the redistricting battle begins

There are three really big topics in the recent news. The evacuation of troops and allies from Afghanistan has been pretty dominant. You can no doubt learn all about it from the national media outlets. And of course the terrible toll the coronavirus delta variant is taking has also been well covered. But here in Wisconsin, the most immediately important news — although it's not getting the coverage it really warrants — is the redistricting fight now underway in earnest.

The Census Bureau released high level state data in April, allowing people to forecast which states would gain or lose representatives in the US House. That data showed that Wisconsin would retain all eight of its congressional districts. But the detailed census tract data was only released on August 12. And already there have been two lawsuits filed in federal courts and one in a state court in Wisconsin.

On behalf of Democrats, various NGOs, and three individual voters, Law Forward filed a suit in federal court asking the court to ensure that Wisconsin has fair and legally compliant maps in time for the 2022 elections. (The non-partisan elections are February 15 and April 5, 2022; the partisan elections are August 9 and November 8.) In their email blast about the lawsuit Law Forward explains: "The Legislature should do its job and draw new maps that reflect the population shifts captured in the 2020 Census, and send the Governor fair maps for his signature. But all signs point to another attempt to gerrymander our state by legislative leadership. That's why we are asking the federal court to make sure we have maps that will empower Wisconsin voters to make their voices heard in our government for the next decade." See more about this suit.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit with the Wisconsin Supreme Court on August 23. That suit asks the state Supreme Court to handle the drawing of new maps, requesting that it "accept the case and put it on hold until the Legislature adopts a new map. If the Legislature doesn't adopt a constitutional map approved by the governor, the lawsuit argues, then the court should adopt new maps, using the current ones as a starting point" (ABC News, Aug. 23, 2021). That last statement — using the current maps as a starting point — is highly contested and pretty much signals that the GOP and its allies intend to keep as much of the gerrymandered map as they possibly can.

A day after the census data was released, Marc Elias — formerly at Perkins Coie and now head of a new law firm, Elias Law Group — filed a suit in federal court in Madison, seeking to bar the Wisconsin Election Commission from "using the maps drawn in 2011 because census data released Thursday shows the districts no longer contain equal populations.... They asked the court to set a deadline for Evers and lawmakers to enact new maps — and to have the court draw its own map if they don't reach a deal" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Aug. 13, 2021). The suit filed by Elias and the 13 lawyers who left Perkins Coie with him directly challenges argument that the courts should use the current map as the basis for drawing new ones.

The point of all this legal jockeying is to make sure that Wisconsin voters — not partisans drawing maps rigged to ensure a decade of dominance in the state Assembly and Senate — are able to choose their elected officials. Next week I will provide you with clear action items you need to do to help ensure that we have fair maps and fair elections going forward.

For this week, though, the action item is pretty simple. The situation with COVID-19 in Wisconsin is not as dire as it is in states with lower vaccination rates, but it is serious enough to be careful. That's why we have chosen Virmond Park in Mequon as our venue for an outdoor, in person meeting on Sunday, September 19th from 3:00-5:30. We will hear from legislators, experts, activists and gun violence survivors to explore why Wisconsin has not been able to pass sensible gun legislation despite widespread support for it. Among the many speakers, we will feature a presentation from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a national grassroots organization working to decrease gun violence. Find out how to advocate for safer and stronger gun laws that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Learn about safe gun storage through their BeSmart program. To join us, RSVP here.

 

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The lessons of the past are still with us

The news has been so uniformly grim in the past week, that I'm beginning to tune it out! And that's not a good strategy for engaging in activities that will help turn things around! So I'm going to start with what to do to engage with the electoral redistricting that officially kicked off when the 2020 census data were released last week. A day after the states received their population figures and distributions, Marc Elias, representing six Democrats from Wisconsin, filed a lawsuit in federal court asking it to "ready itself to redraw Wisconsin's congressional and legislative maps" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Aug. 13). As the article explains, "it seeks to bar the [Wisconsin Election] Commission from again using the maps drawn in 2011 because the census data ... shows the districts no longer contain equal populations."

Right now, the thing to do is to contact your legislators, regardless of which party they belong to, and ask them to support fair maps — ones that do not guarantee any political party seats in the state legislature or in the congress. Find contact information for your Wisconsin legislators here. And don't think that calling or writing your representatives is just a waste of your time. Members of both parties do keep track of how many people contact them with views on the matters at hand. And Wisconsin voters have already demonstrated bi-partisan support for fair electoral maps. The goal of phoning or writing is to let legislators know that people are paying attention!

On a more uplifting note: plan to join your fellow Grassroots North Shore compatriots on Sunday, September 19th, at Virmond park in Ozaukee County. Grassroots North Shore will feature talks about Gun Sense and Gun Safety at our first in-person gathering since January 2019. Replacing our traditional picnic, it will be held outside and will host several experts and legislators. Come for the community, the knowledge, and the tasty treats that afternoon from 3:00-5:30 in a park setting that allows us peace of mind while meeting together on an important issue. So save the date on your calendar and sign up on our web page.

On the virus front, the Biden administration is apparently planning to recommend that fully vaccinated people who obtained Moderna or BioNTech shots also get a booster shot about 8 months after their last COVID vaccination. Those who had the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will probably also need boosters, but the government is waiting for the results of J&J's ongoing clinical trial of the booster regimen with that vaccine. As with the first round of shots, nursing home residents and health workers are likely to go first, with older people next. The announcement of the policy is likely to come in the next few days. See the full article in the New York Times.

The COVID situation in Texas and Florida, just to name two of the most egregious states, has already become dire, in part because both states have relatively low vaccination rates. "The number of people hospitalized nationally has already surpassed the level seen during last summer's surge, and it is still climbing," reports the New York Times. Meanwhile, New Zealand, where the first COVID case in six months has been detected, has gone into a three-day lockdown to contain the spread. But in Wisconsin we can't even mandate masks as schools re-open! And of course new cases and hospitalizations are rising here, as they are across the country. Thankfully, COVID-related deaths, however, have remained low.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is gearing up for next year's abundance of elections: FOUR of them, to be exact. Over the upcoming weekend, phone volunteers will talk to infrequent Democratic voters about the Child Tax Credit and the American Rescue Plan, using what's known as "the dialer" and also the traditional Virtual Phone Bank (VPB). Please sign up. The following week, the party will be contacting strong Democratic voters. So you can sign up for that action also.

Congress is in recess now, and the national media are intensely focused on the debacle in Afghanistan. And President Biden is taking plenty of heat from the usual suspects who have been urging the US to stay militarily engaged — maybe just for six months when the summer "fighting season" ends, or perhaps another year, or two or three. My own view is that our strategies have failed utterly. The Afghan "army" isn't interested, apparently, in fighting the Taliban. And we can't force them, no matter what we do. So I'm with our President: it's long past time to leave. Even though the situations are different in many ways, the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and the triumph of the Taliban feel like the end of the Vietnam war all over again. As Peter, Paul, and Mary so poignantly sang so many years ago, "when will we ever learn"?

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Join the fight against the *rump coup!

’ve become so inured to Donald Drumpf’s proto-fascism that we barely blink an eye when we learn that he tried to manipulate the 2020 election." Reich argues that the revelation — "Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen" — from the notes of a December 27, 2020, phone call to the acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen "should trigger section 3 of the 14th amendment, which bars anyone from holding office who 'engaged in insurrection' against the US." "Make no mistake," he writes, "this was an attempted coup."

Meanwhile, our own Robin Vos has been working to organize a Wisconsin "investigation" of the 2020 election here. Only he has run into a spot of bother. It seems the two retired police officers he had hired as investigators quit sometime early in July. (Vos's explanation: "both of them quit because they were hired to work part-time but they said it required a full-time effort.") So instead of cancelling the whole effort, Vos decided to go big! How big? Who knows? A former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice — who claimed the election had been stolen at a November *rump rally — has been empowered "to hire as many investigators as he wants...." And the cost? Originally the investigation was projected to come in at about $72,000. Now there's no budget but "Vos said it would be reasonable to spend several hundred thousand dollars on it" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 30, 2021). So that's your Wisconsin tax dollars at work.

And Vos's venture is not the only one! According to the Wisconsin Examiner, Rep. Janel Brandtjen plans to start her own investigation. "Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), who chairs the Assembly Campaign and Elections Committee, announced Monday she has decided to “initiate a more intensive investigation” of possible election fraud. (Think: Arizona’s search for bamboo filters in ballots to show they might be from China.)" So more public funds spent on the oft-disproven lie that the November 2020 election for president in Wisconsin was riddled with voter fraud? Apparently so. The committee she chairs has been given the power to "investigate," including the power of subpoena. The effort to overturn the last election and to sow suspicion about American elections goes on and on and on.

So, infrastructure and the Delta variant of COVID-19 are dominating the news right now. But the key to our democracy's survival remains insuring that we have free and fair elections in the United States. That's how we are fighting against what can only be called the GOP's on-going coup attempt. And that's where Grassroots North Shore is focusing its efforts now and into the fall. And we will need your participation!

Right now we have three major initiatives going, all of them in conjunction with the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin:

  1. Phone Banking: As soon as the League has created the script and set up the phone bank, we will need people to call previously registered voters who have been removed from the Wisconsin voter rolls to help them re-register if possible. Starting in mid-June, the Wisconsin Election Commission notified approximately 180,000 people who were on the voter registration rolls but who apparently had not voted in last four years. If these voters failed to respond to the notification by July 15, they were to be purged from the rolls. These calls, then, function much like a voter registration drive. Please sign up here. To provide support for those planning to phone, I will be setting up orientation sessions on Zoom on August 18 at 4pm, August 21 at 10am and 2pm, and August 22 at 1pm and 4pm to help get you started.

  2. Door-Hangers: On August 14 and 15, we will be distributing door-hangers to people in Glendale, encouraging people to call their Assembly representative and their state Senator, to urge them to end partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin. Please sign up here for this low contact, outdoor activity.

  3. Leaflets: We are also beginning a project to distribute leaflets outside of libraries and farmers markets in our North Shore area. The leaflets, also prepared by the League of Women Voters, explain why gerrymandering hurts our state and ask people to phone their legislators. As the leaflet says, "Tell them you want Fair Maps in 2021, public hearings and for your vote to count." Sign up and stay tuned for the details of dates, locations, and shift times!

The events list is filling out a little more. And soon it will be overflowing with candidate events. So while the weather is cooperating, plan to attend at least one of the outdoor events scheduled for the next two weeks. Many of them are really social, rather than explicitly political. So join with other like-minded folks and make some new friends, why don't you?

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Securing our democracy and putting on masks again!

The Select Committee on the January 6 Insurrection met in formal session today. Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) chairs the panel, which also includes two Republicans Speaker Pelosi named to the committee after Minority Leader McCarthy pulled his five nominees in a huff. In his opening statement, Chairman Thompson promised to expose "the big lie." "Some people are trying to deny what happened,” Thompson said. “To whitewash it. To turn the insurrectionists into martyrs. But the whole world saw the reality of what happened on January 6th. … And all of it: for a vile, vile lie. Let’s be clear. The rioters who tried to rob us of our democracy were propelled here by a lie. As chairman of this committee, I will not give that lie any fertile ground." Representative Cheney followed: "If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our Democratic system." (See full coverage in the Washington Post, July 27, 2021.)

If the purpose of the investigation is to prevent another attempt in the future, then simply beefing up security at the Capitol and elsewhere or rolling back measures to suppress the vote will be insufficient. As Ned Foley, a contributing author at Election Law Blog, has pointed out, "the biggest risk that Drumpf starts a second term on January 20, 2025, as a consequence of his being awarded electoral college votes that he did not win as a result of the popular vote in the relevant states, is from members of Congress being willing to declare him the winner even though he actually lost, in a second — and this time successful — version of the Big Lie." So he wonders whether there is plan, "either through the work of the select committee or otherwise, to confront this problem?" Neither the "For the People Act" nor the "John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act" provide any counter to the Republican efforts to subvert elections by taking over their administration and certification: in other words, the new laws that are about how votes are counted (including whose votes are counted) and certified rather than simply about who has access to the ballot box.

In COVID-19 news, the CDC is now recommending that fully vaccinated people, especially those who live in areas of high disease transmission, should resume wearing masks in indoor public settings. According to the New York Times, "The change follows reports of rising breakthrough infections with the more contagious Delta variant in people who were fully immunized, and case surges in regions with low vaccination rates." Major news outlets are also reporting that impatience with and anger at vaccine refusniks are growing.

And in a wonderful ironic twist, COVID-19 vaccinations DO NOT CAUSE male infertility or erectile dysfunction. HOWEVER, getting COVID-19 can! Mark Sumner at Daily Kos notes that "For months, rumors have been circulating about the COVID-19 vaccines causing such issues. Those rumors are simply untrue. There is no evidence that the vaccines can cause infertility among men or women. But the disease certainly can." He concludes, "by turning down the vaccine, Republicans may be not just putting their lives at risk, but taking themselves right out of the gene pool."

To do more than cluck and tut about the state of the world, though, how about taking a proactive step or two? The Ozaukee County Fair is taking place from July 28 (that's TOMORROW) through August 1. The Ozaukee County Dems are going to be managing a booth there and invite you to drop by for swag, selfies and support! And it's not too late to volunteer to help out at the State Fair, at the Milwaukee Fair Grounds, August 5 — 15. Each day, shifts of 2.5 hours begin at 11am and end at 9pm. To volunteer (and get a free ticket for that day's Fair), call Marlene Ott — 414-421-8866 —. Please leave your name, your phone number, and the date & times of shifts you are available. Then repeat the info before hanging up.

This week the Events list is a bit longer. And it has a nice mix of cultural, social, and political actions to choose from. Surely you can find something interesting to do!

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first the ugly then the good

There's plenty of worrying news circulating just now. For me, the most troublesome is a piece by Mark Sumner in Daily Kos about the danger of allowing the Covid-19 pandemic to endure. It's a long piece but worth the time it takes to read because it clarifies the all-too-real consequences of an endemic disease accelerating its reproduction number (R0) over the past 18 months and will apparently continue to mutate in a way that will continue to raise that number even further. Meaning that the virus can become more transmissible with each new variant.

As Sumner explains, "every person infected brings around 10,000,000,000 new examples of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into existence. Every single one of those is subject to mutations. Those mutations then get winnowed by the one evolutionary pressure that faces viruses: getting that R0 number ever higher. The idea that viruses always mutate to become less deadly over time is simply not true. Viruses become more contagious. That’s it."

Meanwhile, the bipartisan infrastructure bill seems headed for a show-down. After having negotiated an agreement of sorts, Republicans are now balking at increased funding for the IRS so that it can pursue extremely wealthy tax cheats. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo dissects the flimflammery in this move, while arguing that the ball remains in the Democrats' court. Let's hope he's spot on when he writes, "If Republicans won’t produce 10 votes for the bipartisan mini-bill, Democrats can simply pile that money into the reconciliation bill. While no one wants to say that out loud or say it too loudly, that looks like what they will do." Majority Leader Schumer has fixed tomorrow as the deadline. Let the fireworks begin!

But let's focus for now on something positive you can do. First, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has just launched a Menstrual Supply Drive to collect menstrual products and donate them to homeless shelters across Milwaukee. Many people who menstruate suffer from not having access to period products or are unable to afford these products. Unfortunately, they are still treated as a commodity. Pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and feminine wipes are all needed. A drop-off location is available until August 6th. For donations please contact Kambria Farwell at  [email protected]. Kambria will provide the address of the drop-off location and answer your questions. Please share this community service project with friends, relatives, and on social media!

Second, you can sign up to help those who have been struck from Wisconsin's voter rolls re-register to vote. As part of a registration drive put together by the League of Women Voters, Grassroots North Shore is seeking volunteers to make phone calls to those people and to help those who want to be able to vote to get registered again. The phone bank will begin early in August and may continue through the early autumn. This project is not a heavy lift: you can participate by making calls from home and giving the effort just a few hours a week. Sign up here and we'll be in touch when we're ready to go.

Third, we are also going to "drop lit" in our communities to combat gerrymandering. The League of Women Voters has produced door-hangers detailing what gerrymandering has meant to the fate of legislation voters of Wisconsin say they want: "Partisan maps cause elected officials to focus on partisan primaries, representing their political party and donors instead of voters." If you're up for stretching your legs and getting a bit of fresh air, RSVP. We'll be in touch.

[PS: BUCKS IN SIX! Go Bucks.]

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Let's fight back against gerrymandering and voter suppression

The national and local news items of note are many and various. But now that Congress has returned from its Fourth of July recess, the political action will definitely heat up even more. Sometimes the national and local bits converge. For example, he-who-shall-not-be-named (ie, the "former guy") is attacking Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (awww) for "failing to adequately fight to overturn Biden's win" (Washington Post, July 5, 2021). Vos of course is not the only state legislator who has been threatened with *rump's recruitment and endorsement of a primary opponent for these so-called RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). The point of these efforts is to tighten his grip on the GOP (or as it is sometimes now called, the GQP).

Fighting back: that's what we need to do. But how? One good way is to keep pressing to end gerrymandering, and promote fair maps. (Note: you can pick up a Fair Maps yard sign at our office, 5600 W. Brown Deer Rd, Suite 116, on Wednesday, July 7 from 4:30 to 6:30pm and on Saturday, July 10 from 11am to 1pm.) The People's Map Commission (PMC) will be drawing new maps to present to the legislature after the state-level census data are distributed (early this fall). The PMC is relying on citizens to help this effort by drawing maps of their "communities of interest." And that means YOU.

Ariana Hones, from Wisconsin Conservation Voters, is announcing two opportunities for citizens to participate in map-making: the first on Tuesday, July 13, from 3-4:30pm and the second on Thursday, July 15, from 6-7:30pm. Ariana explains, "Mapping our communities is an easy and  important part of the districting process and an opportunity to advocate for the needs of our communities.... Learn how to draw a map that represents your community and your best interests. These maps will be submitted to the People’s Maps Commission for consideration during this year’s districting process. At each map making event you will be split into small groups and have a point person that is trained in making the maps. All we will need from you in your input and ideas on what matters to your community."

For its current actions, Grassroots North Shore is participating in a phone bank with the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin to alert people who are on the Voter Purge list. The list comprises registered voters who apparently have not voted in any election in the last four years and has been developed by the Wisconsin Election Commission. The goal of this strictly nonpartisan effort is to get as many people registered as possible ahead of both the nonpartisan and partisan elections in 2022. The League has kindly set up our own GRNS phone bank list at https://www.openvpb.com/vpb_bycode/A494E4E-658806. You can view the really simple script and/or sign up for a phone bank refresher and script walk-through either on Wednesday, July 7, at 4pm or Saturday, July 10, at 10am. Once you sign up, an automatic email reply will confirm your participation and send you the Zoom link for the session. Of course if you're an experienced phone banker, you can use the link to the phone bank above to just plunge right in. (Just so we know who is participating and when, please text Nancy Kaplan at 443-465-1920 or email her at [email protected] when you begin phoning.)

While we continue to wait for the US Senate to pass the For the People Act and/or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, nothing is more important than voter registration efforts ahead of 2022. That's how we combat voter suppression laws (and there are many, many of these already in Wisconsin, even if Governor Evers will veto any new ones that come his way).

Republicans have somehow decided that they can't win a majority of voters so they are resorting to reducing turnout in hopes that more voters who lean toward Democrats will be discouraged or prevented from voting, as compared to those who tend to vote for Republicans. They are probably wrong about their assumption. As the Washington Post puts it, "There is precious little evidence that the expanded turnout ... accrues to Democrats’ benefit," at least at the congressional level — after all Republicans picked up seats in the 2020 elections. But history shows that they are right about presidential elections. In the past eight presidential elections, Republicans have indeed won the White House three times, but only once — with the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004 — have they won the popular vote for President. The New York Times offers a comprehensive explanation and history of these peculiar elections.

 

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on voting rights and redistricting

US Supreme Court watchers will have been disappointed again today because the Court has not yet ruled on Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, a case challenging the Arizona law that requires the ballots of people who vote outside the precinct in which they are registered to be discarded. As Oyez.org explains, "If officials determine the voter voted out of precinct (OOP), the county discards the ballot in its entirety, even if (as is the case in most instances), the OOP voter properly voted (i.e., was eligible to vote) in most of the races on the ballot. The Democratic National Committee challenged this OOP policy as violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it adversely and disparately affects Arizona’s Native American, Hispanic, and African American citizens." Oral arguments were heard on March 2, 2021. You can listen to the argument or read the transcript here. The opinion will be released on Thursday, July 1, 2021, the last day of the Court's term.

The case revolves around what's called the "disparate impact" element of the Voting Rights Act. The "disparate impact" standard does not rely on legislative intent. But because there is some concern about what the Court will rule, based on the way oral arguments went, the Department of Justice is basing its newly announced suit against new Georgia voting restrictions law on the "discriminatory intent" standard in Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. In its press release, the Department of Justice explains, "The United States’ complaint contends that several provisions of Senate Bill 202 were adopted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race. The Justice Department’s lawsuit alleges that the cumulative and discriminatory effect of these laws — particularly on Black voters — was known to lawmakers and that lawmakers adopted the law despite this."

Congress has recessed for the July 4 holiday, but the Wisconsin legislature is barreling along. The legislature plans to pass the biennial budget, with a tax cut of $3 billion over two years — mostly benefiting the wealthy, naturally — and a provision ending the long freeze on in-state tuition at University of Wisconsin schools. (Meanwhile, a sophisticated academic study concludes that lowering taxes for the wealthy and corporations doesn't result in an improved economy for all — see this article in Bloomberg News.)

And in case you missed this tidbit, Republicans will try to take a case over their contracts with lawyers hired in December 2020 and January 2021 in anticipation of litigation over redistricting to the Wisconsin Supreme Court later this week. The Journal Sentinel notes, however, that the plan "may be risky because the high court on Friday [June 26] reminded conservatives that it wants those bringing cases to follow regular procedures instead of engineering ways to get them to the justices as fast as possible."

In COVID-19 news, it's now apparent that almost all of the new cases, in Wisconsin and across the nation, involve people who have not been vaccinated (see the AP story). But the future here is a bit cloudy. While so-called "breakthrough infections" (infections involving fully vaccinated people) are relatively rare, the Delta variant has been detected in about three-dozen cases in Wisconsin, "but the real number is expected to be much higher" (cbs58). So the state could see a surge in cases, and a surge in hospitalizations and deaths, in areas of the state where vaccination rates are not optimal.

On a final note, there's been an update to the hours and days you can drop by our office (5600 W. Brown Deer Rd, Suite 116) to pick up Fair Maps signs. The office will be closed this week (June 28-July 4), but will be available for those who want to pick up signs on Wednesday, July 7 from 4:30 to 6:30pm and on Saturday, July 10 from 11am to 1pm. Brown Deer Road is under construction, so please show extra caution in the area.

 

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ACA, yay; For the People Act, not so much

So Ron Johnson walks into a Juneteenth celebration in Milwaukee. Guess what happens? (I feel a little like I'm writing for Stephen Colbert's segment "Meanwhile"!)

You've probably already heard that the US Supreme Court ruled, 7-2, that "neither the states nor the individuals challenging the law have a legal right to sue, known as standing." In the majority opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer and joined by Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, Roberts, Kavenaugh, and Coney Barrett, the Court ordered the case returned to the lower court with instructions to dismiss it. As a result, Obamacare lives! For a deeper analysis and history of the case, see an article at scotusblog.com. The Washington Post's analysis suggests that "While health care remains a potent political issue — and the Affordable Care Act has shortcomings Democrats have acknowledged — the latest court ruling suggests that Republican chances of winning a legal battle to kill it are now much diminished." Republicans are apparently now admitting that "the battle would now focus on the policy fight in Congress." Twelve years in the making, we have finally come away victorious!

The next big partisan fight — on voting rights and election administration — is already looming. Majority Leader Schumer is planning to put the For the People Act (also know as HR1 and S1) up for a test vote today. The act would require non-partisan redistricting for congressional seats, among other things. The vote to begin debate will undoubtedly run into a filibuster, but the fight is really just beginning. The Washington Post has the bird's eye view.

Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes is asking people to sign a petition, calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the bill. (Of course, he's also using this appeal to raise money, but you can safely ignore the pitch.) The League of Women Voters is also asking people to call Senator Baldwin and Senator Johnson to tell them to Vote Yes on the For the People Act (S1). Return control of our government back where it belongs — into the hands of the people. You can reach Senator Baldwin's office at 202-224-5653, or by email. And Senator Johson's office at 202-224-5323, or by email. If you do nothing else this week, at least show your support for the bill. Senate staffers will tally up the calls and emails so your efforts will not be for nought!

As Paul Waldman in the Washington Post's Plum Line blog writes, however, "things are about to get much harder for Biden and Democrats." As he explains, "we’ve been caught in a holding pattern as Democrats try to pass an infrastructure bill and electoral reform, both of which are being held hostage by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). Every sane person understands that Republicans will never support either, so the most likely outcome is that electoral reform will fall to a GOP filibuster and infrastructure will be passed through a majority reconciliation vote." Protecting voting rights and reigning in partisan gerrymandering are two of the most serious issues it looks as if we might have to shelve. If the For the People Act fails, we will need to ensure that Governor Evers wins re-election next year so that we can preserve a veto over redistricting maps the GOP will likely adopt if they win the governorship in 2022. Remember, Texas redrew its electoral maps in 2003, in the middle of the decade, when Republicans won control of both houses of the legislature. It would not be the least bit surprising if new maps are adopted here in 2023, if a Republican Governor takes over!

President Biden has already taken a hit because of his inability to fulfill many important campaign pledges — raising the minimum wage, creating a public health insurance option, providing new funding for child care, and guaranteeing the right to collective bargaining, for example. All of these proposals are pretty popular. Yet at FiveThirtyEight.com, Biden's overall approval rating is down to 51.7%, better than the former guy's at this stage in his *residency but lower than most other recent presidents'. The good news, though, is that Biden's disapproval stands at 42.6%, nine percentage points lower than his approval.

The events list for the next two weeks is pitiful. But that doesn't mean all worthy political activity has come to a halt. The Democratic Party is sponsoring a weekend of action on June 26-27 to organize around local issues in the Governor's Budget. Sign up here! The party is also providing grassroots training for organizers. You can see the summer schedule here, with the proviso that the schedule is subject to change.

The League of Progressive Seniors — an organization Grassroots North Shore works closely with — is holding a fundraiser to enable it to set up a billboard, create postcards and flyers, and pay for statewide distribution of materials. The subject of these efforts is Robin Vos and his stubborn refusal to allow Wisconsin to expand Medicaid under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act. The Medicaid Expansion would bring $1.6 BILLION to our state's General Purpose Revenue pool and 70% of Wisconsin's people support it. (All donations to the League are appreciated. Suggested donation is $50.) The event will take place on the patio at the home of Jackie Boynton and Peter McAvoy, 3945 North Harcourt Place, Shorewood, 53211. With questions or concerns, email Patty Yunk or Jackie Boynton.

EVENTS

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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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