the facts and the law

While we continue to wait for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to issue a ruling on TFG's claim to total immunity, a whole bunch of other legal maneuvers are also ongoing.

  • There's the E. Jean Carroll 2nd defamation lawsuit, postponed both yesterday and today because of COVID (still with us after all).
  • There's Rudy Giuliani's attempt to use bankruptcy proceedings to avoid paying the $148 million the trial court awarded Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss.
  • The US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether Colorado can disqualify Orange Julius from the March 5 primary in that state. Meanwhile, a "Federal District Court Issues Order Explaining Why South Carolina and the SC Democratic Party Did Not Violate Cenk Uygur’s Rights in Keeping Him Off Presidential Primary Ballot." On his Election Law Blog, Richard Hasan writes "This is potentially relevant for the Trump disqualification case as an example of a state keeping an ineligible citizen off the (primary) presidential ballot."
  • In Georgia, where one of the RICO case defendants alleges that DA Fani Willis has been having an affair with Nathan Wade, one of the special prosecutors on her team, the judge ordered the court records of Wade's divorce proceedings unsealed. The AP reports that the "newly unsealed court records, however, didn’t include any references to the affair allegations." This matter feels like the proverbial tempest in a teapot.
  • And Dolt 45 still faces three felony trials (in New York City, in Washington D.C., and in Palm Beach Florida), plus a decision in the New York State fraud trial that wrapped up last week.

In more local politics, Governor Evers will give the State of the State address tonight to "lay out his priorities in front of the Republican-led Legislature, which then delivers a response." According to today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, PBS and WisEye.org will both carry it live. It's scheduled to begin at 7pm.

And in a last-minute announcement, the Wisconsin Senate is convening at 3pm this afternoon to consider passing a bill that would alter the process for creating and approving new legislative election maps. Needless to say, the proposed law, based loosely on what's known as the Iowa model, preserves the legislature's power over the maps and includes the possibility that if the Governor and the Legislature fail to agree on the maps, the process continues ad infinitum (and also ad nauseam). Seems like this is an attempt to nullify the case currently under consideration in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Tonight, of course, the GOP presidential primary is likely to end with a virtual Boss Tweet coronation. All the more reason to make sure you sign up for Grassroots North Shore's annual fundraiser with featured speaker Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a renowned international expert on the rise of authoritarianism. She's a regular presence on MSNBC and other networks as we face rising political violence and a wannabe dictator running to resume his destruction of our democracy. Our own Senator Chris Larson will join her to discuss the authoritarians in our state's government. Also, please contribute to the kitty to help Grassroots North Shore continue to fight the good fight to protect our freedoms.

We're not helpless. We're not daunted. We're not intimidated. After last Tuesday's elections, our great Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler posted on Daily Kos: The takeaways from Cheato Benito's win in Iowa and the democratic win in a Florida legislative seat currently in MAGA hands: "the GOP candidate will be MAGA. And voters, especially women, remain furious about their freedoms being taken away, and will fight like hell to get them back." He notes that Vice President Kamala Harris kicked off her nationwide Reproductive Freedom tour here in Wisconsin. She gave a rousing speech which you can and should hear on YouTube.

Reproductive freedom is under attack, again, as our own MAGAites introduce a 14-week abortion ban, as MAGA national Senators and Representatives continue to pursue a nationwide abortion ban, as the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) takes up the case restricting access to Mifepristone, a decision on which will come by the end of June.

Marriage equality and contraception are also in the crosshairs. In fact, "To the Supreme Court, the 20th Century Was Wrongly Decided" Michael Podhorzer wrote on his substack last year. He argues that the court "has been instrumental in advancing this coalition's agenda, which is to dismantle the New Deal order and reverse the civil and social rights gains made since the postwar period." The country we want to live in, the country we thought we were living in, the country we want our children and grandchildren to inherit from us is under siege from every angle — political, judicial, and economic. We have to RESIST and REFORM in any way we can.

The Events list, of course, offers you some opportunities to learn what you can do. But here's another. As a response to Republicans attempting to ban books around the state, Swing Left Milwaukee in conjunction with the WisDems and the Milwaukee County Democratic Party are doing a “Books For Kids” drive focusing on the books Republicans are trying to ban, such as “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Once collected books will be distributed through the Next Door Foundation to disadvantaged children. If you do not have books to donate please consider a donation to the Next Door Foundation. You can also order books from Amazon sent directly to the foundation. Just visit the Next Door Foundation website and click on the donate button. Five drop sites are located throughout Milwaukee County:

  • Milwaukee County Dems Office, 2999 S Delaware Ave Bay View, Monday through Wednesday 10am - 2pm
  • WisDems Coordinated Campaign Office, 8405 W Lisbon Ave, Monday through Friday, 12 - 6pm
  • Volunteer Porch with Receptacle, 613 E Oklahoma Ave, Bay View
  • Volunteer Porch With Receptacle, 1411 17 Ave, South Milwaukee
  • Volunteer Porch With Receptacle, 1879 N Cambridge Ave, Milwaukee
    Porch drop off anytime
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and off to the races they go

I want to begin today with the "news" out of Iowa, but before I get to that I want to highlight the upcoming Grassroots North Shore program: Authoritarian Candidates in the Nation and in Wisconsin, on Sunday, February 4, from 5:00 - 6:30pm on Zoom. This program is our annual fundraiser — we don't have any paid staff but we do need to pay for things like our zooms, stamps, postcards, flyers, snacks and water for in person meetings, a PO Box, etc. — so contribute if you can. But even if you can't, you're welcome to attend. This topic is just that important.

Our featured speaker, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, is a renowned international expert on the rise of authoritarianism. Her latest book, Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present (2020; paperback with a new epilogue, 2021), examines how illiberal leaders use corruption, violence, propaganda, and machismo to stay in power, and how resistance to them has unfolded over a century. If you watch MSNBC, you have undoubtedly seen her interviews. If you haven't, you should take a look at one at least. She will discuss national and international movements. Joining her will be state Senator Chris Larson who will take a closer look at some of the most authoritarian wannabes in our legislature.

Now on to the "triumphs" of Adolf Twitler. He won Iowa, of course, with excited headlines all over important media like the New York Times (gifted), the Washington Post (gifted), CNN, and HuffPost. But his big moment doesn't seem all that robust to an astute observer, Mark Sumner, at Daily Kos: "Trump's performance in Iowa is not nearly as good as the media makes it seem."

Donald Trump barely cleared the hurdle of getting more votes in Iowa than Ted Cruz did in 2016. No one should be proclaiming Trump’s landslide victory for snagging half of those who came out on a bitterly cold night. They should be wondering why Trump isn’t getting far more. They should be wondering why candidates, and Republican backers, are plowing millions into running against him while nothing like that is happening in the Democratic Party.

Wisconsin is once again making some national news, even as Don the Con's exploits continue to gobble up precious news space and air time. The AP is out with a story today headlined "Wisconsin GOP's large majorities expected to shrink under new legislative maps." The Journal Sentinel also has the story, of course, but the AP is picked up by news outlets all over the country, giving it national coverage. You can read an analysis (by John Johnson, Marquette Law School) of the seven maps that were submitted in the Supreme Court of Wisconsin (SCOWIS) on January 12. His is not the only analysis taking place. All the parties to the lawsuit have until January 22 to submit response briefs to SCOWIS. The two consultants the court hired will evaluate all the proposed maps and will file a report on each of them by February 1. Parties to the lawsuit can then respond to the consultants' reports by February 8. At that point, the matter is left in the hands of the seven justices on SCOWIS. There's no timeframe for a decision but the schedule of arguments and briefings suggest that the final decision will follow fairly quickly. Maps of legislative districts must be finalized by mid-March so that people who want to run in those districts will have time to gather nomination signatures of potential constituents.

Voting in this country is and always has been vexed. Who is eligible, how people can register, even sometimes the design of ballots can confuse, confound and effectively disenfranchise. Do you remember the controversial "butterfly ballot" used in the 2000 presidential election in Palm Beach County, Florida? You can see the ballot in question in a 2019 article in The Guardian. This one poorly-designed ballot may have given the election to George W. Bush! Richard Hasan, an expert in election law and professor at UCLA, has an opinion piece in the New York Times today titled The U.S. Lacks What Every Democracy Needs (gifted). It begins "The history of voting in the United States shows the high cost of living with an old Constitution, unevenly enforced by a reluctant Supreme Court."

The piece looks at the history of Supreme Court decisions on voting rights, noting that in its 235-year history, there was only one period when it was "hospitable to broad constitutional voting rights claims. The court, under Chief Justice Earl Warren, saw a broad expansion of voting rights in the 1960s, thanks mainly to its capacious reading of the equal protection clause." Hasan identifies three voting pathologies stemming from the Constitution's lack of an "affirmative right to vote." Understanding the role SCOTUS plays in the battle for universal voting rights over the broad sweep of our nation's history can help us understand some more recent court behaviors, including the Rucho (in which the court ruled that partisan gerrymandering was something the federal judicial system could not address) and the infamous 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder that struck down the pre-clearance section of the Voting Rights Act. The Berger, Rehnquist, and Roberts courts have backed away from the Warren court's positions on expanding voting rights. Many scholars, including Hasan, assert that a constitutional amendment affirming the right to vote is not only consonant with other advanced democracies but is the clearest way to address what ails our elections.

In an effort to make Wisconsin's congressional elections less polarized and partisan, a bill "to establish a final-five runoff voting system" has been introduced in the legislature. A hearing on it was held last week. Here's how the bill envisions the process would work:

A final-five system is similar to ranked choice voting, however to reach the November election, candidates would still need to run in a primary. The top five vote getters from the primary would move on to the general. Once in the general, when voters cast their ballot, they would rank the candidates by preference from one to five (with the option to include all five or leave off as many candidates as they’d like).

When the votes are counted, if one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, that candidate wins. However if none of the candidates reaches that threshold, the rankings get used. The candidate with the lowest vote total is eliminated and all of the voters who selected that candidate as their top choice have their votes moved to their second choice and the votes are tallied again. If the 50% threshold is still not reached, the process continues, eliminating the lowest vote getter in each round, until a winner is decided.

The bill is authored by Rep. Ron Tusler, a Republican, and Sen. Jeff Smith, a Democrat. Its goal, according to the bill's authors, "is to change the incentive system in the state’s elections and move the more competitive contest from the primary election to the general" (Wisconsin Examiner, January 10, 2024). If you are so minded, you can sign a petition to show your support to Wisconsin legislators.

Last week was momentous in Cheeto Benito's efforts to convince the DC Court of Appeals to dismiss the entire election subversion case on the grounds that a former president cannot be prosecuted for any crimes he may have committed while discharging his responsibilities. In short, his lawyer argued, he has complete immunity from prosecution for official acts. All three judges on the panel expressed considerable skepticism about this claim, but none more so that Judge Pan who made sure Trump’s Lawyer Walked Into a Trap, according to George Conway III. The link takes you, not to the article in The Atlantic (which I cannot access even though I have a subscription and am logged in!), but to an interview on MSNBC with Chris Hayes.

Now that we have traversed the year end revelries, the Events list is once again robust. Make it part of your New Year's commitment to engage!

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Extra, extra: the times are a-changing

I'm sending you this "extra" to bring you up to date on some of the key legal events of the week, including my own summary of the week's blockbuster. Enjoy.

On Tuesday, Justice Janet Protasiewicz was sworn in to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. There were a number of laudatory speakers, praising her for her judicial temperament and her kind heart. But the remarks that really stood out were those of Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who has been on the court for 28 years. She noted that in her early years on the court, it was widely recognized as one of the best state supreme courts in the nation, implying that it has fallen in reputation since. But now it will rise again. She was very excited, I think, at the prospect that she will once again find herself in the majority on the court at least on some issues.

Earlier on Tuesday, two *rump allies in Michigan were charged with felonies "in connection with an effort to illegally access and tamper with voting machines in the state after the 2020 election." Because one of them was a recently defeated MAGA candidate for Attorney General in Michigan, Attorney General Dana Nessel cited a conflict of interest and requested a special prosecutor to investigate and potentially indict the perpetrators. DePerno, the defeated AG candidate, was of course endorsed by TFG. The two men indicted Tuesday bring the number of people the Michigan special prosecutor has named to nine. In a separate but related case, Attorney General Dana Nessel and her office have already charged the 16 fake electors with eight felonies each. So in Michigan, the count of the accused for various forms of 2020 election subversion has reached 25.

Then just moments before Protasiewicz's investiture was to take place, TRE45ON was finally indicted for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election and to maintain his own power. Everyone should read the document, not only to discover what the four felonies he's charged with are, but to see in context some of the most damning evidence special counsel Jack Smith has assembled. A lot of the information has already been aired by the January 6 select committee in the House of Representatives last year. But what is new is newsworthy. For example, it seems that Vice President Pence kept contemporaneous notes of key conversations with TFG, and Jack Smith has them as well as Pence's testimony in front the the Grand Jury.

Paragraph 7 of the indictment forthrightly states the crux of the matter: "The purpose of the conspiracy was to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by using knowingly false claims of election fraud to obstruct the federal government function by which those results are collected, counted, and certified."

Evidence undergirding the accusation that the conspirators, especially TFG, used "knowingly false claims of election fraud" occupies a big chunk of the indictment. As does the scheme to create slates of fake electors in six states, including Wisconsin. In the account Smith has written, the fake electors scheme serves to create false conflict that the conspirators exploited in several ways. One was to pressure VP Pence to exercise his (fictitious) authority to choose between the two sets of electors — one for Joe Biden and one for *rump — as if there were real uncertainty about which sets of electors were the genuine ones. A second was to persuade the beleaguered VP just to send the matter back to the states. The state legislatures — all of them under GOP control — could then "correct" putatively faulty election results so that the *rump electors could be named the genuine ones. A third was to persuade enough members of Congress to object to counting the electoral votes in "contested states." That would  throw the election into the House of Representatives to decide the winner when neither candidate's electoral vote total could reach the 270 necessary to prevail.

Tuesday was quite a day!

What happened on Wednesday, though, has the potential to shake up Wisconsin's political landscape. Within hours of Protasiewicz claiming her seat on the Supreme Court, Law Forward along with a number of other plaintiffs filed a petition "to take jurisdiction of an original action to challenge the gerrymandered state legislative maps." The grounds are these: "the existing maps (1) retaliate against some voters based on their viewpoint and free speech, in violation of Wisconsin’s guarantee of free speech; (2) treats some voters worse than others based on their political views and where they live in violation of Wisconsin’s guarantee of equality; and (3) violate the promise of a free government found in the Wisconsin constitution." You can read about the action on the Law Forward website. You can read the press release and you can watch the press conference they held. On Friday, August 4, Law Forward will hold an online briefing at noon CDT on this new fair maps case.

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The many things I forgot

I forgot some really important things, chiefly events, in the GRNS newsletter I sent yesterday. So here's the stuff I missed.

Wave is looking for volunteers to do some phone banking who want to push for better gun laws in Wisconsin and to advocate for victims and survivors of domestic abuse. WAVE Educational Fund is looking for phone bankers. This volunteer opportunity can be done from your home whenever it's convenient for you, and you can put as much or as little time into it as you want. They’re creating a small, strategic list of Wisconsin legislators who they think can be convinced to sign onto a bill that would make it harder for domestic abusers to get guns. The bill was released late in 2023, so now we just need to build momentum. If you’re interested, email WAVE’s Communications Manager, Heidi Johnson, for more information. She’ll answer all your questions, and provide all the needed resources. Phone banking will be active from late January through late February.

EVENTS

Monday, January 15

Truth-Telling as Healing – How We Can Answer Dr. King’s Call? 10:30am - 12:00pm
Online

In this new year, resolve to deepen your knowledge and commitment to equity, truth-telling and healing. Join Nurturing Diversity Partners founder Dr. Fran Kaplan and dialogue facilitator Darrell Ferguson for a thought-provoking presentation that delves into Dr. King’s complete dream: To heal the world and create a Beloved Community through nonviolence, truth and reconciliation. Registrants will receive the ZOOM link via email prior to the program. Sign up.

CELEBRATION OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR, 12:00 - 2:00pm
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 1531 W Vliet St, Milwaukee

We would like to invite you to the upcoming annual King Day Celebration at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center on Monday, January 15th at 12:00pm. Our vision this year is to highlight the sermons and messages that were just as powerful as King's well-known speeches but seldom heard. We will also acknowledge 3 young ladies who were responsible for saving the lives of two young men who overdosed on opioids while playing basketball in our gymnasium. One gave each young man Narcan while the other two young women administered CPR until emergency personnel arrived. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We hope to see you there.

Tuesday, January 16

LWVWI Community Conversations, 12:00pm
Zoom

The LWVWI Voter Services Committee would like to invite any interested member to participate in our upcoming Voter Services Community Conversations. The purpose of this series is to create a space for League members interested in voter services to join together in conversation around a voter services topic each month. This month's topic is High School Voter Registration Best Practices. Join the Zoom call.

National Day of Racial Healing, 6:30 - 8:00pm
Online

Join Nurturing Diversity Partners founder Dr. Fran Kaplan and dialogue facilitator Darrell Ferguson for a thought-provoking presentation that delves into Dr. King’s complete dream: To heal the world and create a Beloved Community through nonviolence, truth and reconciliation. Sign up.

Wednesday, January 17

January General DPOC Meeting, 7:00 - 8:00pm
Ozaukee Democrats Office, 1930 Wisconsin Ave., Grafton

Join us at our Grafton Office as we gather to hear speakers and catch up on the local and state politics influencing Ozaukee County – while spending time with like-minded people. All interested people are encouraged to attend.

Thursday, January 18

Brookings: Key Takeaways from the 2024 Iowa Caucuses, 2:00 - 3:00pm
Online

Historically, the Iowa caucuses have had major political implications for presidential hopefuls. As the first state contest, it is a chance for candidates to make their initial impression on the electorate by demonstrating their ability to build support or floundering in their first major campaign test. In 2024, the Iowa caucuses will help Republicans determine which candidate has the best chance of challenging Donald Trump for the party’s nomination. Join the Governance Studies Program at Brookings for a discussion moderated by Senior Fellows Elaine Kamarck and E.J. Dionne, Jr. along with a panel of experts who will discuss the results of the 2024 Iowa Republican caucuses and determine their likely impact on the race. Viewers can submit questions for speakers via email to [email protected] or on Twitter/X @BrookingsGov using #IowaTakeaways. Sign up.

Friday, January 19

League of Progressive Seniors: Milwaukee County Challenges and Opportunities, 9:30am Knickerbocker Hotel, 1028 E Juneau, Milwaukee
Souls to the Polls and the League of Progressive Seniors invite you to hear from County Executive David Crowley
and discuss issues that the County faces in 2024. How can we work with the County Executive to protect our most important resources? How can we address the needs for affordable housing, health, transportation, recreation and parks in a time of budget shortfalls in local communities statewide. To let us know that you plan to attend OR if you are interested byt cannot attend, email Tom Callan.

Saturday, January 20

Stand for Peace, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Brady and Farwell, Milwaukee

Stand for Peace demonstrates for peace at a different intersection in Milwaukee County every Saturday.

Grassroots Glendale 2024 Kickoff!, 3:00 - 5:00pm
6563 N Crestwood Dr, Glendale

Join Grassroots Glendale for their 2024 Kickoff meeting! We'll be getting together as a team to discuss our strategy for electing Democrats and progressives up and down the ticket in 2024. Please bring your likeminded friends and family members along to learn about how you can help us win in April and November! Sign up.

Monday, January 22

State Senate Dems Welcome to New Leader, 5:00 - 7:00pm
Enlightened Brewing Company, 2020 S Allis St, Milwaukee

Please join us as we welcome our new Senate Democratic Leader, Dianne Hesselbein to Milwaukee! With fair maps within reach, we must begin preparing to flip the Wisconsin State Senate from red to blue and you are critical to making that happen. We look forward to seeing you there. This is a fundraiser for the State Senate Democrats Committee. RSVP.

Milwaukee Party Democratic Party Monthly Meeting, 6:00pm
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, Harmony room

The Democratic Party of Milwaukee County holds its monthly meeting on the third Monday of each month. Join with fellow Democrats to hear from important speakers, to learn about upcoming Dem events, and to discuss important issues with each other.

Tuesday, January 23

Supermarket Legends UWM Voter Registration, shifts from 10:00am - 4:00pm
UWM Library

If you are able to help, email Sue Schneidler.

Milwaukee Press Club, 11:45am - 1:30pm
Newsroom Pub, 137 E. Wells St., Milwaukee

Jay Rothman, president of the Universities of Wisconsin, will be the guest speaker at a Newsmaker Luncheon set for Tuesday, January 23, hosted by the Milwaukee Press Club and WisPolitics.com. Rothman previously was chairman and CEO of Foley and Lardner LLP, one of the state’s largest law firms and ranked among the top 50 law firms in the country based on revenue. He will take questions from a panel of journalists and from the audience at the luncheon, to be moderated by Milwaukee Press Club President Maryann Lazarski, series/documentary producer for Milwaukee PBS. Advanced registration and payment are required.

WisDems Voter Protection Kickoff, 6:00 - 7:00pm
Virtual

Join the WisDems Voter Protection Team — and special guest, WisDems Chair Ben Wikler — in kicking off our 2024 program on January 23rd at 6pm CT on Zoom! We'll hear from Chair Wikler about what's at stake in 2024, share our plans to protect voting rights across the state, and explain all the ways you can get involved in the fight for democracy in 2024. Sign up.

Thursday, January 25

WISDOM Elections 2024 Training, 6:30pm
Zoom

In order to prepare for the upcoming 2024 elections, WISDOM is excited to have relaunched School of Democracy last September! The fourth event in our series is a training with our affiliate, FREE's Director Peggy West-Schroder on State Elections on January 25 at 6:30 p.m. CT through Zoom. Come learn about important upcoming elections, what's at stake for 2024 and how you can make a difference by using your voting power. Register.

Saturday, January 27

Stand for Peace, 12:00 - 1:00pm
76th and North Ave, Milwaukee

Stand for Peace demonstrates for peace at a different intersection in Milwaukee County every Saturday.

SAVE THE DATE

Multiple Dates and Times

Registration at Urban League Drivers Training Classes, Various
Milwaukee Urban League, 435 W North Ave, Milwaukee

Supermarket Legends have a new opportunity to answer questions about voting and to help with voter registration on the last days of the spring drivers training classes at the Milwaukee Urban League, 435 West North Avenue. We need volunteers to be available on the following dates and times:

  • February 1 — 1:30pm
  • February 8, March 14 — 6:45pm
  • February 22, March 28 — 11:00am

If you can help, contact Linea Sundstrom.

Saturday, February 3

Grassroots Glendale 60 Days to Victory Friendbank, 4:00 - 6:00pm
6563 N Crestwood Dr, Glendale

Join Grassroots Glendale for our 60 Days to Victory Friendbank! We'll be getting together to learn how to activate and engage our networks using the Reach app for relational organizing. Join us as text our networks to hear what issues matter to them and to make plans to vote for Democrats up and down the ticket in 2024! Sign up.

Sunday, February 4

Grassroots North Shore presents: Authoritarian Candidates in the Nation and in Wisconsin, 5:00 - 6:30pm
Zoom

Are We Dealing with Rising Fascism? Our featured speaker, Ruth Ben-Giat, Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, examines how illiberal leaders use corruption, violence, propaganda, and machismo to stay in power, and how resistance to them. Senator Chris Larson will discuss Wisconsin's own local versions of strongmen who threaten democracy. Can we unseat them and restore balance and democracy to the state? RSVP here. This event is the Annual Fundraiser for Grassroots North Shore. Donate.

Saturday, February 17

Get Out the Vote - Spring Primary, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Help connect with Ozaukee County voters ahead of the February 20 Spring Primary Election. You can contact us at http://www.ozdems.org.

Sunday, February 18

Get Out the Vote - Spring Primary, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Help connect with Ozaukee County voters ahead of the February 20 Spring Primary Election. You can contact us at http://www.ozdems.org.

other important links

Become a Member of Grassroots North Shore

join
Milwaukee County Democratic Party

Support Grassroots North Shore

donateGRNS_blue.jpg

Ozaukee County Democratic Party

Visit Grassroots North Shore on Facebook and Like Us!

like Grassroots North Shore

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everything, everywhere, all at once

I'm late, I'm late. There's so much happening right now, that I have been feeling a little overloaded with political and election news. But let's begin with our area's Spring elections and Wisconsin judicial opinions that will have an impact on this year's elections. Then we'll take a look at the national news and Trumpelthinskin's trials and tribulations, finishing up with a unionization drive that's going on at Planned Parenthood Wisconsin.

First, though, let me remind you about the fundraiser for Tammy Baldwin this Sunday, January 14, from 4:00 to 5:30pm at an address in Mequon (available upon request or in response to signing up). Tammy will be facing a well-heeled opponent who will barely have to raise any grassroots funding and will be the beneficiary of the national GOP's funds. As best I can tell, the senate race in Wisconsin will be one of their top targets. If Democrats hope to keep control of the senate after this election cycle, re-electing Baldwin is key. But that's not the only or even the most important reason to support her: she has been an outstanding senator for Wisconsin. Just consult her page of press releases for 2021-2022 (the 117th congress) to see an overview of what she was doing and how focused she has been on helping the residents of Wisconsin succeed.

For the spring 2024 election, the busy bees at Grassroots North Shore have been diligently gathering information about the candidates that you will see on your ballot. For many of Grassroots North Shore's supporters, no primary on February 20 will be needed. There are, however, some areas that will have primaries. Here's a list of the municipalities we know about right now:

  • Milwaukee County Supervisor, District 18
  • Mayor of Milwaukee
  • Milwaukee Alderpersons in Districts 5, 7, and 11
  • Shorewood School Board
  • Trustee in the Village of Fox Point
  • Ozaukee County Supervisor, District 7

We do not yet have all the information we'd like to provide, but the basic bones are accessible through our Elections 2024 page. If you check back on the Elections pages in a couple of weeks, we should have gathered links to candidates' social media pages so that you can be an informed voter. And by the way, the April 2 election is ALSO OUR PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY. President Biden will be on that ballot and really needs your support. But since we hold a so-called "open primary" that allows you to vote in any party's primary, you can take your choice, depending how the state of the race looks. But beware: you can vote in only one party's primary.

Now that 2024 has begun, it's time to request your absentee ballots at MyVote.WI.gov. That site will offer you the chance to request absentee ballots for ALL THE ELECTIONS in 2024 and we recommend that you take advantage of the opportunity. Voting by mail (or turning in your absentee ballot in person at your clerk's office) is the most secure way to make sure you'll be able to vote. For example, voting absentee means that if you are unexpectedly out of town or under the weather on election day, your vote has already been cast! Problem solved.

Absentee ballots are typically mailed to you 21 days in advance of an election. As usual, you'll need a witness to certify that you are voting your own ballot. But you don't need to be quite as anxious about whether your witness correctly fills out their complete address on the certification envelope. Thanks to lawsuits pursued by the League of Women Voters and Rise, Inc., municipal clerks will once again be allowed to correct minor errors on the certification envelope. (I'll have a fuller explanation of what the court's opinion means below.)

At the very bottom of the Elections 2024 page, you will find the texts of three referendums that will amend the Wisconsin constitution if they are approved by the voters — two of them will appear on the April 2 ballot and the third on the November 5 ballot. We don't yet know the full import of them, but we will certainly have information about what they REALLY mean and a recommendation about whether you should vote to approve each one, or not. So stay tuned.

This year's municipal, judicial, and school board elections look to be much sleepier than the spring elections the last couple of years have been. Most incumbents who are running for re-election are unopposed. For two North Shore communities, there will presumably be write-in campaigns for the Nicolet and Whitefish Bay school boards. Just because these elections don't seem to present a lot of conflict, though, doesn't mean you can safely skip them. It's vital that people get in the habit of voting in every election, even if it means four elections a year, as it often does in Wisconsin. Our local elections and local office holders exert a lot of influence on how our communities function. And they also create the "bench" for candidates at state and national levels. This year, the spring election includes two proposals to amend our state constitution. For that reason alone, you need to VOTE.

As for the change in the way small errors on certification envelopes are handled, the issue seems like a pretty minor concern. But it's not. It may "fly under the radar," but it's one more way to suppress the vote. As Democracy Docket explains, "Wisconsin’s witness address requirement has been a source of confusion and disenfranchisement for years. Under Wisconsin law, when voting absentee, voters must fill out their absentee ballot alongside a witness. The witness must complete and sign a witness certificate that includes the witness’s address. If a witness address is missing, the ballot will not be counted." The court rulings were a major win for voting rights groups and "could prevent thousands of ballots from being unfairly rejected due to witness certificates with an incomplete address." The court order for the Rise, Inc. suit can be found here. The one for the Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is available here.

The biggest judicial news in Wisconsin lately has been the 4-3 ruling of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin that the current legislative district maps are unconstitutional and cannot be used in the fall 2024 elections for Assembly and state Senate. Because new maps have to be in place by early March, the December 22, 2023, decision specified a lickety-split timeline for the parties to submit remedial maps that comply with the technical specifications and data requirements identified by two expert consultants the Court hired for this purpose. The Court hoped that the legislature and the governor could agree on a map in the allotted time. Governor Evers, however, is "not expecting agreement with Republicans on new maps" (Wisconsin State Journal, January 5, 2024). And the proposed maps are due on January 12 (TODAY!). The next steps are as follows:

  • January 22, 2024: Each party may file a response brief.
  • January 22, 2024: Non-parties with previously granted permission may file a non-party amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief.
  • February 1, 2024: the consultants, Dr. Grofman and Dr. Cervas, will evaluate and file a report on each of the parties' submissions based on the criteria identified in the Court's December 22, 2023 opinion. Only if no submission meets the criteria identified will the two consultants submit their own proposed remedial map.
  • February 8, 2024: The parties and all amici who have been granted leave to participate may submit a response brief addressing the consultants' report.

Okay, so on to Trumpelthinskin's trials and tribulations just this past week. I'm sure you have seen, read, or heard about TFG's outburst in the closing arguments of the New York State fraud case yesterday. Judge Engoron shut him up after a few minutes of ranting, whereupon he stormed out of the courtroom. Here's the AP account of the court action. The fraud trial threatens to strip him of the right to do business in NY.

Far more serious were the oral arguments before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether a former president has absolute immunity from prosecution for acts he undertook while he was president. If you were not able to listen to the whole thing when it took place on Tuesday, January 9, you can listen to it here. George Conway, a highly respected conservative attorney and former husband of Kellyanne Conway, explains how Trump's argument fell apart under questioning from one of the judges. Here's a clip of Conway discussing it with Chris Hayes. The AP has a really helpful set of pages for tracking many of the cases against Dolt45.

Finally, 2023 was a really good year for union actions, especially the much covered strikes and then contract settlements at the big three auto makers. Let's keep the momentum going in 2024. The healthcare workers at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin have begun a union organizing drive. They are seeking people to sign the petition supporting their efforts. They have also set up a Facebook page for the effort. Share the links to the FB page and the petition widely to people who support unions!

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as we close out the year

We're heading toward the shortest day of the year — Thursday, December 21 — or the darkest day of the year, if your mind runs that way. Politically speaking, it's been pretty dark for a while. But on December 22, the days will start to grow longer and the nights shorter. In today's newsletter — the last one of 2023 — I'm going to be a bit of a pollyanna, seeing the glass half full, if you will. I hope you will indulge me.

I begin the upbeat with Mr. Optimism himself, Simon Rosenberg, in his recent Hopium Chronicles posting: Three Things I'm Thinking About As We Head Into 2024. He writes that three facts about 2023 buoy his outlook.

  • The Strong Democratic Performance Since Dobbs - It’s The Most Important Electoral Data Out There Now
  • The Remarkably Robust American Economy Gives Biden A Strong Foundation For His Re-Election
  • Trump’s Historic Baggage Is Being Overly Discounted in Current Analysis About 2024

Rosenberg goes on to elaborate each point. On TFG's "Historic Baggage And Ongoing Betrayal of The Country Is Being Overly Discounted in Current Analysis," he points out that "The media is simply not spending enough time war-gaming out what Trump’s unprecedented, Olympian level of baggage will mean for him and the GOP next year. Recent polling suggests it could be a very big problem." He then lists 10 bullet points describing Adolf Twitler's execrable behavior. Rosenberg's post is well worth a read.

The judicial arena is particularly lively right now. So there's a lot to read and to know, starting with the decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Mark Meadow's case for removal from a state court in Fulton County, Georgia, to the federal court in the Northern District of Georgia. In a unanimous decision delivered only three days after the court heard oral arguments, the court denied the appeal. In doing so, the court relied on two key arguments. First, the statute in question "applies only to current government officials, not former ones like Meadows" (Politico, December 18, 2023). And second, "the panel of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit concluded that, even if Meadows were still in office, his argument would still fail because the state’s charges against Meadows are about an alleged criminal agreement to join a conspiracy, not about any actions Meadows took as Trump’s chief of staff."

At her highly respected blog, empty wheel, Marcy Wheeler points out that the ruling is as applicable to Boss Tweet as it is to Mark Meadows: "Meadows (and by extension, Trump) had no authority over state elections and electioneering of Meadows (and by extension, Trump) was not in their official duties." Many major news organizations covered the story: ABCNews, CBS News, and The Hill, to name a few.

Then, of course, there's the Rudy Guiliani humiliation. The defamation trial ended with a jury verdict specifying that Rudy pay Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss a cool $148 million (see Paul Waldman's take at the MSNBC website). Whereupon he held a press conference to repeat the lies: "Giuliani doubled down on the baseless conspiracy theory that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election.... He also claimed that his allegations against the two election workers were 'supportable' but that he didn't have the opportunity to present the evidence at trial." (As Rachel Maddow might say: BULLPUCKY!) The two former Georgia election workers are suing again, this time asking that they be allowed to seek the jury award now, before Giuliani can try to hide his assets, and that Guiliani be prohibited from spouting lies about them in the future.

On the judicial front for our antihero, Kate Shaw has an important op-ed in today's New York Times (gifted): Trump Has Always Wanted to Be King. The Supreme Court Should Rid Him of That Delusion. Explaining why the question of presidential immunity is already in front of SCOTUS (as well as before the D.C. Circuit Court), Shaw writes: "To advance the Jan. 6 case against Mr. Trump, the special counsel Jack Smith wants to skip a step at the appellate court and have the Supreme Court rule on that critical question, since a ruling in Mr. Trump’s favor would end the case. A protracted delay could have the same effect, preventing the trial from happening before the election and allowing Mr. Trump to call off the prosecution if he wins." She goes on to explore the legal cases that have addressed this issue and have found the claim of presidential immunity wanting. "In 2020 a 7-to-2 majority in Trump v. Vance rejected Mr. Trump’s argument that he should not have to cooperate with a subpoena in a state criminal case. And the court was unanimous in rejecting Mr. Trump’s arguments for absolute immunity."

Here are some key dates to watch in the two cases for presidential immunity. SCOTUS has set the due date for TFG's response to special counsel Jack Smith's appeal for Wednesday, December 20 (like tomorrow!) Meanwhile the Appellate Court has set the following schedule:

  • Dec. 23, 2023: Trump brief due
  • Dec. 30, 2023: Smith brief due
  • Jan. 2, 2024: Trump reply brief due
  • Jan. 9, 2024: Oral arguments

Also, Judge Engoron isn't having what our Butternut Berlusconi is dishing. Not only does he deny TFG's motion to dismiss the NY state fraud trial, he lights into the so-called expert witness that was supposed to undercut the government's case: "Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron slammed Bartov in a Monday evening ruling denying the defendants’ latest request for a directed verdict in the $250 million case" (Daily Kos, December 19, 2023).

On the local scene, the League of Progressive Seniors held a compelling seminar on the "Threats to Your Vote in Wisconsin" last Friday. State Senator Chris Larson gave an insightful talk on the history of legislative action on voting rights in Wisconsin over the last decade. Claire Woodall, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Election Commission, followed up with an empirically-supported view of where the ease of voting in Wisconsin is now compared to where it was in the past. You can and should watch the video.

Farewell 2023. I'm going to be visiting family and friends on the east coast for the next two weeks. So the next newsletter won't appear until January 9, 2024. And hello 2024. The Events list is especially sparse right now. But it will not stay that way. Savor the next couple of quiet weeks, at least on the Grassroots North Shore front. And then suit up for action!

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what's on the bubble

I wanted to send this newsletter out a bit early this week because there are a couple of campaign kickoffs on Tuesday evening you might not want to miss (see the Events list below). But an emergency meeting of a working group for the Politics, Elections, and Campaigns committee got in the way. Oh well. This week is full of legal and political issues that look forward to the next election. But before we dive in, I want to wish everyone the warmest of holiday cheer. We are in the middle of Chanukah and looking forward to Christmas and Kwanzaa right around the corner, followed swiftly by New Year's Eve and Day. A busy time, and I hope some respite from angst and anger.

In the comeuppance division, Rudy G's trial for defamation began Monday. It's a jury trial but the main judgment — that he defamed Ruby Freeman and Wandrea Moss — has already been decided. Why? Because that great lawyer and statesman Giuliani repeatedly refused to obey the court's orders to produce evidence in the case and to turn it over to the plaintiffs. So the judge just declared judgment: Rudy is guilty of defamation! No doubt this case determining the amount RG must pay will be covered on the news. In their opening statement, "attorneys for Freeman and Moss played recordings of some of the messages for the jury in U.S. District Court in D.C., where Giuliani could be held liable for up to $43.5 million in damages" (Washington Post, December 11, 2023, gifted to get you through the paywall). The threats were of course racist and frightening.

Meanwhile, Dolt 45 once again shows that underneath all the bluster and bullying, he is a coward afraid to take the stand in his own defense in the NY State fraud trial. Alina Habba, one of his many defense lawyers, told the press last Thursday, "her boss 'doesn’t cower' and looked forward to testifying once again in his own defense" (Vanity Fair, December 11, 2023). And at his Saturday rally, TFG told yet another of his bizarre stories in which he claimed some unnamed but "fantastic" general once told him that debating Hillary Clinton after the Access Hollywood tape came out was more courageous than fighting a war. The author of the piece, Eric Lutz, writes, "If Trump is perhaps 'cowering' now, it may be because his last appearance on the witness stand didn’t go so well." In short, that first stint on the stand was a temper-tantrum. Lutz wryly notes that "there is a difference between making unchallenged statements outside the courtroom and making them on the witness stand, under oath."

A special election to replace expelled Representative George Santos will take place on February 13. The Democrats have already rallied behind the man who formerly held the seat — Tom Suozzi. (You can see his Ballotpedia page and his campaign website.) According to TPM, one potential opponent will be "Philip Sean Grillo, a 49-year-old man from Queens who ... filed the paperwork to run for office in New York’s 3rd Congressional District." Grillo, it turns out, participated in the January 6 Insurrection! He "was found guilty of 'felony obstruction of an official proceeding and other charges related to his conduct during the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol,' the Department of Justice announced in a news release this week.” A convicted felon to replace the soon-to-be  convicted felon who was just expelled? Why not.

Special counsel Jack Smith is making tracks. "The special counsel urged the justices to move with exceptional speed, and they quickly agreed to fast-track the first phase of the case, says Monday's New York Times (gifted). Smith filed the appeal Monday afternoon; the US Supreme Court granted at least the first part of his request, namely that they "put their consideration of whether to hear the case on a fast track." Benedict Donald's lawyers have until December 20 to file their response. At the same time, Smith's "team filed papers to Judge Chutkin asking her to keep the March 4 trial date and saying she could still work on certain aspects of the case even as the appeal was being heard." Every day we hear news about this criminal trial and every day our anxiety deepens. But Smith and company are on it.

On the home front, despite the fact that Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Robert Spindell together with the other nine fake GOP electors settled the civil suit against them and agreed that Joe Biden won the election here, Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu "rejected Democrats' calls to rescind [Spindell's] appointment to the state elections commission" (AP post in Daily Kos). LeMahieu's excuse? The imposters were simply following a "legal strategy" that failed. They definitely were NOT part of a "a sinister plot to overturn an election.” If you believe that crap, Devin LeMahieu no doubt has a bridge he wants to sell you.

Even though it's December and we're barreling towards the most intense holiday season of the year, we have to plan past January 1. So ...

Let's Take Action

  • If you live in Milwaukee County, you would be doing a mitzvah (that is, a marvelous thing, a blessing) if you dropped by the Milwaukee County Democratic Party's office (2999 S Delaware Ave, Milwaukee) any time between 3:00 and 7:00pm on Wednesday, December 13. You can then sign nomination papers for both county and (if you reside there) and city candidates. Campaigns have only until January 2nd to collect and submit the necessary signatures to get on the ballot, so the sooner the signatures are collected, the better.

  • Donate items to the Democrats "Christmas is for Kids Holiday Toy Drive." The Dems are collecting new, unwrapped toys for kids of all ages plus donations of new towels and washcloths, children's socks, child and adult sized t-shirts, and travel sized toiletries. This drive is for the benefit of St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care Bucyrus Campus and Mr. Bob's Under the Bridge Homeless Outreach. Donations can be dropped off at the Milwaukee Democratic Party Office (2999 South Delaware Ave, Milwaukee) Monday through Wednesday from 10:00am - 2:00pm (or during the Open House and nomination-paper signing from 3:00-7:00 on Wednesday, December 13) and on Thursday from 9:00am - 12:00pm. Items can also be dropped off at the Coordinated Campaign Office (8405 W Lisbon Ave, Milwaukee) Tuesday through Friday from 12:00pm through 8:00pm and Saturday from 9:00am - 5:00pm.

  • Activate America has a new postcard writing opportunity focused on the special election for former Representative Santo's House seat taking place on Tuesday, February 13. The Democrat running for the seat is Tom Suozzi, who held the seat for 6 years before he left to run for governor. Activate America will be alerting voters to this “pop-up” election and boosting name recognition for this highly qualified candidate. To volunteer for this postcard campaign, just sign up HERE.

Other postcard campaigns at Activate America are also described on the sign-up page. But keep in mind that Grassroots North Shore will be working on a postcard campaign that will launch in January, 4-5 weeks ahead of the February 20, 2024, primary. We'll be soliciting your help too!

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fake electors cop to plot!

So I procrastinated finishing the newsletter this week until — serendipitously — some really fantastic news broke. I'm talking about the civil lawsuit two Democratic presidential electors have filed against the 10 Republican imposters: Penebaker et al v. Hitt et al. The infamous 10 have now admitted that Biden won! The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a rather anodine version of the story. Much better is the one in the Washington Post (gifted to bypass the paywall): Wisconsin Trump electors settle lawsuit, agree Biden won in 2020.

You can read the whole settlement agreement and attendant documents, if you like (it looks like it's 184 pages!). The key points in the Washington Post story show that several of the 10 imposters were uneasy with what they were being asked to do but went ahead anyway. For example, "one of the Wisconsin Republicans appeared to refer to the attempt to install Trump for a second term as a 'possible steal.' That Republican expressed skepticism about the plan but told others he was going along with it in part because he feared he would face blowback from Trump supporters if he didn’t." Significantly, the lawsuit against lawyers Jim Trupis and Kenneth Chesebro will go to trial next fall. And as part of the settlement, the fake electors "promised to assist the Department of Justice with its investigation and help the Biden electors as they continue their lawsuit against Troupis and Chesebro."

The criminal trial alleging that Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election results still seems to be on track for a March 4 starting date. For one thing, Newsweek reports that "potential jurors in former President Donald Trump's election interference trial may have been sent a pre-screening document." A Rolling Stone article describes "a notice of evidence to be introduced in the trial." In it special prosecutor Jack Smith foreshadows a plan "to present the court with a far-reaching historical review of Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, some of it dating back years before Trump even assumed the presidency." The piece mentions a Trump tweet from 2012 in which he stated as "fact" that voting machines switched votes from Romney to Obama. Needless to say, he had no evidence supporting the allegation. There is more, of course. An ABCNews article provides extensive detail.

To buoy your spirits about the looming catastrophe many predict (see the current issue of The Atlantic: If Trump Wins), Greg Sargent has an antidote: Enough with all the fatalism about a Trump dictatorship.

Let's Take Action

The best response to anxiety and those doom-y feelings is to get busy with some useful work: circulate nominations papers. Local candidates who want to compete in the April 2 election have begun circulating nomination papers. Under the Elections 2024 tab on our Grassroots North Shore website, you will find a link to a page with the names of the candidates who have sent their papers to me for distribution. If you go to Nomination Papers for Spring 2024, you can download and circulate each candidate's form. To be a circulator, you do not need to be a resident of the district in which the candidate is running. To sign the form as a nominator, you do have to reside in the relevant district. To sign nomination forms for the judicial offices, you need to reside in Milwaukee County.

Special request: Anne O'Connor, who is running to be a Milwaukee County Supervisor for District 1, has asked that people in her district return forms to Cheryl Maranto (6563 N Crestwood Dr, Glendale), by December 10. So you need to get cracking! Supervisory District 1 includes all of Bayside, Fox Point, River Hills, Whitefish Bay, and Shorewood but only PART of Glendale.

Donate items to the Democrats "Christmas is for Kids Holiday Toy Drive." They're collecting new, unwrapped toys for kids of all ages plus donations of new towels and washcloths, children's socks, child and adult sized t-shirts, and travel sized toiletries. This drive is for the benefit of St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care Bucyrus Campus and Mr. Bob's Under the Bridge Homeless Outreach. Donations can be dropped off at the Milwaukee Democratic Party Office (2999 South Delaware Ave, Milwaukee) Monday through Wednesday from 10:00am - 2:pm and on Thursday from 9:00am - 12:00pm. Items can also be dropped off at the Coordinated Campaign Office (8405 W Lisbon Ave, Milwaukee) Tuesday through Friday from 12:00pm through 8:00pm and Saturday from 9:00am - 5:00pm.

Join the Milwaukee Voter Project at DMVs in Milwaukee. Everyone! Join us to register voters inside three Milwaukee DMV's, 2701 South Chase, Teutonia & Florist and 73rd & Mill. During the months leading up to the Supreme Court Election we produced 3168 paper registrations, thousands of online registrations and made 50,000 voter contacts. We work year around and will give you the simple training and supervision you need. Contact us at our email: [email protected] or phone (414) 218-5944. See more information on our website.

How about writing some more postcards? Activate America is sponsoring a postcard drive to make sure that Democratic-leaning voters in Arizona know that the Biden administration capped the cost of insulin for diabetics. According to the email Activate America sent me, "83% of Americans support this policy, but only 29% know it happened." So why Arizona? "We’re especially excited to reach voters in Arizona, because Native Americans and Mexican Americans have some of the highest rates of diabetes, and they are well-represented in this targeted outreach." Sign up for lists.

In case you were wondering about the effectiveness of sending postcards, Postcards to Swing States shared recent research on that. "The latest data show that writing postcards is the most effective way to make a difference from your own home!" The research is in the 5th edition of Get Out the Vote, published in 2023. The analysis of various methods "suggests that handwritten postcards generate an average of one vote per seventy-one postcards, which is about three times as effective as conventional nonpartisan GOTV mail." See their website for more analysis of their postcard programs, including their 2020 Wisconsin primary postcard experiment.

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rights and wrongs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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www.grassrootsnorthshore.com

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the case of the rigged maps

I'm writing and sending this newsletter a few days early because on Tuesday, November 21, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on Rebecca Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, the case concerning the election maps currently in effect in Wisconsin. (Access the complete brief from the Fair Maps Coalition.) Although the case the justices have agreed to hear does not look directly at the partisan gerrymandering we have been living under since the 2011 maps were signed into law by then Governor Walker, they have ordered the parties to address four questions. The Fair Maps Coalition summarizes the four key questions:

  1. Do the existing state legislative maps violate the contiguity requirements contained in Article IV, Sections 4 and 5 of the Wisconsin Constitution?

  2. Did the adoption of the existing state legislative maps violate the Wisconsin Constitution's separation of powers?

  3. If the court rules that Wisconsin's existing state legislative maps violate the Wisconsin Constitution for either or both of these reasons and the legislature and the governor then fail to adopt state legislative maps that comply with the Wisconsin Constitution, what standards should guide the court in imposing a remedy for the constitutional violation(s)?

  4. What fact-finding, if any, will be required if the court determines there is a constitutional violation based on the contiguity clauses and/or the separation-of-powers doctrine and the court is required to craft a remedy for the violation? If fact-finding will be required, what process should be used to resolve questions of fact?

You'll find the Supreme Court order accepting the part of the case pertaining to the four questions above here.

The issue of contiguity is apparently tangled up with the constitutional requirement that electoral maps also respect municipal boundaries. An interesting article in Propublica — Wisconsin’s Legislative Maps Are Bizarre, but Are They Illegal? — discusses the dilemma, though in a way that seems to leave malign Republican intent out of the explanation!: "In the interior of her district, the 91st, sits a free-floating chunk that actually belongs to the turf of the adjacent lawmaker, Republican Karen Hurd. That may seem odd, but what is often left unsaid in discussions of Wisconsin maps is that the islands are not random parcels created by mapmakers to advantage Republicans at the behest of a Republican legislature. Rather, the irregular blobs largely follow municipal maps that reflect the history of Wisconsin cities and villages adding to their tax base by annexing bits of land in nearby areas. The practice often leaves towns with irregular maps and legislative districts with holes and satellites."

University of Colorado Law Professor Doug Spencer, an expert in redistricting, knows of no other redistricting cases that hinge on what "contiguity" means. He defines contiguity as a district that is drawn without the need for the map maker to lift up her pencil. "According to the legal complaint, the majority of Wisconsin’s Assembly districts are noncontiguous — each consisting of between two and 40 disconnected pieces of territory. Two-thirds of the state’s Senate districts are noncontiguous — each with between two and 34 disconnected pieces."

Several of the leaders of Grassroots North Shore are planning to go to Madison to watch the proceedings beginning at 8:45am and running for 80 plus minutes. But you don't have to get in your car before dawn to watch. WisconsinEye will be broadcasting the hearing live.

Watching is not the only thing you can do. Go to a noon rally to show your support for fair maps. Milwaukee will be the scene of a rally at noon at the Milwaukee State Office Building (819 N. Sixth St, Milwaukee). Other rallies at noon will take place at the Brown County Court House in Green Bay (100 S. Jefferson St, Green Bay) and at the Eau Claire County Courthouse (721 Oxford Ave, Eau Claire).

The Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) brief submitted by the Wisconsin Justice Institute and the Fair Maps Coalition (of which Grassroots North Shore is a member) lays out the problem: "Polling data shows that by overwhelming margins citizens who vote for both parties want a nonpartisan redistricting process."

Seventy-two percent of voters say they prefer redistricting of legislative and congressional districts to be done by a nonpartisan commission, while 18 percent prefer redistricting be done by the legislature and governor. Majorities in each partisan group favor a nonpartisan commission for redistricting…. Less than 30 percent of each group preferred redistricting be done by the legislature and governor (Marquette Law School Poll, January 24, 2019).

Wisconsin's future direction hangs on the outcome of this case. This handy graphic to the right displays what large majorities of the people of Wisconsin want but cannot get because legislators in seats gerrymandered to make them safe for the incumbents do not have to pay attention to all their constituents. And that's how a party that garners more the 50% of the total statewide vote for the Assembly ends up with only 35 of the 99 seats.


The Events listings are thinning out and will probably remain a bit sparse until after New Year's Day. But there's still plenty of good events for you to review. Below this paragraph you will find video recordings of events you may have missed and links to a few podcasts you might find interesting.

On Sunday, November 12, Grassroots North Shore presented Can Democrats Win the Messaging War in 2024? with featured speakers David Pepper (author of Saving Democracy), Melissa Agard (WI Senate Minority Leader), and Mandela Barnes (President of Power to the Polls). In case you missed it, you can watch the recording.

The Nov. 13 public issues forum "Fact or Fiction: Dispelling Abortion Care Myths" — presented by the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County — lived up to its billing. The presenters provided clarity on abortion-related topics that are subject to disinformation, such as anti-abortion billboards falsely depicting stages of fetal development. View the recording here.

Recordings are now available of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin's three programs on Preparing for Elections in 2024. Issues Briefing Session 1: Redistricting in Wisconsin; Issues Briefing Session 2: Citizen Action at the State Level — Proposed WI Constitutional Amendments, Part 1 and Part 2; and Issues Briefing 3: Overcoming Barriers to Voting & Election Administration Challenges.

And here are some podcasts you might like.

  • A daily weekday dose of somewhat rehabilitated, former-ish Republicans, The Bulwark Podcast is hosted by Charlie Sykes, a Wisconsin native and formerly a prominent "conservative" talk show host on WTMJ in Milwaukee. But he has seen the error of his ways and is now a frequent talking head on MSNBC. He was and is a never-Trumper. Episodes tend to take about 3/4 of an hour.

  • A weekly update on some aspect of the legal quicksand closing in on Dirty Don, Prosecuting Donald Trump is co-hosted by Andrew Weissmann and Mary McCord, both veteran federal prosecutors. Each episode runs a few minutes over 30 minutes.

  • Strict Scrutiny, hosted by "three badass constitutional law professors" — Leah Litman, Kate Shaw, and Melissa Murray — the weekly episodes dissect (mostly) US Supreme Court cases. They did do a show titled "Trump's Legal Defense is Dumb AF," though. The episodes tend to be a little cheeky but convey important legal information those of us who are not lawyers can grasp. The episodes tend to run an hour plus 8 - 12 minutes.

  • For a truly, entertainingly quirky show, try Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Those of you who remember the cable show of the same name will recognize the inimitable style Olbermann brings to the news. And if you happen to be a sports fan, as he has always been, you'll find a segment of each episode full of delightful, arcane sports information — often about baseball. The episodes vary in length, with some about 40 minutes and others over an hour. He posts new content four days a week.
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