let the games commence

You know an election cycle is in full swing when the first Grassroots North Shore endorsements appear. We have a whole page dedicated to endorsing the best candidates for statewide office in the North Shore of Milwaukee County and in Ozaukee County. And sure enough, we've made our first three endorsements:

  • For the 8th State Senate District, Neal Plotkin
  • For the 23rd Assembly District, Deb Andraca
  • For the 24th Assembly District, Emily Siegrist

The endorsements page includes our reasoning and links to candidates' web and Facebook pages when they are available.

On our Candidate Statements page, you'll find statements of key candidate issues and links to their websites or Facebook pages for the Democrats running for the nomination for the 6th Congressional District, currently represented by Republican Glenn Grothman. Grassroots North Shore typically does not endorse during a primary unless one candidate is clearly the only progressive in the race (see a recent race for sheriff in Milwaukee County!). Instead, we summarize their key issues, culled from their websites, and provide links to their campaigns so that it is easy for you to find information about who is running and what they emphasize about their candidacies. You'll find statements about the 6th Congressional candidates on our Candidate Statements page. And when they're available, we will also publish candidate statements for the 11th Assembly District.

We are all painfully aware of the gravity of the November 3, 2020 general election. However, the election in Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District is of maximum significance to the residents of that district and, quite possibly, to all Americans. August 11, 2020 is Primary Election Day. The voters of the 6th CD will choose a candidate to face the ignominious Glenn Grothman. The same Glenn

  • who opposed MLK Day;
  • who announced that women can buy birth control at the grocery store;
  • who claims that because women do not care about money as much as men do, they earn less;
  • who believes that only white left-wingers care about Kwanzaa;
  • who voted to the right of 428 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives in the 116th US Congress;
  • and who votes with Trump in 94% of the votes.

The good news is that three talented candidates are campaigning to send Glenn to his last Pancake Breakfast as Congressman of the 6th CD! So let's make sure every registered voter who leans toward the left gets out to vote on August 11.

Which brings me to a reminder to request an absentee ballot. Do it NOW to avoid the rush ahead of the August 11 primary. Remember, for the April 7 election, municipal clerks were overwhelmed with requests that came in close to the election. And the postal service also seems to have buckled under the rush in some places. But in case you were wondering, requesting an absentee ballot doesn't mean you can't vote in person, although it would be safer for you and kinder to poll workers if you did. Still, if conditions warrant, you can still vote in person. In many of our North Shore and Ozaukee communities, a municipal publication will include a paper form for making these requests. And the Wisconsin Election Commission intends to send a request form to every registered voter in the state, though probably not until after the primary election. So there will be plenty of reminders in addition to this one. If you need assistance with any part of the process, whether online (see our step-by-step guide) or on paper, you can contact your municipal clerk. You'll find contact information for them on our our Partisan Primary and General Elections page.

I also want to highlight the great work we have been doing while we're still all working from home. We just launched our voter purge project, to contact Democrats on the state's voter purge list to let them know and to help ensure that they are properly registered and can vote in August and November. Some 571 names are on the list in the North Shore, and volunteers are using a Virtual Phone Bank set up by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to reach out to all of them. We will also be participating in the DPW's Weekend of Action coming up on June 27 and 28 (please see the links to sign up for these phone banks in the Events list). And starting next week, we will be making phone calls to the 2160 women in Ozaukee County to whom we recently sent postcards, following up to urge them to vote — absentee if possible — in the vital primary for the 6th Congressional District. If you would like to participate in that activity, please sign up.

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Justice, Justice shall you pursue

Today is George Floyd's funeral in Houston. Former Vice President Biden will be present. But most of us can't participate in the actions around the country and here in the Milwaukee area to support the calls for racial justice, economic justice, and health justice. Grassroots North Shore is sending out a press release that unequivocally supports the peaceful protests taking place throughout our area:

Grassroots North Shore
Statement of support and solidarity

We at Grassroots North Shore want to reaffirm our role as an ally to all people and groups working for a more fair and equitable society. While we may live in suburban, majority white, communities, we are keenly aware of the needs that exist beyond our individual municipalities. We are appalled by the injustices heaped upon people of color. We further support all peaceful protest. We support the need to bring the issue to the immediate attention of our nation as a whole. We believe the struggle should be of concern to all people, not just people of color in that it defines who we are and want to be as a nation. We abhor the use of violence against protesters, the use of military and military tactics, and the attempts to paint protestors as lawless opportunists. We will continue to speak out for those striving for equality and against those who seek to limit that movement’s progress.

If you would like to support local activists, please visit the Milwaukee Freedom Fund and consider making a donation to help with the legal expenses of those who have been arrested in addition to other support for people who are asserting their rights to protest for justice. To learn more about the Milwaukee Freedom fund, please visit an extensive explanation, complete with information for people who have been ticketed for protesting. You might also want to see the resource page the ACLU has created for those involved in protests.

Remember, too, to email your interview questions for Deb Andraca (running to unseat Jim Ott in the 23rd Assembly District), Emily Siegrist (running to defeat Dan Knodl in the 24th Assembly District), and Neal Plotkin (running to unseat Alberta Darling in the 8th State Senate District). Edgar Lin, a criminal defense lawyer and a member of the Governor & Lt. Governor’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Advisory Counsel, will be conducting the interviews this summer for airing at our Virtual Annual Picnic on September 13th, as we kick off our fall election efforts. Although we do not endorse candidates in primary contests, we will create informational pages for contested primary seats in the 11th Assembly District and the 6th Congressional District.

A key element of our election strategies for this year will be combatting voter suppression and undertaking efforts to encourage voters to request absentee ballots for both the August 11th primary and the November 3rd election. This is a great time to spread the word to your friends and family about absentee voting. In Wisconsin, voters do not need to provide a reason for their desire to vote absentee. For citizens who are already registered, the request for an absentee ballot can be completed online at myvote.wi.gov. For help with uploading a copy of the photoID that is required, we have an illustrated web page with step-by-step instructions. People who are not currently registered can also use the myvote.wi.gov if their drivers license includes their current address. Otherwise, people should phone or email their municipal clerk for assistance. They can find contact information on the myvote.wi.gov website or on the website for their municipality.

Most of the events on the list are still virtual but one or two may not be. Please check before you set out to attend. And as always (as they used to say at the beginning of every episode of Hill Street Blues), Stay safe out there.

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Keep November in our sights

Like the virus itself, our crises seem to metathesize. It's easy to feel despair, or even just discouraged. So it's important to keep your eyes on the prize. Hold on. Militarizing the police was a disastrous policy begun in the 1990s, ended by the Obama administration, and resurrected by the bully-in-chief. His administration considers the people protesting injustice to be enemy combatants who occupy a "battle space" the heavily armed and armored police must "dominate." Keep your eyes on the prize. Hold on. For sustenance coming from an unusual place, try reading George Will's op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday. The headline reads Trump must be removed. So must his congressional enablers. And keep your eyes on the prize. HOLD ON.

As you have probably heard, the WI Supreme Court has now agreed to hear the case for purging voters immediately — and that now means before the November election. When this case was presented to the court in February, Dan Kelly recused himself because he was on the April 7 ballot. As a result, the six justices deadlocked on the case, 3-3, with Brian Hagedorn voting with the two liberal justices to let the appeals court ruling stand. Now Kelly is back on the court until July 1. Of course he tipped the balance so that the vote to hear the case became 4-3. Luckily, he will be replaced by Jill Karofsky when the court hears oral arguments. Meanwhile, our effort to contact voters on the purge list continues. Our purpose is not just to find voters who might need to re-register or to fix whatever problem landed them on the list in the first place. Our purpose includes making sure voters can vote safely. We're urging them to request absentee ballots. We're urging them to check their registration. And we're demonstrating that we care about their vote and their health.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has recently taken up this project in a helpful way. Instead of researchers having to look up each name individually, the data team in Madison is using its technologies to find all the strong and leaning Democrats on the list and compiling them into one or more virtual phone banks. They're also able to remove the 80,000+ people from the list who have already communicated about their voter registrations and therefore do not need to be contacted again for the purpose of making sure they're registered. So the list has been reduced to about 150,000 names. Still, a large number of those who remain are undoubtedly in Milwaukee. And that's where you come in. We will need all the help we can get to contact every one of them. If you have not done so already, please sign up to phone.

And in the Wisconsin tradition of moving forward, here's a "save the date" announcement of our Annual Picnic. Grassroots North Shore’s annual picnic will return, but not this year. Instead we're going virtual! So is it really a picnic? Well, it's the next best thing. Mark your calendars now so that you can tune in on September 13th at 4:30pm to Meet Our Candidates.

We're offering a virtual event to introduce to you Wisconsin’s future legislators, running against entrenched Republicans who ignore the needs and desires of their constituents. Featured candidates include: Deb Andraca, who is running against Jim Ott in Assembly District 23; Emily Siegrist, running against Dan Knodl in Assembly District 24; Neal Plotkin, running against State Senator Alberta Darling in State Senate District 8; and others. Each candidate will give a short presentation followed by a 10-minute Q&A with moderator Edgar Lin.

You are encouraged to submit questions for the candidates to Shirley Horowitz. Whenever possible, preferences for assigning questions will be given to people who live in that candidate’s district. (NOTE: Please keep questions relatively short.)

The list of events has more virtual ones than ever. For any events that are not virtual, please check with the organizers if possible. I know everyone is trying to keep up with all the novel arrangements put in place to deal with the pandemic but an automatic listing on a calendar may be overlooked in some cases. And in any case, be safe. If you do go to in-person events, practice good social distancing, wear a mask and avoid touching your face. Meet with others outside if possible. And make sure you wash or sanitize your hands often, especially as soon as you return home.

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Forward!

Good news, everyone! The Democratic Party of Wisconsin's Organizing Director, Anna Surrey, has agreed to support our current effort to contact people on the original voter purge list. That's the list of 200,000+ names that the Wisconsin Election Commission had identified as having moved, having changed a name, or simply having neglected to vote for several elections in a row. The purge list was apparently compiled in fall 2019, but was not intended to be executed until after the November 3, 2020, election. However, the GOP challenged that decision in court and the case has gone to the Wisconsin Supreme Court where a decision is pending. Meanwhile, we see this as a terrific opportunity to reach out to voters, make sure they have re-registered (or at least check their registration status), and urge them to request an absentee ballot for the August 11 primary AND the November 3 general election.

For the seven North Shore communities, the research part of the voter purge protection project is well under way. We don't need any more people to look the names up in VAN to find out whether they have been identified by likely party and to find a phone number for them. We may need a few more people who are willing to call and leave a message or talk to the person on the list. We can then update information in VAN, making the lists we use to send postcards and to call voters for the two upcoming elections much better. So please, if you can reach out to people in our communities, sign up on our website.

The Democratic Party of Milwaukee County will be launching its version of this project in the next week or so. And it needs plenty of volunteers. There are more than 52,000 names on the list after those in the North Shore communities have been taken care of. I've already sent a list of names and contact info to the party to make VAN accounts for about 28 people who have volunteered with the party. But with so many people to find, the party is going to need a lot more help. So please sign up for the DPMC effort also.

I don't know about you, but my husband and I are still much safer at home. So we have plenty of time to watch edifying fims on TV. Slay the Dragon is one of them. The film addresses a number of issues with gerrymandering (the practice of designing electoral districts to make them as uncompetitive as possible). Arguably, this practice has essentially led to minority rule in this state for an entire decade. Even when Democrats get a substantial majority of the votes in elections for the State Assembly, as they did in 2018, Republicans retain 2/3 of the seats. This whole week the film is available to us for free. At the end of the week, you can talk with a number of Wisconsin luminaries about how we can end gerrymandering in Wisconsin. But to get a viewing time, you have to sign up. You will also receive a reminder about the panel discussion on Saturday, May 30, at 4pm.

The events list is a little fuller than it has been in the last month or so. And there are still several events that have apparently been suspended and not resumed even though the Safer at Home order was lifted two weeks ago. There may also be a few events that are taking place in person. If you decide to go to such an event, make sure you can do so safely. The CDC recommends that we all wear masks in public, that we maintain at least 6 feet of clear space between us and other people, and that we practice good hand hygiene whenever we leave the house to run errands or to meet with others.

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Chaos reigns

Our state Supreme Court has done it again. Now, apparently, it's every village and hamlet, county, town, and city for itself. We can't even call it a patchwork of COVID-19 orders or rules or whatever. It's simply chaos, leaving people like me totally confused. And upset. What is permitted and what is not; what is open and what is not; what is least risky and what is high risk? These are the kinds of questions people might have. And it's unclear where you can go to get answers.

The Wisconsin State Journal has made an attempt to answer the safety question. The article covers activities such as going to a dentist to get your teeth cleaned, or having your hair cut, styled, or colored. But of course no one article can offer sound advice about risks in every situation.

The Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Service's page for Administrative Orders does not appear to have issued its own Safer at Home order. What it has instead is a "pledge" you can take together with information about what staying at home means, why people should do it, and what activities are permitted (though this element seems to be unchanged since before the WI Supreme Court nullified the Governor's Safer at Home order).

On the other hand, the municipalities surrounding the City of Milwaukee — including the seven communities in Milwaukee County that are covered by Grassroots North Shore — did issue a stay-at-home order to take the place of the statewide one that was nullified. It expires at midnight on Thursday, May 21. It's not clear what will happen after that but the order does state

The prior Wisconsin Safer at Home Order worked to flatten the curve of infections of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin saw meaningful gains from this proactive step. Milwaukee County data demonstrated that there was an initial peak of COVID-19 cases in early April, but COVID-19 cases have been trending upward in recent weeks and have surpassed the previous peak. With increasing testing capacity, we anticipate increased detection of new COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks that will correspond with identifying significant community transmission. This is a crucial time for Milwaukee County to maintain the momentum in containing COVID-19 in our community and halt further dissemination of the disease....

Future decisions will be based on the COVID-19 data for the county and upcoming orders will necessarily remain fluid and will be based on the above factors as well as emerging data and research.


You can keep up with the latest at the North Shore Health Department. Look for its Reopening Public Spaces page.

Ozaukee County shares a Public Health Department with Washington County. Here's the information about current orders there:

If you choose to reopen your business, you are not in violation of Safer at Home or orders issued by the health department. Under the direction of the Ozaukee County Board Chair, the Ozaukee County Administrator, and the Washington County Executive, the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department will issue no countywide orders limiting the public or businesses at this time in response to the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in our counties. The health department will address any localized COVID-19 outbreaks on an individual basis and continue to provide follow up for positive cases and conduct contact tracing. We urge you to refer to our Blueprint FAQ for recommendations on how to safely reopen our counties.


It's unclear whether cities, villages, and towns in the county can issue their own, separate orders.

The League of Progressive Seniors also has a petition so that signatories can pledge to keep everyone safe. The petition preamble states "The League of Progressive Seniors believes NO ONE is expendable. Not older adults. Not workers. No one. We're all in this together." It aims to send a message to our elected officials: "Open when it's safe. Protect the public health. Stop playing politics with our future!"

While we work to make our state safer for all its residents, we don't want to forget that there's a super-important election coming up in November. The presumptive nominee for the Democrats, former Vice President Joe Biden, is holding a virtual rally for Milwaukee on Wednesday, May 20, at 3:30pm. Let's give Joe a healthy dose of our love and devotion by showing up, online, and cheering him on. Let's not let the political pundits — especially the Debbie Downers — conclude that there's an enthusiasm gap for VP Biden. Get all the details and attend the online rally.

Let's also plan ahead just a bit. During Fair Maps Week (May 24-30), we urge you to watch Slay the Dragon, a film highlighting gerrymandering travesties. At the end of the week, when everyone has watched the film, you can talk with a number of Wisconsin luminaries about how we can end gerrymandering in Wisconsin. Sign up for a viewing and also for a reminder about the panel discussion on Saturday, May 30, at 4pm.

And in Grassroots North Shore news, we have two major projects under way right now. The first is our postcards to Ozaukee voters initiative. Volunteers are writing the cards now and sending them out next week. We could use some additional support in the form of funds for stamps. So be generous and donate what you can. We want to reach as many potential voters in Ozaukee as we can, partly to persuade them to vote blue and partly to urge them to vote absentee and be safe. Kick in a little.

Our second initiative is an effort to reach voters who may be purged from the voter rolls. We've acquired the list of names on that purge roster who were registered to vote in our North Shore communities but who may have moved or who may be on the list in error. Using the Democrat's VAN database, we will be looking up the likely party of each name and noting the phone numbers of those who are strong or leaning Democrats. Then we will be trying to reach each one by phone to find out their registration status and to help them navigate myvote.wi.gov to re-register if necessary. If you can help us, please sign up to research, to phone, or to do both. We hope to be ready to begin shortly after Memorial Day and to have finished the project before we turn our attention to the August 11 primary, the Wisconsin State Fair (assuming it takes place), and the Democratic National Convention currently scheduled to begin on August 17.

The events list is beginning to include more virtual ones but it also has some that have been suspended or canceled. Given the confusion about the status of stay at home orders in our state, people should probably contact the venue or sponsoring organization if at all possible to get up-to-date information. What I have included here is what the Southeast Wisconsin and Milwaukee Dems calendars show. Given how much more open for business Ozaukee County already is, it might also be worth consulting the Ozaukee County Democrats' calendar.

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newsletter 05/12/20

In case you missed it (ICYMI):

The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments today concerning the legitimacy of Congressional subpoenas for *president Trump's business and tax records from Deutsche Bank, Capital One, and his accounting firm, Mazars USA, as well as the legitimacy of a grand jury subpoena to Mazars USA issued by the District Attorney of New York County. Because the Court is conducting its business by teleconference, the public could listen in. So I did. The oral arguments were riveting, but to this layperson ultimately confusing. Although a decision will not be issued until June or July, no doubt pundits at SCOTUSblog.com and elsewhere will tell us how to think about these cases between now and then,.

And on Capitol Hill, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, and *president Trump’s coronavirus testing czar, Adm. Brett Giroir, testified before a Senate committee. Dr. Fauci was apparently quite outspoken and warned about pursuing too much economic activity too soon. Here in Wisconsin, the special election in the 7th Congressional District was carried out as planned. According to Craig Gilbert in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there has been "a dramatic shift from in-person voting to voting by mail." Grassroots North Shore people made hundreds of phone calls to urge voters to request absentee ballots and to support Tricia Zunker, the Democratic candidate for the seat. Several of those phone banking yesterday reported that the system had run out of names for them to call! A great sign that Dems were reaching every voter in the sprawling, 26 county district. It's of course heavily gerrymandered so winning it for Dems was always going to be an up-hill battle. But we're proud of our efforts, win or lose.

Here in Wisconsin, there is some hopeful news: new cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin drop below 200 for the first time in May and the State meets five of six goals required for the next phase of reopening. The latest Marquette poll shows that survey respondents continue to trust Governor Evers more than the Republican-led Legislature on when to begin reopening and relaxing restrictions related to the outbreak, but support for restrictions among Republicans has diminished significantly. And former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead the current incumbent by 3%, unchanged since the last survey.

And in the best news yet, older Americans are getting pretty sour on our Tangerine Man in Chief. Daily Kos reports that his "favorability among voters 75 and older has suffered a significant double-digit tumble in the last month, from 56% approval in March to just 34% in April. Civiqs polling has similarly shown an erosion among voters 65 and older, particularly white independents." With more than 80,000 American deaths from coronavirus illness, and an economy in a coma, we have more important things to be concerned about than tRump's fortunes. But it doesn't hurt that those who are most vulnerable to the virus are beginning to question our so-called leadership at the Federal level.

The events list is still slim but there are several virtual events that may be worth your while. Check them out.

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Will You Help Tricia Zunker Win?

Does working to elect Tricia Zunker in the 7th Congressional District special election a week from today seems somehow less important than other things in your life these days? Well, think again. Not only is it important in its own right to recapture David Obey's former seat in Congress. It's important to help elect former VP Joe Biden — or at least prevent the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in D.C. from being reinstalled by an act of Congress.

So, supposing there is an Electoral College tie as a result of the November 3 election. How does the election get resolved? The House of Representatives, that's how. Each state's delegation gets one vote. As currently constituted, Wisconsin's delegation — four Republicans and three Democrats — would undoubtedly cast its vote for he-who-shall-not-be-named. But it's the NEWLY ELECTED HOUSE that will vote on January 6, the new members having been sworn in on January 3. And that's why the winner of the 7th CD election is so important. If Zunker wins, the state delegation will be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans (barring an upset victory in one of the other congressional districts on November 3). You can read all about it on the 270 to Win website.

The moral of the story, as you know: elections matter. Still, in order to win gerrymandered districts like the 7th Congressional District, we absolutely must turn out every voter we can. The last day for voters to request absentee ballots is Thursday, May 7. After that date, we will be doing what's known as "ballot chasing." Not only will we be calling every Democrat in the district. We will be calling everyone who requested an absentee ballot to make sure they received it and to urge that they return it as soon as possible.

You can choose whether to use the ThruTalk Dialer — that's a system that makes the calls through your computer and displays a 608 area code to the recipient — or to use the Open VPB software — that's a system that displays the name and phone number of the person you are to call and then you dial the number using your own phone. Either system works, but the Dialer is faster and more efficient. Both systems record responses on the screen so no one needs to enter any data manually. For right now, you will be calling voters who have not yet requested absentee ballots. I hope you will choose one and devote at least a couple hours to this effort. The simplest way to get started is to visit a page of instructions and links the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has put together. If for some reason, that page does not work for you, here are links to the dialer, the script the dialer uses, to a video of training to use the dialer (the password is 1K!AV859), to the most recent OpenVPB, and a brief guide for using the OpenVPB. Please sign up to call but before you do, learn a little about Tricia Zunker and her campaign.

There is at least raw data suggesting that voting in person on April 7 resulted in an increase in covid-19 cases with this caveat: we don't yet have enough data to make the causal connection yet. But the correlational connection is certainly visible in the graph a Daily Kos blogger has produced. So it's a good idea to continue to use absentee ballots if at all possible. Grassroots North Shore has published an extensive "how-to" guide for using myvote.wi.gov to request absentee ballots for the August 11 and November 3 elections. At the end of the text you will also find links to two videos that also walk the viewer through the process. And the Politics/Elections/Campaigns committee of GRNS is working to ensure that the seven communities in Milwaukee County's North Shore provide a request form to every registered voter. Shorewood seems likely to provide a printed copy and a detailed voter guide in the quarterly publication that it sends to all residents. Both Bayside and Whitefish Bay mailed request forms to all registered voters for the April election and River Hills seems to have done so by email. We hope these villages will do so again. Glendale is going to discuss the effort at its May 11 City Council meeting. So that leaves Brown Deer and Fox Point as the odd villages out. We'll be working on them!

Our strategy for reaching voters in Ozaukee County will rely on targeted postcards. Starting in a couple of weeks, we will be organizing volunteers to write postcards to likely Democratic voters in the county, urging them to request absentee ballots and to support Democratic candidates down the whole ballot. Assembly districts, a state senate district, and a congressional representative will be elected in November. We need to elect strong progressives to the state legislature as well as to the US Congress. If you want to help us reach voters in Ozaukee County, contact me at [email protected], or Norma Gilson to let us know. And whether you can volunteer to write postcards or not, we need your financial support for this project.

Meanwhile, the news on the coronavirus front is grim. An unreleased CDC report with data modeled by FEMA and obtained by the New York Times anticipates an explosion of covid-19 cases over the next few weeks and on into the summer. Although there is some reason for skepticism about the numbers (see the piece by Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo), the document predicts that the count of new cases will rapidly balloon to 200,000 per day and the death toll will reach 3,000 per day by June 1 — a mere three weeks from now. Naturally, the White House claimed the model was faulty. Regardless, Wisconsin cases continue to climb in spite of the "Safer at Home" measures we have taken. In other words, we need to redouble our efforts at social distancing and block our ears to the shouted (and armed!) demands that economic activity be resumed immediately. The Wisconsin plan — The Badger Bounce Back — is available on the Department of Health Services website. So far, the state is meeting only one of the seven criteria for renewing full economic activity. Two others do not yet have enough data to evaluate their status.

Again this week, the events list is slim and many entries announce cancellations or suspensions. A few look as if they might be happening despite the "Safer at Home" order but I can't be sure. They're still on the calendars on which the list is based but it would be prudent to call ahead before attending. The one event with no contact information is the meeting of the DPMC Issues Committee. The chair of that committee has been ill and so may not have updated the listing. I doubt that the meeting will take place since the Amalgamated Transit Union Building where it is scheduled to take place is of course closed.

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what we did and what we'll do

Before we get to the specific things you can do to help turn Wisconsin towards a better future, let me just acknowledge the wonderful work Grassroots North Shore volunteers have accomplished since we started this new year and then, in March, ended up "Safer at Home." Before we all retreated to safety from the coronavirus, we held a series of postcard parties at the office and sent more than1000 postcards to potential voters asking them to vote for Jill Karofsky and to request an absentee ballot by filling out the request form at myvote.wi.gov. Judge Karofsky handily won that election, thanks to her strength among those who voted absentee! I like to think our postcard efforts helped with the victory. (She has an op-ed in the New York Times criticizing the decisions from the Wisconsin and US Supreme Courts that in effect ruled that the state had to hold an in-person election on April 7, regardless of the risk to public health. It's definitely worth a read.) And then we followed up by making more than 3200 phone calls into the North Shore and Milwaukee.

Over the past few weeks, we organized a different process for writing postcards so people could participate from home. We created postcard kits for volunteers — cards, instructions, sample scripts, stickers for the front of the cards, names and addresses, and of course stamps. The kits were then delivered to the porches and garages of the volunteers, who wrote and then mailed at least 30 postcards each. In this way we mailed 1200 cards to potential voters in the 7th Congressional District, again recommending that they request an absentee ballot for the special election being held on May 12 and that they vote for Tricia Zunker in that election. (Tricia has been endorsed both by Emily's list and by Senator Elizabeth Warren!) I'm hoping that our efforts pay off in this election too. But win or lose, we can all be proud of the 40 volunteers plus the all the organizers who put the kits together and drove them to volunteers' houses. And proud too of all the people who made thousands of phone calls in the lead-up to the April election.

It's not too early to begin our work for the next two elections in Wisconsin — our fourth and fifth this year, if you can believe it. In case you didn't know, we have a partisan primary on August 11 and of course a general election on November 3. No one knows right now what the Covid-19 pandemic will look like in our communities on either of those dates. So we are continuing to advocate for voting absentee. That means requesting that a ballot be sent to you at an address you specify. The ballot comes with a "certification envelope" for returning it to your municipal clerk. The certification envelope must be signed by the voter, who must also specify her/his voting address, and by a witness who must also record her/his address (but does not need to be a Wisconsin voter or someone who resides in the same district as the person whose ballot certification he/she is witnessing).

Part of our plans include conversations with municipal authorities about how they will be conducting the August and November elections. We'd like Brown Deer, Bayside, Glendale, River Hills, Shorewood and Whitefish Bay to send every voter a request form for an absentee ballot. Glendale's mayor, Bryan Kennedy, wants the requests for mail-in ballots to get to the clerks by July so that there is no last minute rush. A tsunami of requests late in the electoral process was responsible in part for some of the problems experienced throughout the state in the April election and we want to avoid repeating those problems in the next two. Bayside and Whitefish Bay both did this for the April election, with incredible turnout results. The City of Milwaukee has already agreed to this vote-by-mail strategy. So we are hoping that the seven suburban communities in Milwaukee County that Grassroots North Shore includes will follow suit. For our communities in Ozaukee County (which has lately seen significant increases in support for Democratic candidates), we plan to target voters likely to support candidates like Deb Andraca in the 24th Assembly District, Emily Siegrist in the 23rd Assembly District, and Neal Plotkin, in the 8th Senate District.

Once we know what all the municipalities plan, we will begin our postcard campaign with a message tailored to each community. At that point, we are likely to call for additional volunteers. In the meantime, our Politics/Elections/Campaign Committee will devise a method for helping people who have difficulty with a key step — providing a copy of their photoID (not a selfie!) with their request for an absentee ballot. The second obstacle to voting by mail comes with the ballot itself. Each certification envelope has to be witnessed. But that is hard for people who live alone, are quarantined, or are just maintaining sound social distancing policies. So we will need to come up with solutions to help those people too.

For right now (and here comes the request), we would like to support Tricia Zunker by making phone calls into the 7th CD, first requesting that people arrange to vote by mail (that's what we'll be doing this weekend) and then urging people to send their absentee ballots in as soon as possible. We'll be doing the second message over the traditional Get Out the Vote period: May 9, 10, 11, and 12. I hope you'll give us a little of your time. All the information you need to make calls is in the next couple of paragraphs, but as yet I don't have the links available for you to sign up as a volunteer for this action. So please just send me an email — to [email protected] — letting me know when you want to make calls.

There are two methods of participating: through a Dialer that uses your computer to make the calls automatically for you and through the Virtual Phone Bank that provides you with a name and a number to call but with this system you have to use your own phone and dial the number yourself.

The Dialer will be available from 9AM to 8PM. Here is the guide to the Dialer, which includes the link to log in to the dialer to begin making calls. Here is a recording of a Zoom training we did on April 22 that walks through the CD7 Race and how to use the dialer. Access password: 1K!AV859.

The Open VPB is available from 9am to 9pm. You access it here. If you have not used the Open VPB before, you will need to create an Action ID account. The process is quite easy. Just follow the onscreen directions. You can also access a guide to using the Open VPB and a recorded Zoom training the DPW produced. Access password: a9^.^p!6.

Tricia Zunker is more than worthy of our organization's support. She is a Ho-Chunk Supreme Court Justice, a veteran, school board president, a professor, a lawyer, a mom, and the Democratic nominee for the critical WI-07 special election on May 12. The 7th Congressional District is a swing district that Rep. Obey previously held for 42 years. If elected, she would be Wisconsin's first Native American representative, and only the third Native American congresswoman in the nation's history. Flipping this seat is the path to a new presidency by turning Wisconsin blue, and whoever wins it now could play a critical role in determining the presidency. The Wisconsin Jewish Dems is holding a virtual fundraiser for her on Thursday, April 30 (sign up through the events list below). We hope we can count on you to work the phones for her.

And just in case you are wondering how at least one foreign country views what's going on in the US, I want to direct you to an opinion piece published in the Irish Times. Unfortunately, the essay is behind a paywall: on the original site you can read only the first couple of paragraphs. So, in a move that at least stretches the boundaries of copyright law, someone named "Ferri Tales" published the full piece on his own blog. Here's a link to that content. And here's a bit of the piece, just enough to give you some of the flavor:

However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful....

It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – willfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.

The events list that follows has a few virtual meetings and some in-person meetings that might actually be canceled or postponed but which are still listed on the calendar for some reason. It would be wise to check if you can before you make plans to attend.

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Why voting by mail matters

Did in-person voting on April 7 result in a spike of COVID-19 infections or didn't it? We don't yet know. Why? Because we have not seen the kind of widespread testing that would tell us. AND we have not (yet) see a spike in the kind of serious symptoms that would require hospitalization. But we still have some lessons to learn from the experience of holding the April 7 election. First, have a look at an essay by Charles Stewart, III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, and Co-Director of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project. His piece, Important lessons from the Wisconsin primary, points out that "turnout was surprisingly high" for a nonpartisan election and that "the subtle-but-real leftward shift in Wisconsin’s electoral landscape continues." He then outlines four specific lessons:

  1. It is possible to rapidly expand vote-by-mail even when you’re not prepared for it....
  2. In-person voting is still necessary.
  3. A surprisingly good primary [and good nonpartisan election] does not guarantee a surprisingly good general election.
  4. Wisconsin’s electoral landscape is shifting.

A key explanation for the leftward shift of our electorate may well have been our unwavering focus on encouraging our voters to request and return absentee ballots by mail. An analysis by the New York Times, Vote by Mail in Wisconsin Helped a Liberal Candidate, Upending Old Theories, shows that Jill Karofsky "performed 10 percentage points better than her conservative opponent in votes cast by mail than she did in votes cast at Election Day polling places, a gap that powered a surprising 11-point victory...." Reid Epstein, the author of the article, writes "the gap suggests that Democrats were more organized and proactive in their vote-by-mail efforts in an election conducted under extraordinary circumstances, with voters forced to weigh the health risks of voting in person against the sometimes unreliable option of requesting and mailing in their ballots."

The key lesson we need to draw from the analysis: we have to redouble our efforts for the August 11 and November 3 elections. Our hard, though sometimes hurried, efforts to mail thousands of postcards to potential voters in our North Shore communities paid huge dividends. We are also mailing 1200 postcards to potential voters in Wisconsin's 7th CD, where Tricia Zunker is waging an uphill battle for the congressional seat vacated by Sean Duffy months ago. The election is on May 12, so we won't know whether our efforts and other similar ones by other groups will have made a difference until weeks from now. But we are already gearing up to begin another round of postcards to North Shore voters. And that's where you come in.

We've had a gratifyingly large group of volunteers writing postcards both before the April 7 election and for the special election in the 7th CD. We've been able to provide each volunteer with a kit complete with postcards, names and addresses, sample scripts, instructions for what to do, and, of course, stamps. The kits are assembled and delivered to each volunteer's door: no one needs to take any risks to get the job done. But we need funds, especially for stamps, to reach a large enough number of voters. So, along with every candidate for office and every progressive organization known to humankind, we are holding our virtual hands out. Please give what you can — 100 postcard stamps cost $35 and we need thousands to make a difference!

Yesterday, Craig Gilbert published a piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that tracks Wisconsin's voting trends. What he sees is "signs of cracks" in what were once the deepest red WOW counties. Washington, Ozaukee, and Waukesha counties are still voting for GOP candidates, of course, but Democrats are making significant inroads, especially in Ozaukee. Gilbert notes that "The drop in the conservative margin in all three counties was bigger than it was statewide." We don't have to win races in these counties to make a big difference in the outcome of elections for statewide offices. Now if we can make some inroads in the votes for legislative districts that have been so gerrymandered, Wisconsin might be able to return to its sensible, and progressive, roots.

I'm returning to providing a weekly list of events. Several are happening virtually while some are simply suspended or canceled. I hope you'll find the information useful.

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Oh what a beautiful morning!

We won! BIG!! And what with all the shenanigans surrounding this election — the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court both making last-minute rulings favoring the GOP positions — we got plenty of national press. I'll only point you to one, however. The Washington Post's story, published today, highlights not only the HUGE Jill Karofsky victory by more than 10%, but it also reviews the outstanding string of victories Democrats have worked to achieve since 2018. Go read it. It's sure to brighten even this sunny day.

You can review the full statewide results at the Journal Sentinel online.

Ok, with that out of the way, it's on to the next battle: the special election for a representative in the 7th Congressional District, to be held on May 12. And we have a plan for that. We've recruited at least 35 people to write postcards to people in that CD. At an average of 30 postcards each, that means almost 1100 cards. With stamps! And we need your (financial) help with this project. In short, we're doing what we rarely do: asking for donations to fund a specific project. Please be as generous as you can during these anxious times.

The next Wisconsin election is August 11 — 4 months from now. But it's not too early to request an absentee ballot for that election and for the November 3 election. To do it online, go to myvote.wi.gov. If you have already requested absentee ballots for the remaining two elections, you don't need to do this. But if you voted in-person absentee (early voting) for the April 7 election or if you requested an absentee ballot for the April 7 election but not for the other two elections this year, you need to get this matter taken care of sooner rather than later. If we make the requests now, municipal clerks will be better able to plan and we are less likely to see the kinds of bottlenecks that resulted in many voters failing to receive their absentee ballots in time.

The results of the election are in but the cost in public health has to be tracked over the next week or so. I hope to have something to share with you by next week's newsletter.

On the national electoral front, former President Obama endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden today. Senator Sanders has also endorsed former VP Biden. The primary is effectively over. What remains is the contest for ideas. Deep in a Wired story from last week comes this acknowledgement of Senator Sanders's effect on the substance of the campaign: "It’s largely thanks to him that Biden will no doubt run on the most progressive platform in decades." The left wing of the party will continue to work for its principles and ideas. Senator Sanders has promised as much. And former VP Biden seems open to at least some of the ideas Sanders supporters have championed.

If you want to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is holding informational sessions to help you. Sign up for one.

Finally, there's the ongoing struggle in Wisconsin to combat the coronavirus. Governor Evers has proposed a long and robust list of actions to help fight the infection and to support the people of Wisconsin as we continue to observe the "Safer at Home" order he issued on March 25. Among them are these proposals:

  • Eliminate the one week waiting period for receiving unemployment benefits and provide state-funded back pay for any lost benefits resulting from the delay in suspending the waiting period;
  • Prohibit disconnection of utilities from a rental unit during a public health emergency;
  • Protect against evictions and foreclosures during a public health emergency;
  • Expand the Emergency Assistance program during the public health emergency for families in need who are facing homelessness;
  • Provide funding for local governments and health departments to ensure they are able to respond to this crisis and maintain public services;
  • Increase funding for the Wisconsin Works Program to assist individuals who want to work but are unemployed due to the public health emergency (individuals may be eligible for benefits under Wisconsin Works even if they aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits);
  • Increase funding for Wisconsin food banks to ensure Wisconsinites' basic needs are met;
  • Allow waiver of penalties or interest on late tax payments;
  • Expand access, support, and services for child care workers and centers;
  • Grow the funds available for WEDC’s programs to provide economic relief to small businesses;
  • Allow out-of-state and recently lapsed licensed health professionals in good standing the ability to practice during the public health emergency;
  • Provide an additional $20 million in broadband expansion grants to increase internet access for the health, agriculture, and education sectors; Increase funding for Medicaid providers to support the healthcare system’s response to the public health emergency; and
  • Require that telehealth services are covered by insurance as in-person services normally would.

To put pressure on a recalcitrant legislature, please call and lobby your assembly representative and your state senator. If you don't know who they are or you don't have their contact information handy, you can look them up!

Although the list of events is sparse, I've chosen to begin including them as more virtual events begin to appear. Attending an online event may not be the same as going to one in person, but this is the world we inhabit now. And besides, what else do you have to do?

 

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