rights and wrongs

Voting rights under attack nationally chillingly remind us of what any MAGA presidential administration portends. In the past week or so, several appellate rulings threaten to blow a hole in what remains of Voting Rights Act. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had recently ruled that Louisiana's electoral map likely violated the statute. But the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals contradicts the 5th Circuit's opinion, ruling for the first time since the Act was passed in 1965 that private individuals and groups — like the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and other civil liberty-focused organizations — do not have the right to bring suits seeking to enforce the VRA. Only the US Department of Justice can bring such suits. See the post in Election Law Blog (11-26-2023). Since most voting rights suits have been brought by civic groups or individuals, it follows that a LOT of cases will never be brought if this ruling becomes the law of the land.

Next, a lawsuit "challenging the at-large method used to elect members of the Public Service Commission, which is responsible for regulating public utilities in Georgia. The plaintiffs allege the at-large elections used to select commissioners violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by diluting Black voting power." On August 5, 2023, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Black voters in Fulton County who had brought the suit. When the case was appealed, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals "stayed" (paused) the trial judge's order. A few more twists and turns in this story ensued but the final outcome is this: "On Nov. 24, the 11th Circuit reversed the district court’s decision, thereby allowing the at-large method to elect members to the Georgia Public Service Commission to stand" (Democracy Docket). If the final ruling is upheld, challenging statewide at-large systems elsewhere will become much more difficult.

Third, on November 28, the Ohio Supreme Court "dismissed a trio of lawsuits challenging the state’s legislative maps, leaving in place gerrymandered districts for 2024" (Democracy Docket). The case had been bouncing back and forth between the legislature and the Supreme Court that, in earlier iterations, had found the maps were consistently in violation of the Ohio constitution. Once the court became more right wing with the election of a new justice, all of those rulings were simply ignored or overruled.

There's a lot more gloomy news, and many more cases all over the country, challenging laws that tend to make voting more difficult or that seek to cement legislative power in one party regardless of the vote share that party receives. And that's the case in Wisconsin. Since the GOP-controlled legislature adopted gerrymandered election maps in 2011, the GOP has held a majority of seats in both the Assembly and the Senate, whether their party won the most votes statewide or not. Recently the Wisconsin Supreme Court (SCOWIS) heard oral arguments last week in Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, a case "challenging the extreme partisan gerrymandering of the state legislative maps" (Law Forward). Now we await the decisions and the litigation to follow.

Ahead of the oral arguments, the Fair Maps Coalition and other groups — including North Shore Fair Maps — held a rally in the Capitol. Many groups participated and spoke. Our own co-leader of Grassroots North Shore spoke eloquently about how partisan gerrymanders have stymied Wisconsin voters' preferred policies in many areas: "affordable healthcare, sensible gun legislation, funding for public schools, and access to abortion. 'But the Legislature says no,' Maranto said after naming each of these issues." Executive Director of Common Cause, Jay Heck, concurred: "Since Republicans now control safe seats, they do not have to listen to the needs of the people, adds Heck, noting fair maps would help promote actual representation" (Isthmus, 11-21-2023).

E. J. Dionne's opinion piece in the Washington Post on November 26 — Democracy faces two threats. Trump is only one of them. — explains the decade-long effort to curtail voting rights really began with a 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, that struck down the section of the VRA that required "pre-clearance" of changes to voting laws in jurisdictions that had a history of discriminating against minorities: "This led to an explosion of state abuses, including discriminatory voter-identification laws, targeted purges of electoral rolls, gerrymanders that undercut minority representation and changes in early-voting rules that often advantaged some groups over others." He goes on to note that "defenders of today’s restrictions insist they are not discriminating against anyone. But making it harder for some people to vote — often in the name of preventing the falsely imagined “voter fraud” that is at the heart of Trump’s election denial — is no less an attack on democracy." Dionne proposes two remedies: fighting for a new Voting Rights Act and enacting a constitutional amendment that would at last explicitly guarantee every citizen's right to vote. Neither will happen any time soon, but both are worth fighting for starting now.

Meanwhile, we need to support the Democratic administration we enjoy now. To that end, the Biden campaign is providing us with some issue-oriented talking points on the Threads platform. You can use these points to address these crazy MAGA claims:

  • "The economy was better during Trump!"
  • "Trump's going to protect our Social Security and Medicare!"
  • "Trump secured our border!"
  • "There's no federal ban on abortion; you can still get one — what's the big deal?"
  • "Trump is better for workers!"
  • "World leaders respected Trump and the world was safer!"
  • "Trump is winning in the polls!"

You don't need a Threads account to follow the campaign's postings.

Finally, a word or two about a long-forgotten Walker administration boondoggle: Foxconn. I'm sure you know that the corporation failed to fulfill its promises to invest beaucoup bucks (like $10 billion) in Racine County, to hire 13,000 workers at good pay rates, and to manufacture large display screens at the site. Taxpayers — you and me and everyone else in the state — foot the bill for the infrastructure the state created. Well now, Microsoft is bidding to buy "an additional 1,030 acres of land that Foxconn never built." To do the deal, the terms of the Foxconn contract that the state renegotiated in 2021 apparently have to be modified again. You'll find the Kathleen Gallagher's story in the November 24 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The headline gives away the bottom line: "Local officials are poised to let Foxconn off of the hook. Here's why politics and development deals rarely succeed."

Now it's time to shop until we drop, right? Chanukah, I learned, starts next week, followed shortly by Christmas and Kwanzaa. So let's be merry and also find some politically productive things to do!

If you missed some newsletters and want to catch up, you'll find them archived on our website.


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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.
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The NFL's Tush Push

What a way to finish the year! A week ago, I wrote about the elections happening as I typed. In the bit about the governor's race in Kentucky, I wrote that Democrat Andy Beshear's campaign focused on abortion rights while Daniel Cameron, his Republican opponent and Mitch McConnell protegé (and not a MAGA type), put inflation in his spotlight. I concluded, "It will be interesting to see what comes of this first head-to-head messaging war." Well now we know: the freedom to make your own decisions about your own body won big. And that has been the case in every special and off-year election since June 2022, when the Roe v. Wade was overturned.

So what does this newsletter have to do with the latest NFL gambit to win very close 4th down plays and goal line stands — the Tush Push? (Listen to a description and discussion of the tush push on NPR.) That's when the team with the ball gets behind the quarterback to help push him over the line to gain. In terms of our scary political moment, we find ourselves with lots of big, worrying punditry discouraging us with much hand-wringing and bed-wetting about next year's election, especially the presidential race. And there is much to worry about. But one big-wig in the election opinion biz is pushing hard in the other direction. Providing us with our own team's Tush Push, so to speak.

Simon Rosenberg, political analyst and upbeat author of the Hopium Chronicles, has several posts reviewing all the good data that came after the awful day Dobbs came down. Here's a great summary:

Our current political moment began in the spring of 2022 when Dobbs happened, Uvalde and other mass shootings happened, extremist Republican abortion trigger laws took effect and when the January 6th Committee began its public work. 3 days after Dobbs our candidate in an unfunded Nebraska house special election outperformed our 2020 results by 10 points. In the 5 House specials after Dobbs our candidates outperformed 2020 by an average of 7 points in what was supposed to be a good year for Republicans. Democrats and women in particular started registering to vote in much higher numbers; our candidates dramatically out-raised Republican candidates; we blew it out in the early vote in state after state; and then in the battleground states we outperformed expectations and gained ground over 2020 in AZ, CO, GA, MI, MN, NH and PA, getting to 59% in CO, 57% in Pennsylvania, 55% in Michigan and 54% in New Hampshire. Our performance in 2022 would have been encouraging in a good year; that it happened in a “red wave” made it even more extraordinary.

This heightened Democratic performance, and sluggish Republican performance, has carried over to 2023. In 33 state house and senate elections across the US we’ve outperformed 2020 by 6.2 pts. A broader analysis of the elections leading up to November 7th had us outperforming the partisan lean of districts by 10 points. We flipped two of the largest Republican-held cities in the country, Jacksonville and Colorado Springs. We took away that Wisconsin Supreme Court seat, getting 56% of the vote. We got to 57% in the August Ohio Vote No ballot initiative. Like 2022, in the elections leading up the 2023 November election Dems just kept overperforming.

Then the 2023 election came, and once again we saw overperformance. Beshear got a higher percentage of the vote in KY than he did in 2019. We kept the Senate in Virginia, and did something few thought was possible, flipped the House too. We got to 57% in Ohio - a jawdropping achievement. We picked up state legislative seats in New Jersey. We had big wins in municipal races across the US, and in school board races too. Like the 2022 election, Democrats outperformed expectations in 2023, performing at the upper end of what was possible for us even in red states.

Chris Hayes, on MSNBC on Wednesday, November 8, gave a wonderful trip through the elections of the previous night and really shows how "overperformance" works out and what it means. It runs more than 8 minutes but it's worth every second. The 538 chart Hayes uses can be found here. If you look at the chart, you will be able to spot two Wisconsin special elections — in SD-08 on April 4 and in AD-24 on July 18. Democrats did, alas, lose those contests but note how big the swings toward Democratic candidates were! That's also part of the political Tush Push.

Keep in mind that "overperform" does not mean "win." It means that compared to the partisan lean of a given electoral district, Democrats won a larger percentage of the overall vote, sometimes by a lot. The other thing to keep in mind about Rosenberg's account is that all the elections he summarizes were state or local affairs. The work we do — every day — produces these outcomes. Talking to people and turning out the like-minded during election periods — urging people to vote absentee, during early in-person voting, or on election day — can pay huge dividends.

Rosenberg makes it plain: YOU produce the astonishing wins. "Our grassroots is stronger than it’s ever been, and keeps driving our performance to the upper end of what’s possible in election after election in all parts of the country. While the Republican Party is in trouble, Democrats are thriving." Today, he put up a page with links to his various analyses, video presentations, and podcasts. If you need some upbeat political news, try some Hopium.

Closer to home, you may have missed the news that a Dane County judge has ordered former Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Patience Roggensack "to produce all records related to her involvement in a panel of former justices tasked with exploring the prospect of impeaching a current member of the state’s high court." The other two former justices (both of whom apparently advised the Assembly not to engage in impeaching the newest justice) and Speaker Robin Vos have all turned over their documents already. But lest you think the issue of impeaching Justice Protasiewicz is now behind us, think again. In the same Wisconsin State Journal article the author writes: "Vos has said he would still weigh impeaching Protasiewicz depending on how she rules in the redistricting case."

In really pressing matters, oral arguments in Rebecca Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, the case in front of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin (SCOWIS), take place starting at 8:45am on Tuesday, November 21, at the state Capitol. At 9:00am, a rally will take place inside the Capitol (see the flyer for full details). There will also be rallies at noon at the Milwaukee State Office Building (819 N. Sixth St, Milwaukee), 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). You can watch the arguments at SCOWIS on WisconsinEye. And you can read the Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) brief submitted by the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition, of which Grassroots North Shore is a member. The outcome of this case may very well determine whether Wisconsin will have new, and fairer, election district maps for the Assembly and State Senate in 2023.

Now, in keeping with this strangely optimistic newsletter, a little light ending: Jordan Klepper (of The Daily Show) interviews TFG's supporters.

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perils and promises

It's the first Tuesday in November, so it must be election day somewhere. In fact, there are a number of pretty important elections taking place in Virginia, Ohio, Mississippi, and Kentucky. In Virginia, control of the state Senate and the House of Delegates is at stake in the chief races in play. Some are speculating that a big win for Republicans could provide a rationale for Governor Glenn Youngkin to announce a bid for the GOP nomination for President. In Ohio, a constitutional amendment to protect reproductive health care — specifically abortion and contraception rights — is on the ballot. In Mississippi, there's another race for governor. In this one, Tate Reeves, the Republican incumbent, is facing "Democrat Brandon Presley, a state utility regulator and cousin of rock ’n’ roll legend Elvis Presley." Reeves is neck-deep in a financial scandal and wasn't all that popular the first time he ran, winning with just 52% of the vote in 2019.

In Kentucky, the biggest race is between the incumbent Democrat Andy Beshear and the Republican challenger Daniel Cameron, a Mitch McConnell protege. Beshear has wanted the focus to be abortion rights, which he supports and his opponent does not. Cameron wants to focus on inflation. It will be interesting to see what comes of this first head-to-head messaging war.

In fact, messaging occupies the core of every campaign. In preparation for the coming elections, Grassroots North Shore is hosting a Zoom event about messaging: Can Democrats Win the Messaging War in 2024?. The program is at 7:00pm on Sunday, November 12, and features an interview with David Pepper, former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party and author of two vital books: Laboratories of Autocracy and Saving Democracy: A User's Manual for Every American. In addition, we'll hear from Melisa Agard, minority leader in the state Senate, and Mandela Barnes, head of Power to the Polls. The outcomes of some of the elections described in the first couple of paragraphs may offer some fresh insights. All you have to do is sign up and attend!

In a rousing speech to kick off a One Year to Win canvass in Glendale last Sunday, Ben Wikler, Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, reminded us that the November 5, 2024 election may truly be the most important one ever. Now we do hear that said almost every four years, but our democracy continues to be under threat nearly everywhere you look. The Brennan Center for Justice offers this analysis of the recently elected Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson (MAGA Mike to those in the know): "Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is not just a casual election denier, a cynical pol winking at the MAGA mob. Johnson was the congressional architect of the effort to overturn the 2020 election, advocating an interpretation of the Constitution so outlandish that not even the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority could swallow it." Johnson was behind the so-called "independent state legislature" theory that even our deeply right-wing Supreme Court couldn't countenance. And that was far from the only effort MAGA Mike pursued to reverse the 2020 results. The Brennan Center analysis will step you through the most important ones and discuss why this matters for the 2024 election.

The House of Representatives and the US Senate jointly complete the process of electing the US President. But a lot happens before we get to that ceremonial act. On October 2, NBC News's Jake Tapper wrote, "Former President Donald Trump is lashing out at political and legal foes in increasingly violent terms as his campaign to return to office accelerates.... The aggressive turn began a week ago on Truth Social, where Trump alluded to the execution of his former top military official." And the "problem" has only increased in the last few weeks. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat wrote in her Substack Lucid, "Autocrats seek to create a climate of fear in societies so that silence about their crimes will become the norm. They use the threat and reality of violence not just against their usual targets —the press, opposition parties, judges, and more— but against the elites of their parties as a means of keeping them in line. Those elites, in turn, threaten others to prove their loyalty to the leader and maintain their position in the hierarchy of thugs."

In his biography of Senator Mitt Romney, McKay Coppins wrote that "Romney attributed some of the two-faced behavior of his colleagues to their fear of violent retribution from their voter base..... One senator wanted to vote for Trump’s second impeachment but feared for his family’s safety if he did." We must urge our leaders to speak out, to take TRE45ON's words — "I am your justice.... I am your retribution" — seriously. On March 4, as he said these words, attendees at CPAC went absolutely wild. Project 2025, bankrolled by the Heritage Foundation, fleshes out what that justice and retribution would look like.

In Wisconsin, we can just glimpse a ray of hope as the Supreme Court of Wisconsin gets down to work. Oral arguments concerning the challenge to our current election maps, Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, are scheduled to be heard in Madison on Tuesday, November 21. You can access links to the many briefs for this case. At issue in the challenge is not gerrymandering per se; rather it is the way 55 of the 99 Assembly districts and 21 of the 33 the Senate districts "'consist of a patchwork of disconnected pieces that do not share a common border with other parts of the same district' and therefore run afoul of the 'Wisconsin Constitution’s plain-text ‘contiguous territory’ requirement'” (Democracy Docket, October 9, 2023). A second issue with profound implications concerns the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government. When the Supreme Court imposed the current legislative map in 2022, the Court chose the one the legislature had passed, the governor had vetoed, but the legislature failed to override the veto. In essence, petitioners argue, even though the legislature could not muster the votes the Court in effect overrode the veto for it. We cannot predict the outcome of this complicated case, but we can hope that if it is decided promptly, we could have new Assembly and Senate districts for the 2024 elections.

IF WE HAVE NEW MAPS, we have a shot at electing legislative bodies that are more responsive to the electorate and our priorities. Of course, even with new maps a differently constituted Supreme Court could undo what we hope will happen this year. That's why EVERY ELECTION and EVERY ACT of ISSUE ADVOCACY matters. Although we're heading into an election hiatus, Grassroots North Shore is busy looking ahead to next year. The spring nonpartisan primary will be held on February 20. The spring nonpartisan election and the preferential presidential election will take on April 2. People hoping to be elected to nonpartisan positions can begin circulating nomination papers on December 1, 2023. After January 1, you can go online to MyVote.WI.gov to check your registration and to request absentee ballots for the whole year. We won't have election-specific information for you until the middle of January, but right now you can visit our page that covers campaign contribution limits for every local, state, and federal office.

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the world still turns

indulge me in a sad comment about the state of the world. Israel has begun its long-promised invasion of Gaza. Many Palestinian civilians have no doubt been killed and wounded in the bombings that preceded the invasion and now in the invasion itself. That is an awful truth. But while conditions continue to deteriorate for the millions of Palestinians who must live there, we cannot forget that this evil war began with an unspeakable terrorist attack from Hamas, torturing and killing (mostly civilians) indiscriminately. Hamas also took more than 200 hostages into Gaza where most of them presumably remain, vowing to kill all of them if Israel retaliated. Their location and their fate are unknown. The heinous attack was clearly meticulously planned, constitutes the worst antisemitic pogrom since the Holocaust, and has engendered a world-wide upswelling of antisemitism, frightening and threatening Jews everywhere.

At Cornell University (where I earned my PhD), the Ithaca Journal reported that Cornell Hillel advises caution after 'horrendous, antisemitic messages' target community: "Cornell Hillel, a Jewish organization, on Sunday cautioned that people not visit a building that includes a multicultural dining hall and serves as a center for the Jewish community after it was targeted by antisemitic threats." CNN notes that "Outbursts of antisemitism have often been harbingers of societies in deep trouble and omens that extremism and violence are imminent... The Hamas attacks – a pogrom against Jews that killed 1,400, mostly civilians – have initiated a sequence of events that have left Jewish people around the world feeling threatened." All of us — not just Jews — live in precarious times.

Meanwhile, here in the "us" — Boss Tweet's startling discovery that the objective form of the word "we" also signifies the U.S.! (watch) — MAGA Mke, the newly elected Speaker of the House, is already running into legislative trouble over his proposal to reject President Biden's $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other urgent needs. Speaker Johnson's promoting his own $14.3 billion package that takes the funds from the IRS and uses them to aid only Israel. See the (gifted article) account in the Washington Post, Speaker Johnson faces immediate backlash to first legislative move. We face a government shutdown in just a few weeks and it's unclear at this point whether the House can even pass another Continuing Resolution to extend the time they have to pass the appropriations bills necessary to fund the federal government for the fiscal year that began a month ago!

Elections are coming: they don't solve everything but they're our only hope, right? As Grassroots North Shore begins its preparations for the 2024 elections in earnest, we're holding a Webinar on Sunday, November 12, to address one of the critical ways Democrats and Progressives can win: getting the messaging right: Can Democrats Win the Messaging War in 2024?. The program will feature a taped interview with David Pepper, former Chair of the Democratic Party of Ohio and author of Saving Democracy: A User's Manual for Every American, and live remarks from Melissa Agard, WI Senate Majority Leader; and Mandela Barnes, head of Power to the Polls. The program will discuss the power of well-crafted messaging. So get the full skinny and sign up.

Another good messaging document comes from ASO Communications, the messaging and polling organization headed by Anat Shenker Osorio (also host of the podcast Words to Win By): Freedom Over Fascism Toolkit.

In Wisconsin we continue to battle the MAGA-led legislature over fair election maps. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign announced that it began running a redistricting radio ad Monday, October 30th. This ad will run on every Civic Media radio station in Wisconsin. You may be wondering, why run radio ads right now? Well, the Wisconsin State Senate will be back in session on Tuesday November 7th which means the legislature may attempt to force a vote on SB 488/AB 415 (the flawed redistricting bills). It is important that every Wisconsinite take a minute or two to call your state senator and let them know that rushing how Wisconsin draws legislative district maps in the future is unacceptable. We want the best bill possible to produce the fairest maps possible. Listen to the radio ad: click the link to open the mp3 file or right click to download it: Wisconsinites Will Not Be Silenced On Voting Maps.

To cure a deficiency with the redistricting bill that was introduced and passed in the Assembly without a public hearing, the senate committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection had a hastily announced hearing on October 19 about SB 488 (the senate version of AB 415), a bill Republicans claim will ensure that election district maps will be drawn in a non-partisan way. Almost all the testimony opposed the bill. Watch the full SB 488 hearing. Warning: it goes on for about four hours. Cheryl Maranto's outstanding testimony starts at the 3 hour mark. I recommend it highly, especially the way she fielded questions from the senators.

You can find the contact information for your state senator at 2023 Wisconsin State Senators. By default, the page lists senators alphabetically but you can choose to have them listed by district number. If you don't know the name of your senator or what your senate district is, you can go to the legislature's home page and type in your address to receive the information. You can also contact the members of the committee. Their names and contact information are listed on this pdf.

In other election matters, the Wisconsin Elections Commission has redesigned the return envelopes  — the certification envelopes — for absentee ballots to make them easier to fill out correctly and for postal and election workers to identify them. The League of Women Voters has provided this description:

For voters looking to take advantage of their early voting options next year, things have gotten a little bit easier. The Wisconsin Elections Commission recently updated the return envelope to make the certificate more user friendly for both voters and election officials. Over the course of several months, the Wisconsin Elections Commission conducted several rounds of usability testing and design revisions with input from voters, poll workers, local clerks, and the U.S. Postal Service. The absentee ballot certificate envelopes are now color-coded to indicate which type of ballot is contained in the envelope.
  • Blue envelopes will be used for outgoing envelopes mailed to voters from municipal clerks.
  • Purple envelopes will be used for standard return envelopes that voters mail in.
  • Teal envelopes will be used for return envelopes from care facility-based voters.
  • Brown envelopes will be used for return envelopes from military or overseas voters."

* * * * * TAKE MORE ACTION * * * * *

There's a lot you can do right now, ahead of the 2024 elections, to help voters and to educate them about the issues. Here are a few of those actions:

  • Sign up for one of the many Year to Win canvasses near you — or maybe not so near you. See the full list at Mobilize.us.

  • Here's a list of canvasses on Saturday, November 4, and Sunday, November 5, in the North Shore and Ozaukee County (See the Events list or click these links for specific dates and shift times):
  • Phonebank ahead of the Ohio election: Help the pro-choice citizens who put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot by phoning to Get Out the Vote in Ohio. The election takes place on November 7 and early voting is already under way. The first opportunity is tomorrow, Wednesday, November 1. A second opportunity is on Monday, November 6. Sign up.

  • Make calls to Ohio beginning Tuesday, October 31 at 5:00pm CDT and ending Tuesday, November 7, at 4:00pm CST. Sponsored by Women's March Action and Activate America.  Sign up.

There are more things to do and to attend on the Events list. So have at it. (And have a happy, sorta snowy Halloween.)

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war and peace?

My quicky synopsis of the latest news. Although four Hamas hostages have now been released, the war in Gaza rages on. Jenna Ellis pleads guilty to one felony in the Georgia RICO case. Michael Cohen is testifying today in New York's civil case against the Orange Julius, two of his sons, assorted others and the Trump Organization. And lo and behold: we just got a new Speaker of the House nominee. Can Tom Emmer break the stalemate that has kept the House from doing any business at all, no matter how urgent? We shall see.

But seriously, the situation in the Middle East is precarious. I don't usually read Thomas Friedman's columns in the New York Times because he cheered so obnoxiously for the Iraq war. In fact, his predictions were so notorious that cheeky wags created a neologism for them: the Friedman Unit. It has garnered a Wikipedia page devoted to it. His op-ed in the Times (gifted so no paywall) on October 20 is not so sunny or sanguine about the outcome of Israel's stated plan to invade Gaza in the near future:

I believe that if Israel rushes headlong into Gaza now to destroy Hamas — and does so without expressing a clear commitment to seek a two-state solution with the Palestinian Authority and end Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank — it will be making a grave mistake that will be devastating for Israeli interests and American interests.

It could trigger a global conflagration and explode the entire pro-American alliance structure that the United States has built in the region since Henry Kissinger engineered the end of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

I am talking about the Camp David peace treaty, the Oslo peace accords, the Abraham Accords and the possible normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The whole thing could go up in flames.

Jenna Ellis's statement of remorse to the Georgia Court seems heartfelt but essentially she blames others — presumably Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell — for leading her astray. I'm sure every media outlet in the U.S. is covering the story with plenty of detail and maybe even some sympathy for the poor dear. But if you just want a quick hit and a short video of her reading her statement to the court, visit this Daily Kos post: Watch Jenna Ellis’s teary-eyed court statement during her plea deal. What I don't really understand is why she merits such a sweet deal. Her sentence is the same as Ken Chesebro's but she seemed like such a bit player in the whole sorry saga. I'm left wondering how important any information she has on the ring leaders could be. I guess we will just have to wait until the Georgia trial to find out.

Michael Cohen is testifying today in the New York Attorney General's civil case accusing the Trump Organization and several of its top officers, including Dirty Don himself of fraud. He is of course sitting at the defense table today and of course is claiming to the press assembled outside that he's untroubled by Cohen's testimony because his one-time fixer is a convicted liar. What nerve, eh? He's at the trial to intimidate Cohen or something. He does not have to attend it so his presence is a choice. What he hopes to gain with his scowls and whispers to his lawyers is unclear, at least to me. And he's already been convicted of the fraud alleged in the indictment. What remains to be determined is whether he has to pay a penalty (and how much that might be) and whether he violated any other laws.

Meanwhile, almost buried in the rush of other news, the Cowardly Lyin' has filed FOUR NEW motions to have his case in Judge Chutkan's court dismissed. The first one filed a week or two ago argued that, as president, our Butternut Berlusconi had complete immunity from prosecution. Jack Smith's crew made that ridiculous claim, well, ridiculous. See the filing here. In this new one, Trump Throws Everything But The Kitchen Sink At Dismissing The Jan. 6 Case. Today's Washington Post article about this latest filing is well below the fold (as if online news publications had a fold), but the piece itself is thorough. Check out the (gifted) article: Trump files new challenges to federal election obstruction case in D.C.

And in stunningly good news for Wisconsin voters, in case you missed it, the GOP supermajority in the state Senate who voted to fire Wisconsin's Elections Administrator have now admitted in court that "a September vote to fire ... Megan Wolfe was 'symbolic,' and that Wolfe is 'lawfully holding over' in that position despite her appointment expiring July 1," according to Wisconsin Public Radio on October 16. This is a case of the MAGA Republicans being hoist on their own petard. Just last year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court "upheld a lower court ruling that an appointee of former Gov. Scott Walker to the state Natural Resources Board can remain in his role until his replacement is approved by the state Senate, despite the appointee’s term" having expired in 2021 (The Cap Times, June 29, 2022). Plus the Wisconsin Assembly MAGAites have blinked, as Ben Wikler eloquently states in his weekly newsletter from October 13. Speaker Vos is still threatening to impeach Justice Protasiewicz if the Court issues a ruling he and his gerrymandered buddies don't like, but it would clearly be an unpopular move. And maybe even unlawful.

The important thing now is to prepare the ground for next year's big, big, big elections. I have posted a page detailing the campaign contribution limits for local, state, and federal elections. By early December, we will know what offices will be up in the spring nonpartisan election on April 2. (This will also be the date of the presidential preference primary in Wisconsin.) In early Janiuary we will know and will post information on any primaries that will take place on February 20, 2024. And we will work to find online information about candidates that you can consult as you make your plans to vote.

But the most important thing to do is to participate in the Democratic Party's One Year to Win canvasses taking place on Saturday, November 4, and Sunday, November 5. You'll find the sign-up links in the Events listings but I'm providing them here too for the sake of convenience. By clicking on the sign-up link, you will see the shift days and times for each location.

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stand up for fair maps! Again!!

I want to begin today with the fate of AB 415, the so-called Iowa-based model for achieving a nonpartisan process for producing electoral maps. In other words, a bill that would prohibit partisan considerations from affecting the way the maps for electing state Assembly Representatives and thus state Senators are drawn. In last week's newsletter, I informed you that Senate President Chris Kopenga had said that the Senate did not have the votes to pass the bill. That was in an interview with WisPolitics's "UpFront" on October 6. But SURPRISE! It turns out that SB 488 (the name of the proposed bill in the Senate) is going to the committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection for a hearing on Thursday, October 19, at 9am in room 411 South of the Wisconsin Capitol. The Fair Maps Coalition urges everyone who cares about this issue to turn up, even if they don't want to testify. Sign up here. If you do want to testify, either in person or on paper, see messaging guidance here.

Middle Wisconsin has posted an article, This is not a credible offer, explaining why AB 415 and SB 488 are unacceptable. Calling the bill "a ploy to manipulate the system," the piece reveals the flawed process by which it was introduced: "AB415 was thrown together to look like the often referenced ‘Iowa Model,’ but they [the GOP representatives] also placed major loopholes in it to ensure they would remain in control. There was no committee hearing, no input from the public or any of the many organizations that have been working on this issue for years, and no consultation with Assembly Democrats."

Here's the ask: even if you can't drop everything to attend the hastily-called Senate hearing on Thursday, call and write you state senators, even if they are Democrats, to object to the bill. Also send written testimony to the members of the committee and to the Fair Maps Coalition:

The horrifying news from Israel and Gaza continues to dominate the media, as it rightly should. But that does not mean other important stories should be overlooked. In a number of states — including Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and West Virginia — voters have filed lawsuits seeking to disqualify TRE45ON from appearing on the ballot, either in the primary or in the general election. Notably, in the case in Colorado, "a judge denied Donald Trump’s attempt to dismiss the 14th Amendment lawsuit CREW brought on behalf of six Colorado voters. This ruling means that CREW is one step closer to presenting our clients’ case in court at the upcoming October 30 evidentiary hearing."

Noah Bookbinder, President and CEO of CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), wrote in his October 14 newsletter, "Trump’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit was brought under Colorado’s anti-SLAPP law, which seeks to protect people from being sued over exercising their free speech rights. But the judge ruled that 'this lawsuit falls within the public interest exemption to the anti-SLAPP statute,' and concluded that 'ensuring that only constitutionally qualified candidates can seek to hold the highest office in the country...seeks to enforce an important right which confers a significant benefit to the public.'"

As precedent, there's little to cite. In the only modern case, adjudicated last year, "CREW represented residents of New Mexico who sued to remove county commissioner Couy Griffin from office, the only successful case to be brought under Section 3 since 1869. The judge in that case determined January 6th was an insurrection under the Constitution and that someone who helped to incite it–even if not personally violent–had engaged in insurrection and was disqualified from office." See CREW's press release about this lawsuit.

And there's more good news. The gerrymandering action in Wisconsin concerns only state legislative districts, not congressional districts. But gerrymandering in other states has in the recent past affected the composition of the House of Representatives. German Lopez, writing in the New York Times on October 16, finds A Shift in Gerrymandering (gifted article): "the overall picture looks promising for Democrats. 'The House map is pretty equitable now, certainly more so than it was 10 years ago,' David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report told me. 'If the cases [now pending in federal courts] go in Democrats’ favor,' he added, 'it could make the House map even a little bit bluer on balance than a random map would be.'”

REAL TIME UPDATE: Even as I write this newsletter, the House is voting to fill the position of Speaker of the House. Apparently Jim (Gym?) Jordan failed on the first vote. Six representatives from districts that voted for Biden in 2022, voted against him. In all, he fell 17 votes short, receiving only 200 votes in the first round. Hakeem Jeffries beat him by receiving 212 votes from all the Democrats. There might be another vote later today, the Washington Post has said.

Now a word about gag orders. As plenty of TV pundits have remarked, criminal defendants who behaved and spoke as the Tangerine Palpatine has in the past several months would have had their bail revoked and have been tossed into pre-trial detention. Not Orange Julius. He's just prohibited from threatening court employees, the prosecutor, potential witness and families of all of the above. On his show last night Jimmy Kimmel thinks he and everyone else who watched the insurrection is a witness: “I don’t know about you — I saw the whole thing happen.” (See the BEST OF LATE NIGHT gifted to you.)

Judge Chutkan's order, made orally from the bench, will be followed with a written opinion soon. Meanwhile, Judge Engoron had issued a narrowly tailored gag order two weeks ago. On October 3, the AP wrote: "Rebuking Donald Trump, a state court judge imposed a limited gag order Tuesday in the former president’s civil business fraud trial and ordered him to delete a social media post that publicly maligned a key court staffer." Now let's see if these jurists can make their orders stick.

Down in Georgia in the trial of Chesebro and Powell, jury selection will be starting on Friday. Attorneys for the defendants wanted prospective jurors to give a favorability rating of every person charged in the RICO case. REALLY? A trial is not like "reality TV" — prospective jurors don't get a vote at the outset on which defendants aren't very popular! Both Judge McAfee and the prosecutors objected, thank goodness. But everyone "agreed potential jurors could be asked about pressures from the community or whether they would feel nervous or anxious about returning any verdict out of concern for how the public might respond" (See Lawyers and judge hash out juror questions for Powell and Chesebro trial in Georgia election case, October 16, 2023).

Attorneys for Chesebro and Powell "also wanted to include a string of questions about whether potential jurors believe Trump and his associates tried to steal the election and what they think about people who spread misinformation or tried to help overturn the election." As Judge McAfee said, "the questions seemed to cross a 'hard line in the sand' against asking prospective jurors whether they think someone is guilty or not." Sounds a little like a scene out of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: "Sentence first — verdict afterward." But in this case, it's more like "first the verdict and then the trial."

One more thing: don't forget to sign up for the online event we're holding on Sunday, November 12, at 7:00pm. It's all about Winning the Messaging War. Because one of our featured speakers — David Pepper, former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party and author of Laboratories of Autocracy — cannot be available in real time, we have to tape his interview ahead of the event. If you have questions for him, please submit them here.

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voting rights issues are BOILING in WI

The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has upended my musings about this week's newsletter. The news from the conflict has been overwhelming and awful. Seen as an almost inevitable outgrowth of 75 years of intermittent conflict between the irreconcilable views of two groups fighting for a small part of the world, it may seem both consequential and simply in keeping with the long history of the region. Seen in the context of recent events worldwide, however, it may signify that we are witnessing dramatic changes in what had looked like a fairly stable world order, one ultimately dominated by America's vision and our might.

That's David Leonhardt's thesis in yesterday's column The Global Context of the Hamas-Israel War. He writes that "the world is in the midst of a transition to a new order that experts describe with the word multipolar. The United States is no longer the dominant power it once was, and no replacement has emerged. As a result, political leaders in many places feel emboldened to assert their own interests, believing the benefits of aggressive action may outweigh the costs. These leaders believe that they have more sway over their own region than the U.S. does." Leonhardt elaborates on this thesis clearly and concisely. Read the whole thing. I've gifted it to bypass the paywall.

Wisconsin is of course thick into its own internecine election wars. What follows is a brief summary of the action to date.

  • As we are all now well aware, Boss Vos has been threatening to impeach Justice Protasiewicz and set up a secret panel of former Wisconsin Supreme Court (SCOWIS) justices to advise him on the subject.
  • Two weeks ago, Speaker Vos the Boss suddenly introduced a bill to completely restructure the process of redistricting our legislative election maps, based on the Iowa Model, or so he claimed. (See the bill.) Then the Iowa State Auditor and other Iowa pols called the claim a lie, only in more polite language.
  • This past Sunday, Vos the Boss published an editorial in the Journal Sentinel blaming Democrats for opposing his bill — AB 415 — to change the way our election maps are drawn. In it, he repeats the lie.
  • And now, Senate President Chris Kapenga says the senate does not have enough votes to pass the legislation. Meanwhile, Kapenga is urging Vos to impeach Elections Administrator Meagan Wolfe. The senate claims to have fired her already, but that action has of course resulted in a lawsuit.
  • Now STOP THE PRESSES: Former SCOWIS justice David Prosser has just advised the MAGA GOP in the Assembly that it would be ill-advised for the body to go forward with impeachment. In his letter to Vos on October 6, he wrote: "To sum up my views, there should be no effort to impeach Justice Protasiewicz on anything we know now. Impeachment is so serious, severe, and rare that it should not be considered unless the subject has committed a crime, or the subject has committed indisputable ‘corrupt conduct’ while ‘in office."
  • And this just in: the Assembly Bill to change the process of drawing election maps, passed by the Assembly a few weeks ago, has now be submitted to the Senate.

So that's where the legislature stands: Vos threatens impeachment and then passes a bill that he erroneously claims is just like the Iowa model. Senate President Fitzgerald says he just doesn't have the votes to pass the bill (which seems not to have been the case) but wants Vos to impeach Meagan Wolfe (Wisconsin Elections Administrator) instead. Former Justice Prosser tells Vos to forget about impeaching Protasiewiz. Now Vos has become silent on the subject. Stay tuned for further legislative games.

While the state legislature was busy boxing itself into corners, the work of the Wisconsin Supreme Court went on. There have been quite a few important developments you should know about.

  • On Friday, October 6, Justice Protosiewicz released her opinion declining the motion that she recuse herself from the redistricting case. (See her recusal opinion.)
  • On October 9, the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to hear part of the Clarke case challenging the current maps as unconstitutional. (See the Court's ruling.)
  • SCOWIS also declined to hear the case known as Wright. (See the court's order.)The litigants in that case are submitting a motion to be included in the Clarke case as an Intervenor (i.e. as a party having "a clearly determinable interest in the outcome of the action." See Thomson Reuters Practical Law.)

The issues here are complicated but we can tease out a few salient ones. The Clarke petition raised five issues:

  1. Whether the state legislative redistricting plans proposed by the legislature and imposed by this Court in Johnson v. Wisconsin Elections Commission are extreme partisan gerrymanders that violate Article I, Section I, of the Wisconsin Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under law; and whether this cause of action is justiciable in Wisconsin courts.
  2. Whether the state legislative redistricting plans proposed by the legislature and imposed by this Court in Johnson III are extreme partisan gerrymanders that retaliate against voters based on their viewpoint and exercise of free speech and abridge the ability of voters with disfavored political views to associate with others to advance their political beliefs in violation of Article I, Sections 3 and 4 of the Wisconsin Constitution; and whether this cause of action is justiciable in Wisconsin courts.
  3. Whether the state legislative redistricting plans proposed by the legislature and imposed by this Court in Johnson III are extreme partisan gerrymanders that fail to adhere to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue and fundamental principles in violation of Article I, Section 22 of the Wisconsin Constitution; and whether this cause of action is justiciable in Wisconsin courts.
  4. Whether the state legislative redistricting plans proposed by the legislature and imposed by this Court in Johnson III violate the requirement of Article IV, Sections 4 and 5 of the Wisconsin Constitution that legislators be elected from districts consisting of "contiguous territory."
  5. Whether the state legislative redistricting plans proposed by the legislature and imposed by this Court in Johnson III violate the separation-of-powers principle inherent in the Constitution's division of legislative, executive, and judicial powers by usurping the Governor's core constitutional power to veto legislation and the Legislature's core constitutional power to override such a veto.

SCOWIS declined to hear issues 1, 2 and 3 but agreed to hear issues 4 and 5. In its rationale for declining to take up the first three issues, the majority wrote that although those "raise important and unresolved questions of statewide significance, the need for extensive fact-finding (if not a full-scale trial) counsels against addressing them at this time."

The Court then asks that the parties and any intervenors write briefs addressing four questions. (1) Whether the current maps violate the contiguity requirements in the Constitution. (2) Whether the Court's adoption of the existing state legislative maps violated the Wisconsin Constitution's separation of powers. (3) If the existing maps in fact violate the contiguity requirement or violate the separation of powers, what standards the Court should use to develop a remedy for the violations. (5) If the existing maps are found to violate the Constitution, what fact-finding will be necessary and what process the Court should use to resolve issues of fact.

One interpretation of the SCOWIS order dismissing the partisan gerrymandering issues sees the decision as conserving precious time so that if warranted new maps that do not violate the contiguity requirement or the separation of powers can be in place in time for the 2024 elections. That interpretation is bolstered by the aggressive schedule the Court has set: October 10 for Motions to Intervene; October 12 for initial briefs; October 30 for responses to initial briefs; November 8 for Amicus briefs; and November 21 for Oral Arguments. Moreover, the Court's opinion noted that "a decision on Issues 4 and 5 set forth in their petition 'could render it unnecessary' to decide Issues 1-3."

No doubt that there will be lots of news emanating both from actions at the Wisconsin Supreme Court and from the Legislature. We'll keep on it!

Although Wisconsin has no election in the offing — a welcome respite in a state that routinely has four or more of them every year — there's plenty to do to keep your hand in vital electoral matters elsewhere. So this week's Action Items are managed by some powerfully effective national groups. I hope you sign up with them.

VOTE FORWARD volunteer opportunities:

  1. Help Democrats Win in Virginia: To deny Governor Glenn Youngkin a statewide Republican trifecta, Democrats need to hold their majority in the Virginia State Senate or win a majority in the House of Delegates this November. Sign up to write Vote Forward letters to potential voters, join a national phone bank, or if you’re in or near Virginia, join other volunteers to knock on doors and help voters make a plan to vote! Take action in VA.
  2. Protect Abortion Access in Ohio: In August, organizers helped lay the groundwork necessary for abortion access to pass via ballot measure in November. Now it’s time to see it through. Every Vote Forward letterwritten, phone call made, door knocked, and donation contributed between now and Election Day to remind Ohio voters to vote Yes on Issue 1 gets Ohioans a step closer to protecting reproductive freedom statewide.
  3. National Phone Bank to Ohio Voters: No matter where you’re located, join our national phone bank on Tuesday, October 17 at 6pm ET! We’re calling Ohioans to remind them to vote YES on Issue 1 to protect reproductive freedom. If you’ve never phone banked before, don’t worry, there will be a quick training beforehand to help you get started. Sign up today.

ACTIVATE AMERICA volunteer opportunities:

  1. Protect Abortion Rights in Ohio: This November, Ohio voters will be heading to the polls to vote on an amendment that would enshrine abortion protections in their constitution. We know a majority of Ohioans support protecting abortion rights with an amendment. We can help them get the info they need to make their voices heard! Let's Get Out The Vote! Sign up for postcard lists today to ensure Democratic voters have the info they need to vote. Please write postcards now and mail them starting October 4 through October 28 at the latest.
  2. Write Postcards to Voters in CA, NY, AZ, and OH!: Join Third Act and Activate America to write postcards to voters and help safeguard our democracy! We will win elections in Fall 2023, and build voter enthusiasm and turnout to elect progressives and climate champions in 2024. Sign up. On the sign-up page, click on "Complete Your Registration Here," and fill out the order form to let us know how many names and addresses you want us to send to you.
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buckle up, it's crazy out there!

The past few weeks, I've focused a lot of newsletters on Representative Robin Vos's threat to impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz and his sudden introduction of a bill (AD 415) to implement a so-called nonpartisan process for developing and adopting maps of electoral districts, a proposal that only looks nonpartisan until we examine the actual bill. And it turns out that the version adopted as amended allows the legislature to revise the proposed maps any way they choose — as long as the Republicans with their near veto-proof majority can persuade at least one Democrat to vote for it — and gives the partisan legislature the final say. The Assembly is currently on hiatus and will not return until next week. And the Senate has so far not taken up the redistricting bill the Assembly passed a couple of weeks ago. So all is quiet on the threat to impeach Justice Protasiewicz and the attempt to fool everyone into thinking the GOP has seen the light now and is in favor of nonpartisan redistricting, two parts of the three-part effort to keep legislative power out of the hands of the voting public: "fire" Meagan Wolfe, the current state administrator of elections; impeach the possible fourth vote on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to redraw the election maps; adopt a bogus version of the Iowa Model for nonpartisan redistricting. We're keeping an eye on all three.

Since last week's newsletter, The Big Lie-bowski has taken center stage again. This time the Big Lie isn't about "rigged elections." It's about the value of real estate. New York Judge Engoron has already issued a partial summary judgment declaring that "Donald J. Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets" (gift article: NYTimes, September 26, 2023).The trial on this civil matter is simply to assess how much the penalties (disgorgement) should be. In the ruling Judge Engoron has already issued, the business certificates (i.e. licenses) of all New York entities The Cowardly Lyin' owns and all business that are"controlled or beneficially owned by the individual defendants" have been cancelled and a receiver will be appointed to oversee all matters pertaining to those entities.

And this just in: Judge Engoron has issued a gag order against Donald Trump. If he violates the order, he will go to jail for 30 days, apparently. See the Washington Post's account here. Or this much longer and more detailed account in The Messenger. Now taken down, the post on Truth Social that prompted the gag order attacked Judge Engoron's staff. It apparently read "Schumer’s girlfriend, Alison R. Greenfield, is running this case against me. How disgraceful! This case should be dismissed immediately!!" In the election denial case, prosecutor Jack Smith requested a limited gag order and followed up with a reply to Trump's filing with an even more urgent argument. You can see Glenn Kirschner's take on the latest on YouTube. Judge Chutkin scheduled a hearing on the gag order motion for October 16.

Also, in Congress, Kevin McCarthy has just been booted from his speakership. In the Washington Post, Phillip Bump headlines his analysis of the Republican party's trajectory over the past decade The future of the GOP is now its past. Even Newt Gingrich, the original Congressional bomb thrower, is arguing that "Republicans must expel Matt Gaetz," calling Gaetz "an anti-Republican who has become actively destructive to the conservative movement." So now there's a pro-tem speaker, Representative Patrick McHenry, until a new speaker is elected. What a day! But the government is still up and running. Justice Thomas actually recused himself from the Supreme Court decision not to hear John Eastman's appeal to keep his evidence of crime (by which I mean his emails) from prosecutors. And Ukraine continues to receive robust support from other nations, including the United States. Some of the more hopeful signs that democracy may yet survive.

So much drama for the media to qvell* over. In the real world, there are still meaningful ways to help realize the policies we desire. If you act quickly, you can participate in Vote Forward's letter-writing campaign for elections this November in Ohio and Virginia. As you might recall, Ohio voters have a chance to pass a constitutional amendment to guarantee access to abortion in that state. Sign up for the Ohio Ballot Initiative. In Virginia, the November election provides a chance to flip the lower house from red to blue. You can participate in several issue-oriented letter-writing campaigns. For example, Climate Change or Reproductive Freedom.

*a yiddish term meaning a kind of celebratory exclaiming, a joyous outburst

In other news, North Shore Fair Maps is holding a vital zoom you really don't want to miss on Monday, October 11, at 7 pm — Math, Science, and Maps — with guest speaker Attorney Sam Hirsch (from the law firm Jenner & Block) providing insights into the second gerrymandering lawsuit filed in August with the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Robert Yablon (from the Democracy Research Initiative) will bring us up to speed on the Legislature's "recusal / impeachment" power play. It really is the maps, stupid, that have turned Wisconsin into a perpetually bitter political battleground. If it's true that Democrats would need a huge majority of the votes in any given election to eke out a tiny majority in the Assembly, then MAGA Republicans can clearly ignore constituents and their policy preferences. Under the 2011 maps and strengthened by the 2021 maps, Wisconsin voters are trapped. North Shore Fair Maps and a coalition of advocacy groups are both calling attention to the matter and fighting it with every tool at their disposal. Join in and sign up

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the legislature's sneak attack

Before I dive into the contentious issues brewing in our state, I want to call your attention to the next big Grassroots North Shore event: Winning the Messaging War, to be held on Sunday, November 12. Our featured speakers are David Pepper (author of Saving Democracy), Melissa Agard (Minority Leader in the WI Senate) and Mandela Barnes (President of Power to the Polls). Although the event itself is still six weeks away, we'd like to hear your questions and concerns. We especially welcome questions for David Pepper who will have to appear in a pre-taped interview owing to scheduling issues. So submit your questions as soon as possible.

Over the past two weeks, the Wisconsin legislature, especially the Assembly, went berserk. In the Assembly, MAGAites hurriedly crafted a bill supposedly designed to implement a fair and nonpartisan process for drawing election districts — AB 415 — at 3am on Tuesday and then presented the bill for amendment and passage Thursday night. No committee hearing. No public hearing. No time to read and think carefully about the bill's effects.

Boss Vos presented it as a nonpartisan redistricting law based on the Iowa model. But according to the Iowa State Auditor, the Wisconsin bill omits KEY PROVISIONS that safeguard against reverting to the same kind of rigged maps we have had since 2011. As two Iowa officials note, "The clearest and most consequential difference [from the Iowa model] 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').

As the bill heads to the Wisconsin Senate, you might wonder why Vos suddenly chose to adopt a bill that pretends to create a nonpartisan process for redrawing our election districts in time to be adopted for 2024 elections. Here's why: "Vos offered the plan to nullify pending lawsuits over the 2022 redistricting" (Wisconsin Examiner, September 15, 2023). In other words, the goal is to prevent the Supreme Court of Wisconsin (SCOWIS) from reviewing the maps it approved when the court still had four conservative justices sitting in judgment. Now that there are four progressive justices, they fear that SCOWIS will throw out those maps and adopt ones that are truly nonpartisan.

The same change in the make-up of SCOWIS prompted the threat to impeach Justice Protasiewicz. Never mind that the only grounds for impeachment our state constitution recognizes are corrupt conduct in office or commission of a crime. In short, Vos has been pulling out all the stops so that the power to stay in power remains in the hands of the MAGAites.


  • In his weekly newsletter on September 22, Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler noted that the Assembly gaveled out of session last Thursday and won't be back in session until October 10. So, for the rest of this week and all of next week, the Assembly cannot impeach anyone! He goes on to say:
    You made this happen. Without your voice, your outrage, and your organizing, it’s entirely possible—and in fact, based on what we’ve heard, more than likely—that Robin Vos and the Assembly Republican caucus would have already voted to impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz by this moment, and Wisconsin would have been at the center of an explosive constitutional crisis.
    So, keep it up. Keep calling and writing your Assembly representative and the state Senator to let them know how you feel about the bogus effort to take the judiciary out of the redistricting process and the equally bogus effort to impeach Justice Protasiewicz. Even if your elected officials are Democrats. (After all, Representative LaKeisha Myers voted for the amended AB 415, the only Democrat to do so.) Legislative staff keep a running account of public views, even if those views don't always sway legislative opinions. To find your legislators and their contact information, visit the Legislature's home page.

    *   *   *   *
  • Sign up for a Poll Worker Info Session with the Wisconsin Democrats. The Voter Protection Team has added Saturday sessions from 11:00 - 11:30am on September 30, October 14, and October 28. If you'd like to get involved in volunteering with the Dems, this is a perfect opportunity. It's also one of our final big chances to spread the word ahead of the November deadline to submit poll worker nominations. See all the available days and times and sign up. And bring a friend!

    *   *   *   *
  • The Wisconsin Senate recently voted to fire Wisconsin Elections Administrator Meagan Wolfe. She is being pushed out of her job as the state’s top election official. She is non-partisan and non-ideological and carries out decisions made by the Commissioners. A significant part of her job is ensuring that local clerks and other election officials have the resources and technology they need to conduct a safe, accurate, and successful election.
    Here's what you can do:
    Please write a thank you note WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe. Feel free to use one of the sample messages on the page linked above or personalize the message to put it in your own voice.
    Mailing Address:
    Administrator Meagan Wolfe
    Wisconsin Elections Commission, Second Floor
    201 West Washington Avenue
    Madison, WI 53703

As I was finishing this newsletter, a news flash arrived. Apparently when it convenes on Thursday, the Senate will not take up the redistricting bill the Assembly passed late last week. That's a huge relief. As Ben Wikler says, the public outcry about impeachment has the upper hand right now. And it seems we might have at least temporarily derailed the bogus Assembly bill also. Make your voices heard. Call and write your legislators!

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