the attack on democracy

It's only mid-June but already it feels as if the Dog Days of August are here! The events list below is still pretty thin. But there are a few events that will be taking place IN PERSON! YAY!! Drinking Liberally Milwaukee is going to hold its next meeting (this evening) at Estabrook Park's Beer Garden; Drinking Liberally Wauwatosa is going to hold its meeting (for vaccinated people) tomorrow at Camp Bar (6600 W. North Ave., Tosa); and the League of Progressive Seniors is celebrating its 5th Anniversary on Jackie Boynton's patio on June 24. See the particulars in the event list.

And Grassroots North Shore is dipping its toes in the face-to-face (but still masked) waters. Beginning Wednesday, June 23, 2021, the Grassroots North Shore office will be open for limited hours to distribute Fair Maps Signs! Hours will be Wednesdays, 4:30 – 6:30pm and Saturdays, 11am – 1pm. A donation of $5 per sign is appreciated. Please wear a mask in the building. Our office is at 5600 W. Brown Deer Road, Suite 116, Brown Deer, WI 53223. It would help immensely if the For the People Act could pass the U.S. Senate. But we need to keep pushing this issue with the Wisconsin legislature. In particular, we urge you to call your Assembly and Senate Representatives to urge them to hold a public hearing for Assemby Bill 395 and its Senate companion SB 389. You can find their contact info here. (For a wealth of information you can use to talk to you representatives, your family, and your friends, visit the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's web page for Fair Voting Maps). Then pick up your phone AND your sign!

Gerrymandering is just one way of rigging elections to ensure a desired outcome. But there are of course many others. We're seeing an avalanche of legislation all across the country that seeks to limit who can vote, how people can vote, and when they can vote. The Brennan Center For Justice has just completed and published an analysis of these bills and have concluded that "the harshest voter suppression bills enacted this year have been introduced and enacted in starkly partisan fashion by Republican legislatures and governors." Senator Joe Manchin's belief that election and voting rights legislation should be bipartisan notwithstanding, the GOP has launched this attack on the fundamental tenet of democracy without support from voters or the other major party. Democracy requires that the will of the people, as expressed through elections, must be honored.

Even more worrisome is the parallel effort to give legislatures in Republican-controlled states the tools they could use to overturn future elections, both presidential elections and those for lower offices, including state and local ones. For a great account of what's happening where, see "14 GOP-Controlled States Have Passed Laws to Impede Free Elections" in Mother Jones. "While GOP-controlled legislatures rush to make it harder for Democratic constituencies to vote, they are also intensifying their control over how elections are run and how votes are counted, after Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election results."

These paired actions — tightening control over access to the ballot box and politicizing and corrupting the administration of elections — have been mounted in the wake of "the former guy's" efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, concerted efforts that included intense pressure on the Department of Justice to take up the *resident's cause" and a violent insurrection on January 6 whose purpose was to interfere with the certification of the Electoral Collage votes that elected President Biden.

To many of us, the GOP efforts sound alien and bizarre. But the project of winning elections by suppressing votes and controlling the rules for administering elections have been around for at least a century and half. In this morning's Plum Line post, "Rand Paul offers an accidentally useful Jim Crow analogy in rationalizing his party’s illiberal shift", Greg Sargent unmasks the logic of these maneuvers: "What’s important about these shifts is that they seek to formalize and facilitate what we saw in the months after the 2020 election. It isn’t simply about trying to work the refs or about bending the rules to suit political ends. It’s about changing the rules at the outset to make a rejection of the popular will something that’s part of the legal process." The purpose, Sargent writes: "limiting the involvement of the public in decision-making." I hope you'll read and think about the whole article. It frames the events of the last nine months in a novel and revealing way.

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We all need to engage

ics. And the need for your participation is urgent. Here are several issues arising right here in Wisconsin that need your prompt action.

From the Fair Maps Coalition: Over the last few days, legislative Republicans have been rushing a bill through Assembly and Senate committees with little notice to mess with the redistricting process.

Senate Bill 385 and Assembly Bill 369 are partisan moves to delay the redistricting process, which will disenfranchise voters next spring and could be a move for Republicans to rig the game even further.

The Fair Maps Coalition firmly stands in opposition to these unnecessary, anti-democratic and overly-complicated “solutions” to a problem that barely exists.

We need your help to contact your legislator and tell them you oppose AB369/ SB385 and want an open, fair, honest, and transparent map-drawing process.

Read more about the bill here. And find contact information for your Assembly and Senate officials here.
From the Democratic Party's Voter Protection Program: Our Vote, Our Voice Wisconsin

Wisconsin elections are close. 4 of the past 6 presidential elections here were decided by less than 1%, and we elected Joe Biden by only 20,682 votes last year — or about 3 votes per polling place. With the governorship and a tossup Senate seat on the line in 2022, we cannot wait to start protecting voters.  

That’s why we’re launchingOur Vote, Our Voice right now — 18 months before the Midterm Elections. We are focused on consistent challenges Wisconsinites face in our elections year after year: recruiting poll workers to staff and open polling places across the state, and planning a big voter registration drive later this summer. This program is centered around relational and community organizing — because we are the best organizers for our own communities.  So, whether that means inviting your family on the North Side of Milwaukee to be poll workers or getting your friends across the country to come to our phonebanks, there’s a place for everyone in this program. 

Phonebank/Friendbanks: We’ll be making calls to Wisconsinites to talk about why voting rights matter and to get them involved as a Poll Worker, and then we’ll give you the tools to engage your own community in the fight for voting rights.

Training is offered at every event, so no need to prepare anything in advance—we’ll provide scripts & resources, so all you need is a computer, a phone, and your enthusiasm!

Become a Poll Worker: Are you a Wisconsin resident? Being a poll worker is the most direct way you can support your community during an election! Join our 30-minute Info Session to learn more about being a Poll Worker and how to get involved in 2022!
From the North Shore Fair Maps Team: Are you tired of your legislator ignoring your concerns? In the last 10 years only 3 Wisconsin state legislative seats have changed parties. In 2020 18 state Assembly races and 5 Senate races were uncontested. In 2016 over half of all state positions on the ballot had no challengers. In these races candidates didn’t have to run a campaign or offer competing ideas. While self-sorting contributes to this, so do Wisconsin’s wildly gerrymandered maps. Cities of all sizes and most counties were purposely split to “pack and crack” those communities in order to minimize district competitiveness.

Are you mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore? Well there is something you can do! The Peoples’ Maps Commission (PMC), whose bipartisan members were selected by retired judges, are going to submit proposed legislative maps to the legislature that focus on keeping Communities of Interest together. A Community of Interest (COI) is a geographic area in which residents share common interests and concerns that deserve consideration by their elected representatives. Gerrymandering experts agree that focusing on COIs will significantly increase the competitiveness of legislative districts and empower citizens to hold their elected representatives accountable.

This is where you come in. The PMC is asking citizens from across Wisconsin to map their Community of Interest and submit it to the Commission. Through the wonders of data science, your COI data, along with that of thousands of other Wisconsinites, will be used to determine consensus COIs that need to be kept together in our new maps. Please sign up for a one hour Zoom session for a facilitated conversation with a small group of folks in your area and draw your Community of Interest map. One hour to help save democracy in Wisconsin. Please do it now.

Elections that are available to all eligible voters, that are as convenient as possible to encourage wide participation, and that are administered in honest, professional, and non-partisan ways — free and fair elections are the bedrock and the foundation of a democratic system. But casting a vote is only one part of your duty as an informed citizen. Engagement in many other activities — like those listed above — is also vital to a vibrant and responsive democratic system. Of course our lives are filled with other obligations and pleasures, never more so than now as the pandemic recedes from the center of our mental life. But working to strengthen our democratic institutions and traditions has to be part of what we do. If we continue to allow an erosion of voting rights all over the country as well as right here in Wisconsin, the threat to our country will continue to grow.

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Are We There Yet?

It's really beginning to look like summer. And the pandemic in this country — though not in the rest of the world — is subsiding. Those of us who are fully vaccinated can resume many activities that we have avoided for more than a year now. Mask-wearing is now optional, although local public health mandates should continue to be observed. Still, the end is in sight, for which we are all no doubt grateful.

In light of that good news, in fact, my husband and I are going to visit family in Baltimore and to see our grandson for the first time in 18 months — a very long time in the life of a 4 year old and even longer in the life of his grandparents! As a result, I'm taking a two-week hiatus from the newsletter. I've included three weeks of events in this one (rather than the two week list I usually include) to tide you over. But if you need more updated information, you can always check the calendars of the Democratic Party of Milwaukee County and the Southeast Wisconsin calendar. They're both on our website.

Grassroots North Shore's work continues, though. The Gun Violence Prevention team has several action items for you to take:

  1. Please call or email Senator Darling to support AB193/SB200 which creates grants to local government for 1) training staff at a firearm retailer or firearm range on how to recognize a person that may be considering suicide; 2) providing suicide prevention materials for distribution at a firearm retailer or firearm range; or 3) providing voluntary, temporary firearm storage. She is on the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, which will vote on this bill soon. 

  2. Please save the date for Wear Orange Weekend on June 4-6, 2021. Wear Orange Day (June 4) is National Gun Violence Prevention Awareness Day. Plan your orange outfit now and stay tuned for more ways to get involved in the weekend's activities. 

  3. The GOP leadership has stripped all gun violence prevention provisions out of the state budget. These policies will be introduced as a package of bills in early June. More info will be shared as details are confirmed.

Our new Writers Club wants you to write. Write letters to the editor. Write to your assembly person in Madison. Write to your senators in Madison. Write to your representatives in Washington, DC. Write to your senators in Washington, DC. Write, right? And join the group!

Our upcoming event, Green Is Good — on Sunday, June 13, at 7pm — is already attracting a lot of attention. You still have plenty of time to sign up. But 54 people already have. Don't miss your chance to hear from Kevin Kane (Green Homeowners Association), Mayor Bryan Kennedy (Glendale), Mandela Barnes (Lt. Governor) and Lisa Geason-Bauer (Evolution Marketing on Green Benefits to Business and the Economy). People often turn away from climate change discussion because they feel powerless to change the situation. Aside from electing politicians who care, “what can we do?” is the common response. This forum will help us answer that question, not from a national perspective or political stage, but from where we live — our homes and communities. The panelists will discuss what individual homeowners can do to make their own lives greener. Because doing nothing is not an option. Please join us You can read more about it on our home page.

And in news items that probably won't be covered in the mainstream media — and certainly not by the increasingly slender Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — here is some information you might find useful, or at least interesting:

  • Although at least 18 of their members have been indicted for their role in the January 6 insurrection, the Proud Boys appear undaunted. David Neiwert at Daily Kos notes that "Prosecutors in [Ethan] Nordean’s case filed a document last Thursday that gave details of some of the Proud Boys’ messages after Jan. 6. It makes for chilling reading since it makes abundantly clear that the violent far-right extremists who make up their membership rolls are not going to slow down anytime soon, instead planning to ratchet up the violence in the coming months and years." The rest of the piece is downright chilling.

  • As published in The Hill and excerpted in Rick Hasen's Election Law Blog, Republicans see 2021 as a prime opportunity for partisan gerrymandering to guarantee they'll win back control of the House in 2022. See the excerpt or read the full article.

  • The Atlanta Journal Constitution discusses a lawsuit that seeks to stop local election takeovers in Georgia voting law. This article is also excerpted in Hasen's Election Law Blog: "An election integrity organization sued over Georgia’s voting law Monday, challenging provisions that allow state takeovers of local elections, shorten absentee ballot deadlines and change absentee ID requirements. The case is the seventh federal lawsuit trying to throw out parts of the voting law. It was filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, five county election board members and several voters."

  • And in truly depressing news, a new CBS poll reckons that 67% of Republicans believe President Biden is not the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. These same respondents still think the party needs to persuade more voters with popular policies and ideas, albeit by a slim margin (53%). The other 47% think the way the GOP will win is by changing state voting rules, presumably to discourage or eliminate the votes of those who are likely to vote for the other party. The discussion of the poll is quite detailed and covers a number of issues. So go look at the whole thing.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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