the all-elections news edition

It's ELECTION DAY! If you have not already voted by absentee ballot or by in-person early voting, you have until 8pm this evening to cast yours. As recent events both in United States and in Ukraine have demonstrated, exercising your right to vote is not just something good to do. It's your way of saying that you care deeply about representative governance. Voting is foundational to our country, and to our way of life. We now know that it is more than possible to lose any meaningful representation. If you need to find out where your polling place is, consult MyVote.WI.gov. If you need information about candidates for school boards, municipal offices, Milwaukee County judges, Milwaukee County Supervisor District 1 candidates, or Appeals Court District 2 candidates, check our Elections 2022 pages.

In other local political action, the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition is joining with the Wisconsin Voter Empowerment Project to thank our election workers and let them know how grateful the FMC is that they count every vote and protect our freedom to vote. Join the FMC on April 12 to Thank Election Heroes! Register here to participate.

Fair Courts Series
Join the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin at noon on Wednesday, April 13, for a conversation about how money and weak recusal rules are undermining our courts. This second webinar of the League's Fair Courts series will feature Prof. Edward Fallone, Lisa Graves and Jay Heck. The panel conversation will be moderated by Joy Cardin, a retired Wisconsin Public Radio talk show host. For those who cannot attend, the recorded event will be posted on the League's website and YouTube page. Watch the first webinar. Register for this second one here.

There's still no word from the Wisconsin Supreme Court about the legislative maps the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) remanded for further analysis of the impact of the Voting Rights Act on the establishment of an additional majority-minority Assembly District. To bring yourself up to speed on what's at issue, you can read the SCOTUS decision, the responses to that SCOTUS decision (warning: it's a long list), and/or watch a recording of the Fair Maps Coalition briefing.

Also, in case you missed this development, Gillian Battino, who had been running for the Dem nomination for US Senate, has switched to running for Wisconsin Treasurer. Here's her website. The Journal Sentinel published an article about her and her switch to the Treasurer race in February just as the news about the war in Ukraine pushed nearly everything else off the front pages.

Grassroots North Shore will be bringing election information to you as soon as candidates have qualified for the August 9 primary. Mark your calendar now and MAKE A PLAN TO VOTE in the August election. Many contenders for the Democratic nomination for US Senate will be on that ballot! Grassroots North Shore will be holding a forum with those senate candidates in June. In addition, there are contested races for Lt. Governor, and Treasurer. There may also be contested races for Assembly and Wisconsin Senate (assuming we ever get new electoral maps for those offices!)

In important national news, three Republican Senators have announced that they will vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the US Supreme Court. Senators Collins, Murkowski, and Romney have all publicly declared their support. So she will have at least 53 aye votes. (See the account in the Washington Post.) The vote is likely to take place on Friday. We can assume she will be sworn in and take her historic seat on the court this summer when Justice Breyer formally resigns.

Rick Hasan's Election Law blog reports that the non-partisan elections taking place in Green Bay today will have uniformed police on duty when ballot counting begins. Quoting Politico, the story recounts "tension building for over a year." Both a Democratic super PAC and a Republican super PAC have become involved, running ads questioning the legitimacy of the city's elections (on the GOP side) and urging voters to participate (from the Dem side.) And this is only one of the stories circulating about our elections in national media. A few days ago, the Washington Post ran a story about Robin Vos being held in contempt of court for his failure to turn over documents from the Gableman fiasco. If he and the legislature fail to comply within 14 days after the ruling, they will be fined $1000 per day until they do. Plus they will have to pay the legal costs of the organization that brought the suit. But of course, taxpayers will ultimately foot the bill.

Finally, in welcome news that will probably never reach national media distribution, a bipartisan group of county clerks in Colorado are calling on Big Lie proponents to back up their claims with real evidence. Apparently even clerks in GOP strongholds have joined with their Democratic colleagues to demand the proof! Daily Kos has the story. Perhaps election commissions in our state can do the same!

I'll finish up with a time-sensitive ACTION ITEM: Even if you don't live in Ozaukee County, please sign this petition to ensure that Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs is designated a nature preserve in perpetuity and to keep it as an amendment Lion's Den Gorge. The alternative is selling it to an undisclosed special interest that wants to purchase the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs and break it up into a little over 35 plots to sell for real estate development. This loss will effect the thousands of folks who visit Lion's Den Gorge in the future and reduce habitat for migrating birds and wildlife. The Ozaukee County Board is voting Wednesday to put $1 million behind the effort. We all value the beautiful lakeshore and the nature preserves that so enhance our lives. Signing the petition will show the Board how much we value and want to protect our environment. Take a few minutes and do it NOW.

 

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voting news and investigative news!

This week's newsletter is much longer than usual. My apologies for that. Feel free to quit reading any time! I just came across so much juicy and important news this week that I simply could not resist highlighting the stories.

I want to begin with a reminder that the spring, nonpartisan election is happening NOW in your municipal clerk's office (or at several libraries throughout the City of Milwaukee for city residents' convenience) until the close of business at 5pm on Friday, April 1. Grassroots North Shore has put up a fairly comprehensive page for the 2022 Elections. The pages include

On the pages for races, we have separated contested races from uncontested ones. We also produced and posted responses to a questionnaire that was sent to candidates in contested races. For each candidate, you will find links to their websites, Facebook pages, and/or Twitter accounts. While we cannot endorse in every race — we often do not have enough information or a request from a candidate's campaign — we have endorsed three: Liz Sumner for Milwaukee County Supervisor, Judge Lori Kornblum for Appeals Court District 2 (for Ozaukee County voters), and Judge Hannah Dugan for Milwaukee Circuit Court Branch 31.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has put together a great set of resources for voters, including everything you need to know about how to get registered, how to fill out and return your absentee ballot, or what you’ll need to bring with you to vote early in person or on election day. The party also provides a Voter Assistance Hotline at (608) 336-3232. This information is especially helpful for first time voters. Please pass it along to anyone who could use the information.

Now for some bad news. Complicating the start of the partisan elections, the US Supreme Court has sent the legislative district maps approved by the Wisconsin Supreme Court back to the state court for more analysis to determine whether the Voting Rights Act requires the creation of a seventh majority-minority district in Milwaukee. What will happen next is unclear. Prospective candidates supposedly can begin circulating nomination papers on April 15, less than three weeks from now. But for those contemplating running for Assembly and state Senate Districts, at least in the Milwaukee area but possibly in a wider area of the state, it won't be possible to do until district lines are drawn and approved. You can view the opinion of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the order from the Supreme Court of the United States.

The case has garnered substantial media commentary in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Daily Kos for three excellent examples. Perhaps the best analysis comes from Professor Rick Hasan on his Election Law Blog: "[T]he way this case was handled is quite bizarre and is another signal of a conservative supermajority of the Supreme Court showing increasing hostility to section 2 of the Voting Rights Act." He ends his initial take this way:

So, to sum up: the Court used a case in an emergency procedural posture [the so-called shadow docket] to reach out and decide an issue that could have waited for full briefing and argument either in a lower court in a challenge to the maps or if the Supreme Court had set the case for argument. It decided these issues in ways hostile to minority voting rights without giving a full opportunity for airing out the issues and pointing out how this will further hurt voters of color. It continues to chip away at the Voting Rights Act without acknowledging that it is killing off the last major protection for minority voters from discriminatory districting plans.

And the good, better and best news? Although the war in Ukraine has dominated the news of late, some important domestic news has broken through. Chief among them, the revelation that Ginni Thomas — wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — "wanted President Trump to take extreme measures to stay in office in the days following the 2020 election" (Vox, March 25, 2022). The newly released text messages between Ginni Thomas and then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows date from just after the 2020 election and insist that the election results be overturned.

The publication of these message has stirred up a hornet's nest of backlash, even among conservative scholars, with some even calling for an impeachment proceeding to expose Justice Thomas' bias or, as some suggest, his corruption. The texts reveal Ginni Thomas as an avid conspiracy monger with a deep, Christian nationalist point of view. If you have not heard much about this matter, let me recommend a piece at Politico published just a few days after the story originally broke. Especially interesting is the section titled "Legal experts say Thomas’ texts present a real problem for the Supreme Court." Even if you're up-to-date on the whole story, this piece is worth a read. Also worth a read, Jane Mayer's piece in the New Yorker: "Legal Scholars Are Shocked By Ginni Thomas’s 'Stop the Steal' Texts."

In an interesting — possibly hilarious — turn of events, the previous guy (that's DJT in case you forgot) has filed a lawsuit against Hilary Clinton and others alleging that SHE conspired to rig the 2016 election. Reuters had the initial story, including this tasty paragraph:

Trump's allegations in the lawsuit are undermined by a 966-page report issued by a Republican-led U.S. Senate committee in August 2020. That report concluded that Russia used Republican political operative Paul Manafort and the WikiLeaks website to try to help Trump win the 2016 election.

Philip Bump at the Washington Post has followed up with an in-depth analysis showing how "Trump accidentally proves that the Clinton campaign wasn’t the driving force of the Russia probe." The key is this paragraph:

[A]s Trump and his lawyers were trying to prove that Clinton was the driving force behind the investigation into Russian interference, they were relying on documents released as part of that interference effort. It’s some mixture of dishonest and galling — and it’s not even the most ridiculous part of the case the lawsuit tries to make.

I saved the most intriguing news for last. A federal district court judge ruled that the former President Trump probably broke the law when he "likely attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress" on January 6, 2021. The ruling does not convict Trump of a crime, of course. It comes as the culmination of a suit filed by lawyer John Eastman — the architect of a "legal theory" that Vice President Pence could in effect overturn the certified results of the 2020 election. The judge's conclusion undergirds his ruling in Eastman's effort to conceal his emails from the Jan. 6 committee on the grounds of lawyer-client privilege. The government has argued that the privilege is not valid if the communication furthered a crime. Hence, the ruling that Trump and Eastman were engaged in criminal activity. Here's the opening of the story as NBC News first reported it Monday.

"The illegality of the plan was obvious," Judge David Carter wrote of Trump and lawyer John Eastman's plan to have then-Vice President Mike Pence determine the results of the 2020 election.

"Every American — and certainly the president of the United States — knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed. With a plan this 'BOLD,' President Trump knowingly tried to subvert this fundamental principle. Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021," Carter wrote, ordering emails that Eastman wrote furthering the plan to be turned over to the Jan. 6 committee.

Eastman's lawyer said that he intends to comply with the order. Although the ruling is part of a civil case in which the government did not need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes were committed, the judge nevertheless wrote that "both Trump and Eastman likely knew what they were doing was wrongful." The government had argued that Trump and Eastman had "engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States." Judge Carter seems to have agreed.tten. More information and registration.

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Early Voting Begins Today!

Today is the first day of early in-person voting. Our election coverage includes information about the hours of early voting for communities on the North Shore and the southern half of Ozaukee County. In general early in-person voting takes place in the clerk's office of your municipality. It's often a good idea to call first. You'll find a phone number on the Early Voting Info page as well. You will need to take an approved photo ID. And if you need to register before you vote, you will need proof of residence as well. Check a page from MyVote for information about what kinds of proof of residency are needed. For questions about voting issues, you can contact Common Cause Wisconsin's Election Protection at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683). For Spanish, use this number: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682). Please pass this information along, especially to young people or first-time voters!

Voting rights continue to be a litigated both here and in other states. The Wisconsin Supreme Court's approved maps have been appealed to the United States Supreme Court on the grounds that the Assembly map creates an additional — and according the the appeal unconstitutional — majority-minority district. The argument is aimed at the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and claims that the electoral maps are primarily based on racial criteria. Of course the VRA actually stipulates that creating majority-minority districts protects the voting rights of minorities by enabling them to elect candidates of their choice. So far no word on whether the court will consider the appeal. Meanwhile, time is running out to change the maps because potential candidates have to know district lines before they can begin circulating nomination papers. And the date for the start of that process is April 1, a mere nine days away.

In other news about redistricting, The Columbus Dispatch reports that Ohio “House Republicans are discussing whether to impeach Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor after the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a third set of legislative maps and effectively ended all hope of a full May 3rd primary." In rejecting the maps, the court wrote that "The commission should retain an independent map drawer – who answers to all commission members, not only to the Republican legislative leaders – to draft a plan through a transparent process." (Sounds right, and familiar.) In New Hampshire, Republican Governor Chris Sununu "said ... he will veto the congressional redistricting map approved by his fellow Republicans in the New Hampshire Legislature." NH has two congressional seats so the GOP decided to ensure that one seat was safely Republican and the other safely Democratic. Sununu opined that the effort didn't "pass the smell test." Election Law Blog has the story.

The news out of Ukraine becomes more dismal every day. But the Ukrainian military and the country's citizens continue to hold their own. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the "Russian military has lost more than 10% of the combat force that President Vladimir Putin sent to invade Ukraine, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday." In addition, "Russia continues to have problems supplying its troops in Ukraine with food, fuel and weaponry, the official said. Some soldiers have suffered frostbite because they don’t have proper cold-weather gear. There are signs that they are having trouble keeping ships fueled at sea, the official said." In the last few days, Ukraine has even pushed the Russian military back a bit, according to the live updates on the war in both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

In disturbing news, it appears that COVID-19 is not done with us. On March 18, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the presence of the virus in Milwaukee's wastewater is once again increasing. As the New York Times put it, "Another Covid Surge May Be Coming. Are We Ready for It?" But it looks as if there's no "maybe" about it: "Latest version of omicron accounts for most new infections in many parts of the U.S., genomics testing shows" according to the Washington Post. So if you are not yet boosted, now's the time. However, the FDA is in no hurry to issue an authorization for a 2nd booster shot. Here's what the New York Times had to say: "It’s hard to predict how soon — or if — the F.D.A. might authorize a second booster (or fourth dose) for all adults. The agency is expected to convene an advisory committee next month to discuss the issue. And while experts say it’s reasonable that the committee might move swiftly on Pfizer’s application for older adults, it is unclear if Moderna’s more sweeping request [for all adults] will get the green light."

Finally, there's an under-the-radar local story that is now getting some traction. The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust wants to preserve the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs for public use. Assemblywoman Deb Andraca emailed supporters about it last week. The Land Trust has raised a lot of public and private funds but needs a grant from the DNR's Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. However, an anonymous objection from one member of the Joint Finance Committee has stalled the proposal. The committee has failed to hold a public hearing on the issue. Representative Andraca urges that "anyone who cares about preserving the most beautiful pieces of Wisconsin to contact members of the Joint Finance Committee and demand a public hearing on this issue." You can find which legislators are on that committee on this Wisconsin State Legislature page. Clicking on the name of each legislator will provide you with contact information. Consider this your ACTION ITEM of the week.

ALSO MAKE SURE YOU VOTE. And that goes for friends and family too. If you have received an absentee ballot, make sure you return it, either by taking it to your municipal clerk during regular business hours or by popping it in the mail by Tuesday, March 29! For this election, absentee ballots put into municipal drop boxes will not be counted. Also, you cannot help someone else by putting their ballot in the mail or taking it to the municipal clerk for them. This "rule" is especially difficult for eligible voters who are disabled and will undoubtedly disenfranchise many of them. See the Journal Sentinel story.

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All elections matter

The April 5 election is just three weeks from today. Early in-person voting (generally in your municipal clerk's office) begins a week from today. And Grassroots North Shore needs your help RIGHT NOW. We're helping to turn out the vote in contested elections with two races in particular: the Appeals Court District 2, in Ozaukee County, and the school board for Fox Point-Bayside. We're calling strong Democrats who sometimes miss a midterm or local election. Please help us out. Email Norma Gilson to volunteer. She has a script and the call lists. You can work from home on your own time and leave messages!

I know everyone hates calling and being called! But I wouldn't ask if it weren't important to make sure the right candidates win. I've come to appreciate how critical our court system is. Ditto school boards. Recent history shows that we cannot afford to shrug about local elections. Our state is in crisis and we must do everything we can to help bring it back to the forward-leaning place it once was — and can be again. So sign up and let Norma know whether you want to reach Dems in Ozaukee or in Fox Point and Bayside.

If you just can't face phoning, here's another way you can help with the election on April 5. The Wisconsin Democratic Party's Voter Protection Team is in its final week of recruiting poll observers. "Poll observers choose part-day or full-day shifts ..., and they communicate with our team about any problems voters may face in casting their ballot. Poll observers are crucial to ensuring everything goes smoothly on Election Day."

The situation in Ukraine seems dire, but reformed neocon Francis Fukuyama thinks Russia will lose the war. And then "Putin will not survive the defeat of his army. He gets support because he is perceived to be a strongman; what does he have to offer once he demonstrates incompetence and is stripped of his coercive power?" You can help Ukrainians with a small donation to one of the charities helping both inside the country and with the millions of refugees streaming out of it. Daily Kos is sponsoring the page on Act Blue that let's you choose to split a donation to six charities: World Central Kitchen, International Rescue Committee, Razom for Ukraine, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Americares Foundation, and Save the Children's Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund. Or you can give to the individual charities. The page provides a brief explanation of what each group does.

In an interesting bit of news about the insurrectionists, the Washington Post is reporting that “Fearing political violence in 2024, judges sentence Jan. 6 defendants to probation through the next election.” The first paragraph basically says it all: "U.S. judges including those appointed by Republican presidents are increasingly sentencing defendants who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the Capitol to three-year terms of court supervision, fearing they could be misled into committing political violence in the 2024 presidential election."

In lighter news, Randy Rainbow fans will be thrilled with his new offering: "You're a Karen" tearing into Marjory Taylor Greene and Lauren Bobart. Have some fun on this Ides of March Day! You'll find more delightful Randy Rainbow performances on YouTube.

And now on to the events. It's fuller than last week's. So there's sure to be something you can attend.

 

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once more, it's the elections!

There's a lot of Wisconsin news from the last week. So let's begin with the so-called Gableman report. You can read about it, in all its ridiculousness, in the Journal Sentinel's take. Or a shortened version of the same story at Election Law Blog. The Washington Post's Editorial Board offers the justified ridicule: The Wisconsin GOP’s investigation into the 2020 election is a farce. It’s time to abandon it. The opinion piece is definitely worth a read.

The latest Marquette poll of WI candidates and issues shows that we have a lot of work to do to re-elect Governor Evers, Attorney General Josh Kaul, and a progressive Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State. You can read a discussion of the poll results and/or look at the released data yourself. Apparently half of the Republicans surveyed have not yet decided who will get their vote for the gubernatorial nomination in August. Similarly, half of the Democrats are undecided about their August vote in the crowded race for the US Senate nomination. If you read far enough in the data release, you'll find that "Gov. Tony Evers’ job approval stands at 50%, while 41% disapprove. When last measured in October 2021, 45% approved and 46% disapproved." Above water and heading in the right direction but not safe!

According to WHERE WILL YOUNG VOTERS IMPACT THE 2022 ELECTIONS?, a study by Tufts U Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Wisconsin is one of the key states, ranking second out of ten states for the importance of the youth vote in the Senate race and fourth in the gubernatorial race.

The youth population in Wisconsin, which is in the top 5 of both of our rankings, is similar to other states in the upper midwest, making up 16% of the state’s population. Wisconsin is also an above-average youth registration (68%) state and, historically, a high turnout state. In 2020, the state’s young voters preferred President Biden by 23 points in a state that was decided by less than 1 percentage point—though in this state with a lower share of people of color, youth are less Democratic-leaning than young people nationally. The 2022 Senate race for the seat held by Ron Johnson (the only Republican statewide official in Wisconsin) is considered a toss-up. ...[I]n 2022 Democratic incumbent Governor Tony Evers will seek a second term; the race is rated as a toss-up in this perennial battleground state.

You've undoubtedly heard that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the map submitted by Governor Evers was the best of the "least changes" maps submitted to them. You can read the 4-3 decision, with Justice Hagedorn voting with the three most liberal justices and writing for the majority. (With the front matter and the dissents, the whole thing runs to more than 160 pages.) The maps now include seven majority-minority districts in the Milwaukee area and represent a less bad option than the maps drawn by the Republican majority in the current legislature. The remaining conservative justices each wrote extensive dissenting opinions and each signed on with the others' dissents. The majority's opinion, however, runs to about 25 pages, excluding front matter. Justice Anne Walsh Bradley's concurring opinion, only four pages long, takes issue only with the court's original decision in November 2021 to use a "least changes" approach as the chief criterion for deciding which maps to adopt. The rest of the approximately 160 pages includes the three dissenting opinions. The conservatives on the court seem mighty unhappy with the decision.

The Republicans have, of course, appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on the grounds that "[t]he petition by the Legislature and WILL argues the map Evers drew violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it drew the seven [Wisconsin Assembly] districts based solely on race without proving a need under the law" (Journal Sentinel Online, March 7, 2022). In other words, the appeal focuses on the state legislative maps, not the Congressional one, which pretty much divides the state into 3 districts Democrats are likely to win and five districts Republicans are likely to win. Pretty much the same as the situation with the previous maps. Given what SCOTUS has been doing to the Voting Rights Act lately, the appeal might just have some legs. But time is not on their side. Candidates will begin circulating nomination papers on April 1. And the Court has already refused appeals that are too close to the beginning of the partisan primary cycle.

In other gerrymandered map litigation from North Carolina and Pennsylvania, the Court has denied the emergency appeals, citing the proximity of primary elections in those states. Those appeals were based on the theory that only state legislatures can prescribe the "Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives" as specified in the US Constitution's Elections Clause. As NPR notes, "Under this theory, any state court decision requiring the redrawing of state legislative maps is unconstitutional under the federal constitution. That is a dramatically different understanding than has ever been adopted by the Supreme Court." However, three justices — Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas — "dissented from the court's decision on Monday not to entertain the North Carolina case and in their written dissent all but embraced the independent state legislature theory." Apparently Justice Kavanaugh has also signaled "strong interest in the independent state legislature theory." There's likely to be trouble ahead.

A final note on gerrymandering: An organization called "Issue One" — describing itself as "the leading crosspartisan political reform group in Washington, D.C." — has provided a discussion of 12 examples of how state legislators have drawn unfair maps for partisan gain over the next decade in an article online called "Extreme Gerrymandering." Wisconsin is on the list which includes seven Republican-controlled states and five in the hands of Democrats.

I can't finish up this newsletter without taking note of the trucker convoy now cruising the Washington Beltway, a stretch of superhighway that encircles D.C. Dana Milbank, in Monday's Washington Post, has the best skewering I have seen. Here's the most amusing bit:

As the truckers crossed the country, the reason for the protest largely evaporated: Mask and vaccine mandates tumbled — not because of the convoy but because the pandemic receded. And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dominated news coverage, leaving the truckers largely forgotten and sharply increasing the cost of fuel for their now-pointless mission.

Now, they’re in the Washington area, camping out in Hagerstown, Md., and they’ve decided the best way to get themselves noticed would be to … make traffic on the Beltway?

Threatening to increase traffic on the Beltway is like threatening to add water to the Potomac River: How would anyone notice the difference? The 64-mile loop around the capital is in a state of perpetual slowdown.

The events list is kind of sparse, but please find SOMETHING you can do, either to support Ukraine and its refugees — Daily Kos has put together a donation page, the proceeds of which will be distributed to various charities providing aid — or support a candidate for the April 5 and August 9 elections. You can find candidate information and links for the April election on our 2022 Elections pages.

There's a lot of Wisconsin news from the last week. So let's begin with the so-called Gableman report. You can read about it, in all its ridiculousness, in the Journal Sentinel's take. Or a shortened version of the same story at Election Law Blog. The Washington Post's Editorial Board offers the justified ridicule: The Wisconsin GOP’s investigation into the 2020 election is a farce. It’s time to abandon it. The opinion piece is definitely worth a read.

The latest Marquette poll of WI candidates and issues shows that we have a lot of work to do to re-elect Governor Evers, Attorney General Josh Kaul, and a progressive Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State. You can read a discussion of the poll results and/or look at the released data yourself. Apparently half of the Republicans surveyed have not yet decided who will get their vote for the gubernatorial nomination in August. Similarly, half of the Democrats are undecided about their August vote in the crowded race for the US Senate nomination. If you read far enough in the data release, you'll find that "Gov. Tony Evers’ job approval stands at 50%, while 41% disapprove. When last measured in October 2021, 45% approved and 46% disapproved." Above water and heading in the right direction but not safe!

According to WHERE WILL YOUNG VOTERS IMPACT THE 2022 ELECTIONS?, a study by Tufts U Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Wisconsin is one of the key states, ranking second out of ten states for the importance of the youth vote in the Senate race and fourth in the gubernatorial race.

The youth population in Wisconsin, which is in the top 5 of both of our rankings, is similar to other states in the upper midwest, making up 16% of the state’s population. Wisconsin is also an above-average youth registration (68%) state and, historically, a high turnout state. In 2020, the state’s young voters preferred President Biden by 23 points in a state that was decided by less than 1 percentage point—though in this state with a lower share of people of color, youth are less Democratic-leaning than young people nationally. The 2022 Senate race for the seat held by Ron Johnson (the only Republican statewide official in Wisconsin) is considered a toss-up. ...[I]n 2022 Democratic incumbent Governor Tony Evers will seek a second term; the race is rated as a toss-up in this perennial battleground state.

You've undoubtedly heard that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the map submitted by Governor Evers was the best of the "least changes" maps submitted to them. You can read the 4-3 decision, with Justice Hagedorn voting with the three most liberal justices and writing for the majority. (With the front matter and the dissents, the whole thing runs to more than 160 pages.) The maps now include seven majority-minority districts in the Milwaukee area and represent a less bad option than the maps drawn by the Republican majority in the current legislature. The remaining conservative justices each wrote extensive dissenting opinions and each signed on with the others' dissents. The majority's opinion, however, runs to about 25 pages, excluding front matter. Justice Anne Walsh Bradley's concurring opinion, only four pages long, takes issue only with the court's original decision in November 2021 to use a "least changes" approach as the chief criterion for deciding which maps to adopt. The rest of the approximately 160 pages includes the three dissenting opinions. The conservatives on the court seem mighty unhappy with the decision.

The Republicans have, of course, appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on the grounds that "[t]he petition by the Legislature and WILL argues the map Evers drew violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it drew the seven [Wisconsin Assembly] districts based solely on race without proving a need under the law" (Journal Sentinel Online, March 7, 2022). In other words, the appeal focuses on the state legislative maps, not the Congressional one, which pretty much divides the state into 3 districts Democrats are likely to win and five districts Republicans are likely to win. Pretty much the same as the situation with the previous maps. Given what SCOTUS has been doing to the Voting Rights Act lately, the appeal might just have some legs. But time is not on their side. Candidates will begin circulating nomination papers on April 1. And the Court has already refused appeals that are too close to the beginning of the partisan primary cycle.

In other gerrymandered map litigation from North Carolina and Pennsylvania, the Court has denied the emergency appeals, citing the proximity of primary elections in those states. Those appeals were based on the theory that only state legislatures can prescribe the "Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives" as specified in the US Constitution's Elections Clause. As NPR notes, "Under this theory, any state court decision requiring the redrawing of state legislative maps is unconstitutional under the federal constitution. That is a dramatically different understanding than has ever been adopted by the Supreme Court." However, three justices — Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas — "dissented from the court's decision on Monday not to entertain the North Carolina case and in their written dissent all but embraced the independent state legislature theory." Apparently Justice Kavanaugh has also signaled "strong interest in the independent state legislature theory." There's likely to be trouble ahead.

A final note on gerrymandering: An organization called "Issue One" — describing itself as "the leading crosspartisan political reform group in Washington, D.C." — has provided a discussion of 12 examples of how state legislators have drawn unfair maps for partisan gain over the next decade in an article online called "Extreme Gerrymandering." Wisconsin is on the list which includes seven Republican-controlled states and five in the hands of Democrats.

I can't finish up this newsletter without taking note of the trucker convoy now cruising the Washington Beltway, a stretch of superhighway that encircles D.C. Dana Milbank, in Monday's Washington Post, has the best skewering I have seen. Here's the most amusing bit:

As the truckers crossed the country, the reason for the protest largely evaporated: Mask and vaccine mandates tumbled — not because of the convoy but because the pandemic receded. And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dominated news coverage, leaving the truckers largely forgotten and sharply increasing the cost of fuel for their now-pointless mission.

Now, they’re in the Washington area, camping out in Hagerstown, Md., and they’ve decided the best way to get themselves noticed would be to … make traffic on the Beltway?

Threatening to increase traffic on the Beltway is like threatening to add water to the Potomac River: How would anyone notice the difference? The 64-mile loop around the capital is in a state of perpetual slowdown.

The events list is kind of sparse, but please find SOMETHING you can do, either to support Ukraine and its refugees — Daily Kos has put together a donation page, the proceeds of which will be distributed to various charities providing aid — or support a candidate for the April 5 and August 9 elections. You can find candidate information and links for the April election on our 2022 Elections pages.

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Cautiously optimistic

Let's begin with some good news: the Covid-19 Omicron wave is rapidly dissipating in Wisconsin. This morning's Journal Sentinel reports that the number of ICU patients with Covid-19 and the numbers hospitalized with the disease are both at lows last seen in summer 2021. At least until the next variant hits us, we seem to be in a reasonable place. Responsible people might want to continue to mask up in crowded, indoor spaces. And those of us who are especially vulnerable should remain cautious. But overall, it's welcome news. The rapid development of effective vaccines has had a lot to do with weathering the storm. Read "Why Covid-19 vaccines are a freaking miracle" to find out more about how we got these shots so quickly.

Unfortunately, the rest of the news remains pretty awful. Besides the horrendous events in Ukraine, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments yesterday in a case that involves the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gasses. And it did not go well for those of us hoping that the country and the world can at least mitigate catastrophic climate change. Amy Howe at scotusblog.com has the full story. But as she reports, "The oral argument occurred on the same morning that a panel of scientists convened by the United Nations issued a major new report that warns of dire effects from climate change and concludes that nations are not doing nearly enough to cope with a warming planet." As the Washington Post notes in an analysis before the oral arguments on February 28, "With the court’s conservative justices increasingly suspicious that agencies are overstepping their powers, the case’s outcome could not only reshape U.S. environmental policy but also call into question the authority of regulators to tackle the nation’s most pressing problems." We'll know more when the decision is rendered this summer but it's looking like bad news from the Court. Again.

So let's do what we can to improve life here at home. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is looking for volunteers to be election observers for the April 5 nonpartisan election. Here's their appeal: "Volunteer election observers help ensure we have a fair election by watching for signs of voter disenfranchisement and intimidation and by monitoring the way Wisconsin’s election laws and procedures are being applied. Even if you only have a couple of hours on Election Day, you can still make a difference. Sign up to be an election observer today! Learn more and sign up to volunteer." Russian aggression in Ukraine reminds us that democracy is both precious and under attack. Do your part to shore it up, please.

Two of our Grassroots North Shore communities have candidate forums for school board memberships and for municipal offices this week. For Whitefish Bay, the event is on Zoom at 7 pm, Thursday, March 3. Bay Bridge is hosting and the League of Women Voters is moderating. Here's the link to the event. It becomes available when the event starts Thursday evening. In Shorewood, the forum will be live-streamed on Facebook on Sunday, March 6, at 12:30 pm. Sponsored by the Shorewood Women's Club (SWC) and moderated by League of Women Voters Milwaukee County (LWVMC), the candidates for school board and for Village Trustee will be participating in person, but the audience will connect via the SWC Facebook page. You do not need a Facebook account to tune in to the live feed. If you get wind of any others, pass on the details to me at [email protected].

Tonight, President Biden will give the first State of the Union address of his presidency. (Last year's speech to a joint session of Congress doesn't count as a SOTU speech because ... reasons!) He's scheduled to begin his address at 9 pm EST or 8 pm CST. You can watch on TV or streaming online. The Milwaukee County Democratic party and the 4th CD are hosting an online "watch party" beginning at 7:15 with discussion both before and after the speech. You can register here.. His approval ratings need a boost. So tune in.

Finally, anyone who is concerned about the highly gerrymandered maps in Wisconsin, where our state is said to be the worst in the nation on this issue, is invited to create a #MadAboutMaps video to be posted to social media on March 15 — designated as Mad About Maps Day. The Fair Maps Coalition has extensive online help about when and how to participate. The link above will point you in the right direction. Read the call for participation and then signal that you plan to take part.

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Make your voice heard

Last week, the League of Progressive Seniors held a webinar on the disenfranchisement of people with mobility issues. Mark Thompsen, a member of the Wisconsin Election Commission, spoke eloquently about the ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court that enjoined the use of drop boxes and prohibited anyone other than the voters from taking absentee ballots either to their municipal clerk's office or to their mailbox. The limitations will significantly impact the disabled. You can watch the program (1 hour) on YouTube.

Unfortunately, it's not easy to figure out how many voters are likely to be affected for the upcoming April 5 election — or for the August 9 primary and the November 8 general elections should the Supreme Court rule on the matter for those elections too. But Wisconsin is a closely divided state both in presidential elections and in gubernatorial ones. After all, Governor Evers won office in 2018 by only 1.1% of the votes and President Biden won here by a slim 20,608 votes. Some data, however, suggest the effects could be substantial.

About 17.5% of Wisconsin's population is over 65 years old. Not all elderly are disabled nor do all disabled people have trouble voting, of course, but in a population estimated to be approximately 5,895,908, the group most heavily affected are likely to be the elderly. In Wisconsin, the over-65 population is about 1,031,784 people. According to Wisconsin Election Commission, there are 959,199 registered voters over 65 — the largest age group on the rolls. But the figure may be an undercount because people who registered to vote before 2005 do not have a birth date on file with the voter registration system. According to the Journal Sentinel," Rutgers University's Fact Sheet on Disability and Voter Turnout in the 2018 Elections found a 10.4% gap in Wisconsin voter turnout between citizens with and without disabilities." (The data for the 2020 election are also available.)

In an article titled "The Era of Easier Voting for Disabled People Is Over," The Atlantic reported on the nationwide participation of disabled voters:

Nearly 62 percent of Americans with disabilities voted in 2020, a surge of nearly 6 percentage points over 2016, or 1.7 million more voters. The number of disabled voters reporting difficulties while voting also dropped significantly; in 2020, 11 percent of disabled voters reported having problems, down from 26 percent in 2012, according to an Election Assistance Commission report. That’s not to say voting was suddenly simple: Mail-in ballots aren’t easier for everyone, including those with visual or cognitive disabilities. And in 2020, disabled Americans were still roughly 7 percent less likely to vote than nondisabled Americans.

So the problem of disallowing anyone other than the voter from returning an absentee ballot and disallowing drop boxes, which can be accessible from a vehicle and are available outside of regular business hours, seriously impacts the ability of the disabled and the elderly to vote. According to Mark Thompsen, the only recourse we have right now is to petition the individual members of the court. Here's what you should do.

ACTION ITEMS:
  1. Petition the seven Supreme Court Justices. Write each of them a letter and send it to —
    Office of Justices
    Attn: name of justice
    16 East State Capitol
    PO Box 1688
    Madison, WI 53701-1688

  2. Share with others, especially those who are themselves likely to be affected by the injunction.
The justices are: Hon. Annette K. Ziegler (Chief Justice), Hon., Ann Walsh Bradly, Hon. Patience D. Roggensack, Hon. Rebecca G. Bradley, Hon. Rebecca F. Dallet, Hon. Brian K. Hagedorn, Hon. Jill J. Karofsky.

And while I'm discussing ACTION ITEMS, here are three that Grassroots North Shore is pursuing ahead of the April 5 election:
  1. Distributing flyers to households of strong Democratic women in Brown Deer, Fox Point, and Whitefish Bay.

  2. Phoning people in the Mequon-Thiensville School District to turn out the vote for two of the candidates running for school board and an incumbent judge running for a seat on the Appeals Court District 2.

  3. Writing postcards to strong Democratic women in Ozaukee County to turn out the vote for Judge Lori Kornblum running for election to the Appeals Court District 2 she currently sits on. She's a member of Grassroots North Shore and we have endorsed her.
We're almost ready to begin distributing flyers and phoning in the Mequon-Thiensville School District. And we should be ready to begin writing postcards in about 2 weeks. Please volunteer for at least one of these activities by contacting our Co-Chair Norma Gilson or Nancy Kaplan. Please put "GRNS volunteer"in the subject line.

Finally, I'll just mention that the fringy right has turned its attention to undermining public education, both in Wisconsin and in the nation. At least 16 efforts at school board recall elections have been mounted here! I'm happy to report that all of them failed. But it's important to be informed about the issues and to urge your family and friends to know who is running in your area and to turn out to vote for sensible people. You can find out more about the issues by watching the video of our last event: "School Boards Under Attack." And you can find out who is running in your school district on our page for 2022 School Board Elections. That page also provides links to candidates' information so that you can discover at least some of their positions.

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Election Day is TODAY

In case you hadn't noticed, today is an election day. If you live in Bayside, Fox Point, Glendale, River Hills, Shorewood, or Whitefish Bay — and you have not already voted — please vote in this important primary election. Grasssroots North Shore recommends that you vote for Liz Sumner for Milwaukee County Supervisor in District 1.

And if you live in the Cedarburg School District or the Mequon-Thiensville School District, you have an important primary too. In both cases, the lowest vote-getter will be eliminated from the April 5 ballot. In Cedarburg, we don't have a solid endorsement to give you. But various trusted voices have recommended that you vote for FOUR of these five candidates: Kate Erickson, Ryan Hammetter, Hani Malek, Mike Maher, and Jamie Maier. In Mequon-Thiensville, we know more because there was a recall election there in November 2021. The recall was handily thwarted but one of the defeated participants is trying again. To thwart her again, we are recommending that you vote for TWO of the following three candidates: Paul Buzzell, Maria Douglas, and Jason Levash.

There's a lot of news, both in Wisconsin and in the national media. The Wisconsin Supreme Court temporarily ruled that while drop boxes could be used for the election happening today, they will not be an available avenue for returning absentee ballots in April. The ruling is temporary because the court has not yet held a hearing on the matter but will do so in time to make a general ruling before the partisan primary on August 9 and the November 8 general election. Here's the article in the Journal Sentinel.

If you want the convenience of voting absentee for one or all of the remaining elections in 2022, you can request absentee ballots for them at MyVote.WI.gov. If we cannot use drop boxes in August or November, you have two additional choices to return your ballot: either put the envelope with your ballot in the US mails — at least a week ahead of election day — or deliver it in person to your municipal clerk's office.

Our own Senator Ron Johnson is suffering what I hope is a disqualifying case of foot-in-mouth disease. Oshkosh Defense, Inc., won a large contract to build postal vehicles but announced that it would not be building them in Wisconsin. Instead, they're going to manufacture the trucks in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Senator Johnson has publicly declared that he will not urge the company to use a Wisconsin facility. "It's not like we don't have enough jobs here in Wisconsin," he said. It's hard to believe that our senator thinks good union jobs aren't needed here. Watch the short video about this matter that a More Perfect Union created to expose both the company and our just-plain-wrong senator.

Our website just added a new featureMoney Talks — with articles from Bill Holohan, emeritus professor and former chair of the Economics Department at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. The pieces will give you a fresh understanding of the economy. Sort of like our own Paul Krugman.

Finally, on the local front, Citizen Action is holding a virtual event called "In the Wash: A Virtual Workshop about Wisconsin Water Quality" on February 24. You can sign up for it here.

The national news is pretty meaty too. The Trump Organization's long-time accounting firm has just divorced itself from the company and has concluded that nearly 10 years worth of financial statements it developed for TFG (that's the former guy, in case you're not up on the lingo) are unreliable. And the MyPillow CEO/coup advocate announced that his bank is closing his accounts by February 18 because he's a "reputation risk" to the bank. These guys can't get more love from companies that have served them for years! Both events both happened on Valentine's Day, yet another example of the upside down, alternate reality world the MAGA folks are drawn to.

Today's Washington Post has two interesting stories on settlements reached in pending lawsuits, one by the Sandy Hook families who sued Remington Arms (the maker of the AR-15 style rifle used to kill their children) and the other by Virginia Giuffre who sued Prince Andrews for sexual abuse. The Sandy Hook case, ongoing for eight years, is a landmark: it's "the first instance in the United States of a gun manufacturer facing liability for a mass shooting."

If you have time for a short read, I recommend Jamelle Bouie's column in today's New York Times. "Why We Are Not Facing the Prospect of a Second Civil War" offers an excellent, abbreviated history of the forces that produced the Civil War of 1860.

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Elections matter, all of them

Let's begin with important election news. The February 15 non-partisan primary is just a week from today. You may already have requested an absentee ballot at MyVote.wi.gov. If you have not yet filled it out and turned it in, do so today. You can use a drop box located in your community or you can take it in person to your municipal clerk. Early in-person voting is going on now but it ends this Friday, Feb. 11. Find links to information about the candidates on our Elections page.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is holding a Get-Out-the-Vote Weekend of Action on Saturday, February 12, and Sunday, February 13. They're using virtual phone banks so you can "go" in your jammies if you want. The virtual staging locations they are setting up will provide a brief training at the beginning of each shift. So SIGN UP and get a running start on what is going to be a GOTV-filled year.

But the broader issues around voting just keep coming at us. Last week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that the "Republican lawmakers rolled out a constitutional amendment banning the use of grant money to administer elections" while "Democratic lawmakers called for a state elections commissioner to lose his job after pretending to be an elector for former President Donald Trump." A constitutional amendment will take years to accomplish and will need to be put before the voters — perhaps as early as next year. Needless to say, Grassroots North Shore will mobilize around this issue. And those fake electors should at the least be investigated for pretending to be public officials and for forging state documents!

The League of Progressive Seniors is holding an online workshop to grapple with efforts to suppress the votes of senior citizens and the disabled. State Assembly Leader Robin Vos apparently wants to prosecute members of the Wisconsin Election Commission for allowing residents of nursing homes to vote in 2020 even though Voting Deputies could not attend, as the law stipulates. And now they're trying to use the courts to prohibit the use of drop boxes for voting and to forbid friends or family of people with limited mobility from assisting them by delivering their absentee ballots for them. The program will take place on Friday, February 18, from noon to 1pm. To sign up, you need to email the League.

In the nation as a whole, we've had some victories in the fight against gerrymandering in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. In all three states, maps rigged by Republicans have been rejected by those states' Supreme Courts. The ruling in North Carolina was especially pointed about the effort to lock in GOP control: the legislature violates the state constitution "when it deprives a voter of his or her right to substantially equal voting power on the basis of partisan affiliation," the order stated. We're still waiting for Wisconsin's Supreme Court to rule on our electoral maps but it could happen any day now.

However, we may have suffered a grievous setback with the latest "shadow docket" ruling on a case about the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The court didn't actually rule on the case: it just stayed a ruling that a lower court in Alabama found discriminated against Blacks by failing to provide for a second congressional district with enough Black voters to enable — but not to guarantee — that they could elect a favored candidate. The Supreme Court's stay effectively restored the Alabama legislature's map, "suggesting that the court was poised to become more skeptical of challenges to voting maps based on claims of race discrimination," according to an article in the New York Times. Chief Justice John Roberts voted with Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor. But of course his vote left him in the minority as all five of the "conservative" justices voted to let the maps stand until the case winds its way through the court. So, justice delayed. It's likely the new maps with its one majority-minority district will be in effect for the November 8 election.

Finally, you should catch up on some jaw-dropping news from Senator Ron Johnson. Of course he "refused Saturday to say whether the Republican Party was right to censure two members of Congress and whether it had properly characterized the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection as 'legitimate political discourse'" (JSOnline, Feb. 5, 2022). That he's a coward goes without saying. But he really topped his own record of saying stupid stuff when he said "he won't try to persuade a Wisconsin manufacturer to place more than 1,000 new jobs in his hometown." Here's quote: "It's not like we don't have enough jobs here in Wisconsin. The biggest problem we have in Wisconsin right now is employers not being able to find enough workers" (JSOnline, Feb. 7, 2022). I've paid attention to politicians and their campaigns since the 1960s. I've never heard one say that we don't need any more good jobs around here! Sheesh.

 

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Voting Info for the primary

February has begun! And you know what that means: a non-partisan election is a mere two weeks away. There are primary elections in most of our North Shore and Ozaukee County communities (except Brown Deer). And we can't afford for you to miss it. So be a voter: go to myvote.wi.gov to request your absentee ballot today! Also, visit our 2022 elections page. You will find information about early in-person voting, which begins today, and drop box locations for your community. Drop boxes can be used for this primary but their fate for future elections is uncertain. The WI Supreme Court will rule on the issue before the next election on April 5.

Key Voting Tips

There are primaries for the Cedarburg School District and the Mequon-Thiensville School District. You'll find links and information on our school boards page. In both cases, the candidate with the lowest vote total in the primary will not appear on the April 5 ballot.

For the Cedarburg SD, we don't have a firm recommendation. We can tell you, though, that the current president of the board, Rick Leach, is a gun enthusiast and Laura Strobel is the wife of a Republican Assembly Representative.

Having handily defeated the recall election in the Mequon-Thiensville SD, Grassroots North Shore has a lot more information about those running in that election. Scarlett Johnson and Jill Chromy are both on our "do not vote for" list. So vote for the other three — Paul Buzzell, Maria Douglas, and Jason Levash. Skip making a fourth choice.

On the North Shore, the key primary is in the race for County Supervisor for District 1. The district has been redrawn as a result of the 2020 census. Shorewood and Whitefish Bay used to be in District 3 (Sheldon Wasserman is the incumbent) but are now in District 1. The other communities in that district are Glendale, River Hills, Fox Point and Bayside. If you live in these six communities, this primary will affect you. See the new map on our Milwaukee County Supervisors page.

There are three candidates on the ballot for the county supervisor primary, which will eliminate one. This race pits our preferred candidate — Liz Sumner, the incumbent — against two newcomers. We urge you to vote for her and simply skip a second choice.

Little is known about one of the candidates — Karen Gentile. She's a member of the Republican party, we hear; apparently is not campaigning; and does not want to be contacted (we've tried repeatedly to no avail). She does have a personal Facebook page, though, which will give you some idea of what she's about.

The third candidate in the race — Peter Tase — is much more worrisome. He has no website or Facebook page, but he has recently published an essay supporting the former guy's "Big Lie." A video of a campaign event showcasing his noxious views has apparently been removed from vimeo. However, Daniel Bice published an extensive piece on his views: it's definitely worth a full read.

Local Notable News

COVID 19 remains a huge headache. Now a subvariant of omicron has already been detected in Wisconsin. Its claim to your worries is that it may spread even more easily than omicron.

According to the Wisconsin Examiner, "Assembly Speaker Robin Vos struggles to maintain control" of the legislative body and messaging. The article pokes at his latest press conference and the "review" of the 2020 election he hired Michael Gableman to conduct — an expensive boondoggle, "which numerous observers including newspaper editorial boards, nonpartisan watchdogs and legal experts have labeled a fiasco."

National Notable News

The New York Times has purchased Wordle! Earth-shattering news indeed. And oh yeah, tRump has now admitted, in writing, that he wanted former Vice President Pence to OVERTURN (his exact word) the 2020 presidential election. Today he wants to walk that felonious claim back. And in shocking, but not surprising, revelations, it turns out that he was deeply involved in the plot to seize voting machines, instructing his minions to request three cabinet departments to take action: Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense. All turned him down. So is it time to indict him for seditious conspiracy?

 

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