Institute is a conservative think tank, we can make common cause with conservatives around systematizing data about criminal justice practices so that people of all political persuasions can debate solutions for the problems the data reveal. One example of the kind of issue that arises is racial disparity in sentencing for felonies. Sign up to attend the Criminal Justice Reform meeting on February 23 at 6:30pm CST and help Wisconsin get better insights into its patterns and practices.

With the snowy conditions we are experiencing today, it may be hard for some people to get to their polling places to vote. Nevertheless, IT'S IMPORTANT TO VOTE IN EVERY ELECTION. Dig out if you can, and find your polling place and a sample ballot at myvote.wi.gov. Our votes today will determine who will be on the ballot for the April 6 election. We will be winnowing the field of seven in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. And to prepare yourself for the spring election, visit our page with a list of every race and candidate we know about.

You'll see in the Events list below, that fundraising and organizing for the 2022 elections are already under way. But don't skip over the special election for Senate District 13. Democrat Melissa Winker will be on the April 6 ballot, hoping to replace Scott Fitzgerald who formerly held the seat. She will be facing whichever Republican emerges from today's primary. And she really needs our help. So give her your support at her campaign kickoff event on Wednesday, February 17, at 6:00 pm.

And stay active in this lull between 2020 and 2022. We've learned to our detriment that staying engaged in the political arena — by voting, by writing postcards, by calling voters and elected officials, and by writing op-eds and letters to the editor — can make a difference. To learn how to be more effective at writing op-eds, for example, you should try an online clinic provided by The Progressive. Grassroots North Shore will be sending postcards with follow-up phone calls for the April 6 election. Stay tuned for our call to action! Meanwhile, if you can spare a dime or two, please donate to our postcard effort to help us purchase stamps.

Read more
1 reaction Share