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As there is every week, there's plenty of national, state, and local news to cover. This week, though, I'd like to focus on some of the people who are the heart of Grassroots North Shore. Every year people we cherish — people who have volunteered and worked with Grassroots North Shore for many years — pass away. We wish to honor their passing. By the same token, we are blessed to have activists who achieve recognitions from other organizations. And we wish to honor their good work as well.

Jack Keyes

Jack Keyes, a long time member of Grassroots North Shore, died on July 3, 2021. Jack attended Grassroots North Shore programs for many years with his wife, Audrey, a member of our steering committee. He was a lawyer who volunteered as an election observer, provided counsel to the Indian Community School and supported the American Indian Movement after they occupied the Milwaukee Coast Guard Station in 1971. Jack was a life long progressive. He will be deeply missed. Correspondence regarding Jack Keyes can be sent to Jack’s son, Bruce Keyes at 3534 N. Hackett Ave., Shorewood, WI 53211. His obituary suggests that contributions in his memory may be sent to Congregation Emanu-el B'ne Jeshurun, Urban Ecology Center, World Wildlife Fund, or Black Leaders Organizing for Communities.

Athan Theoharis

Athan Theoharis, a renowned American historian and professor at Marquette University, also died on July 3, 2021, in Syracuse, NY, where he was living with one of his children. The author of many books, he was best known for chronicling FBI's abuses of Americans' civil liberties. As his obituary in the New York Times put it, he was "a pre-eminent historian of the F.B.I. whose indefatigable research into the agency’s formerly unobtainable files produced revelations about decades of civil liberties abuses under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover...." He volunteered with Grassroots North Shore for more than a decade: canvassing for candidate and then President Barack Obama and joining us for many events and other actions over the years. He moved to Syracuse four years ago and has been sorely missed. Please send condolences to his daughter Jeannie Theoharis, [email protected].

Kathy Kean

Grassroots North Shore also acknowledges an outstanding award from the Milwaukee County Historical Society. The Frederick I Olson Preservation Award recognizes the efforts of individuals and organizations to preserve and protect historic architecture in Milwaukee. This year the award was presented to Kathy Kean, one of our own great activists and volunteers. So congratulations to Kathy.

My Co-Chair Norma Gilson and I thought this fall would be a pretty quiet affair. Boy were we wrong! Here's what we've been up to since mid-summer: POSTCARDS, LIT DROPS, and PHONE CALLS! Grassroots North Shore volunteers have been furiously writing postcards

  • to reach people in WI and PA who voted for the first time in November 2020;
  • to promote Fair Maps and a nonpartisan redistricting process;
  • to help foil a far right-wing attempt to recall four members of the Mequon-Thiensville School Board;
  • to participate in a research project about effective messaging run by the group Activate America.

In addition we've done a lit drop in Glendale and Brown Deer promoting Fair Maps. And we 're participating in a phone bank organized by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin to contact people who have been purged from the Wisconsin voter rolls to help them re-register.

We'd love to have your help with funding these activities. Our chief need is for postage. As you know, the US Postal Service is now charging more and doing less than ever for its customers. To keep pace with the upcoming elections in 2022, we will need thousands of stamps so that we can communicate with supporters, making people aware of election and candidate information for all four elections: February 15, April 5, August 9, and November 8. Please give as generously as you can.

Finally, I'd like to alert you to an upcoming Grassroots North Shore event featuring Dr. Ian Gilson. Last December, Dr. Gilson helped us understand what was known and unknown about the coronavirus pandemic. That was before vaccines were available. Now the question on the minds of many people includes so-called booster shots: what kind, when, and who is eligible, among other questions. We'll be holding this event on Zoom on October 25 at 7pm. You can sign up here.

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Today is a BIG Day

ut the Obamacare bill, a BFD.

It's an even bigger day in the Wisconsin legislature as the GOP passes what's known as a Joint Resolution stating its criteria for the electoral maps it must draw this year in response to the new census data. Among some other items many of which are kind of a smoke screen is a stipulation that would "help secure electoral advantages for [Republicans] over the next decade," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (September 28, 2021). The article — Republicans seek to limit changes to election maps as legal fight over redistricting heats up — goes on to show that Republicans used one set of principles when they last drew the electoral maps in 2011, and have completely reversed themselves for this current round of redistricting:

Where the lines go can give one party an edge. Republicans plan to pass Assembly Joint Resolution 80, which would declare that as few changes as possible should be made to the maps.

That would help lock in the advantages Republicans enjoy from the maps drawn a decade ago, when they controlled all of state government.

At that time, Republicans took the opposite approach. They moved nearly 2.4 million voters into new Assembly districts even though they needed to move only 320,000 to ensure the districts had balanced populations.

Similarly, in drawing state Senate maps, they moved five times more voters than required to equalize the populations.

By moving so many voters, they were able to reshape them in ways that guaranteed them large majorities in both houses.

With their new resolution, Republicans are saying that shouldn’t happen again. They now say they want to make as few changes to the districts as possible, which would largely keep in place the current, pro-Republican lines.

Why is this maneuver a problem? After all, such resolutions are not binding. But they send clear signals. In this case, "[t]he resolution could be used in court proceedings to try to persuade judges to take a largely hands-off approach when drawing new lines." In particular, the Joint Resolution could be used in the case they have already filed with the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. They have also appealed to the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to try to get the Democrats' redistricting lawsuit currently in federal court dismissed on the grounds that redistricting issues should be the province of the state's courts. SCOTUS has not yet decided whether to adjudicate the appeal.

It is also a big day for voter registration. In fact, it is National Voter Registration Day. Common Cause in Wisconsin has a great page about what you can do TODAY to spread the word.

And in good — or at least entertaining — news, Drumpf Loses Case to Enforce Omarosa Manigault Newman’s N.D.A. and there's a new *rump tell-all book from one of his press secretaries — Stephanie Grisham, who famously held no press conferences during her tenure — called I’ll Take Your Questions Now. In it, she apparently accuses the former president of "abusing his staff, placating dictators like Vladimir Putin of Russia, and making sexual comments about a young White House aide." The New York Times article about the forthcoming book provides us with news we will hardly find shocking: "Stephanie Grisham’s Book Details Drumpf’s ‘Terrifying’ Temper."

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the more we know!

The event we held on Sunday, September 19, was a great success. Those who missed it can view the recorded webinar on their own time. The subject, what stops Wisconsin from enacting popular laws regulating guns in the state, is vast but there are lots of things people can do to help turn the situation around. You can find a fantastic list of resources and specific guidance about actions to take in our Gun Sense Resources page.

Over the last few days, there have been a number of really interesting and important developments helping to undermine what Hilary Clinton termed "the vast right-wing conspiracy," many of them revealed in in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's book Peril." As the Washington Post explained, last week's hack of Epik reveals identities of those who fund and operate far right websites like 8chan, Gab, and Parler, a network of sites devoted to extremist QAnon conspiracy theories. "The files include years of website purchase records, internal company emails and customer account credentials revealing who administers some of the biggest far-right websites. The data includes client names, home addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and passwords left in plain, readable text. The hack even exposed the personal records from Anonymize, a privacy service Epik offered to customers wanting to conceal their identity." The hack revealed more than 150 gigabytes of data, so much that "those studying the material say they will need months and perhaps years to dig through all of it."

That was last week. This week the New York Times reveals that the "Drumpf Campaign Knew Lawyers’ Voting Machine Claims Were Baseless, Memo Shows." On November 19, 2020, Sydney Powell and other lawyers held an infamous press conference at which they made outlandish allegations against Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, allegations that if true were designed to overturn the election results. A memo filed in the defamation lawsuit against the campaign and its lawyers, however, reveals not only that the allegations were false, but also that the campaign knew they were false. "The documents also suggest that the campaign sat on its findings about Dominion even as Sidney Powell and other lawyers attacked the company in the conservative media and ultimately filed four federal lawsuits accusing it of a vast conspiracy to rig the election against Mr. Drumpf." Here's what the internal memo found:

  • "That Dominion did not use voting technology from the software company, Smartmatic, in the 2020 election.
  • "That Dominion had no direct ties to Venezuela or to Mr. Soros.
  • "And that there was no evidence that Dominion’s leadership had connections to left-wing 'antifa' activists, as Ms. Powell and others had claimed."

The campaign memo, including emails debunking the lies about Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, were filed in support of a defamation lawsuit in a Colorado court last week and released to the public yesterday.

Meanwhile, as the *rump campaign was covering up its own conclusion that the Powell accusations were lies, the Woodward and Costa book shows that the former president was engaged in a concerted effort to overturn the election results by illegally manipulating the Electoral College votes as they were being counted in a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021. John Eastman, one of the many lawyers engaged in the effort, wrote a 6-point memo outlining the steps that then Vice President Pence should take during the congressional process for certifying the election. CNN also obtained the memo and published the whole memo online.

Mark Sumner at Daily Kos sums up the scheme: "Eastman’s plan for Pence was simple: in his role as the president of the Senate, Pence was to call the roll of states normally until he got to Arizona, at which point Pence was to claim 'that he has multiple slates of electors, and so is going to defer decision on that until finishing the other States.' Pence was then to repeat this claim for the seven other states that Drumpf lost but claimed to have won.

"When the count was complete, this would mean that only 454 of the electors had been recognized. Pence was then to say that, of this 454, Drumpf had won 232. So, big smack of the gavel, Drumpf wins."

And we can't forget the ongoing investigation of the Drumpf Organization in New York. Apparently, Allen Weisselberg, Chief Financial Officer, is expecting to face additional indictments and needs more time to prepare his defense because his lawyers need to review millions of pages of documents. Of course many of those same documents were in Weisselberg's possession.

Some of the items on this week's events list include work in advance of the 2022 elections. The first of several trainings for prospective poll workers is tonight at 5:30. REGISTER and hop on it! (Another session is being held on Saturday, September 25.) And we have a Weekend of Action coming up on September 25-26. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is holding both canvassing and phone banking shifts to educate voters about the important elections coming up. A different group is calling Wisconsin voters to recruit poll workers. You can SIGN-UP HERE.

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The week that was

Quick reminder: Grassroots North Shore is hosting a program — Let's Talk Gun Safety Solutions — this Sunday afternoon from 3pm-4pm on Zoom. Our co-sponsors include Moms Demand Action, the Brady Group, WAVE, Wisconsin Jewish Democrats, and the League of Progressive Seniors. Our speakers include State Assembly Representative Deb Andraca; State Senator LaTonya Johnson; Anneliese Dickson (The Brady Group); Liz Miller (Moms Demand Action); and Dr. Barbara Moser. These experts and legislators will update us on why Wisconsin has been unable to pass legislation to address gun violence in our communities and what we can do about the impasse. Join us for a lively discussion! Register here.

The 9/11 commemorations were moving on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy. And, in something of a surprise, our 43rd president, George W. Bush, gave what Dana Milbank called a "magnificent speech Saturday contrasting the warm courage of national unity after the 9/11 attacks with the domestic terrorism Donald Drumpf has unleashed." The most quoted passage — and one those of us who generally opposed most of the Bush policies genuinely applauded — was aimed squarely at the former resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and his followers: "There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing duty to confront them."

Now we are staring at what may be a reprise of the January 6 insurrection on Saturday, September 18, as a MAGA crowd gathers for a "Justice For J6" rally. Fencing around the Capitol building is returning and the news media are focused like a laser on the events, perhaps surreptitiously hoping for more great b-roll to air on their cable shows.

Maybe we have not yet had our fill of disaster news: the Afghanistan withdrawal and its problems occupied a couple of days (New Yorker, Aug. 19, 2021); a new story about the Kabul drone strike that supposedly killed ISIS terrorists but may actually have been a colossal error has gotten a little play (New York Times, Sep 10, 2021); and the COVID news continues to be awful (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Meanwhile Hurricane Ida devastated Louisiana and caused unexpected deaths in flash flooding in the northeast. Wild fires rage out west and a new hurricane/tropical storm is drowning the Texas gulf coast and heading to Louisiana to add to the misery there. Maybe it's just me, but there are so many of these horrors — not to mention the US Supreme Court's failure to prevent a draconian anti-abortion law and an equally abominable voter suppression law — that they could undermine our nation's capacity to cope.

Not everything is gloomy, though. Here are some brightish spots. The outcome of the California recall election looks promising — we'll know for sure in a day or two or three. And Senate Democrats have introduced a revised voting rights bill. Our local events list is finally starting to show that there are plenty of actions to take in the next two weeks. The only antidote I know for the kind of malaise we're experiencing is to renew our collective resolve to build our "more perfect union."

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Don't let women become victims

This week, the newsletter is focusing on protecting women's health and our autonomy. As you undoubtedly know, in its landmark decision Roe v Wade, decided in 1973, the US Supreme Court held that a woman has a constitutional right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, based on her right to privacy. In 1992, the court narrowed the right, ruling that after the fetus became viable, at about 24 weeks, women could no longer freely choose to terminate pregnancies. However, in that ruling, the court declared that states could not impose an "undue burden" on the right to an abortion, up to the point of fetal viability. In the intervening years, all sorts of laws to restrict the right to bodily autonomy have passed in various states and have been upheld by the courts.

Now the Supreme Court has allowed a draconian Texas law that bans all abortions after about 6 weeks (dating from the first day of a woman's last menstrual cycle) and that empowers any random citizen to sue ANYONE who helps someone obtain an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The Texas statute introduces the novel provision that only private citizens can enforce the law. That provision became SCOTUS's rationale for declining to enjoin the law and preventing it from taking effect, as it was clearly designed to do.

The result allowed the Texas law to take effect on September 1, 2021. Similar laws are set to be replicated in a number of other states. But even if they do not enact new anti-abortion laws, laws prohibiting abortion are already on the books or even in the state constitutions in almost half the states. These laws will go into effect if Roe is overturned. The Guttmacher Institue has the relevant data:

  • 22 states have laws that could be used to restrict the legal status of abortion.
    • 8 states retain their unenforced, pre-Roe abortion bans.
    • 11 states have post-Roe laws to ban all or nearly all abortions that would be triggered if Roe were overturned.
    • 9 states have unconstitutional post-Roe restrictions that are currently blocked by courts but could be brought back into effect with a court order in Roe’s absence.
    • 7 states have laws that express the intent to restrict the right to legal abortion to the maximum extent permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court in the absence of Roe.
    • 4 states have passed a constitutional amendment explicitly declaring that their constitution does not secure or protect the right to abortion or allow use of public funds for abortion.

Wisconsin is one of the eight states that have retained an unenforced, pre-Roe abortion ban. Just look at the company we keep: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. The Wisconsin law provides an exception to protect the life of the patient (but not necessarily her health), as do some of the other unenforced laws. In Wisconsin, there would also be no exception for the victims of rape or incest.

In short, Wisconsin will become one of the states where abortion is no longer legal if Roe v Wade is overturned. Moreover, if our GOP-dominated legislature passes a vigilante law like the one SCOTUS just allowed in Texas, the only way such a statue can be prevented from going into effect here is to ensure that a Democratic governor will veto it. So — to protect women's rights, we have to make sure we accomplish two key goals:

  1. Re-elect Tony Evers next year. Grassroots North Shore will be conducting vigorous efforts on Governor Evers behalf (as well as for a number of progressive candidates for state and national offices) during 2022. Make a plan to join us by signing up to be a volunteer now.

  2. Redouble our efforts to defeat the gerrymandered electoral maps that have governed our state and federal elections for the past decade. With fairer maps in place, we will have a fighting chance to break the stranglehold the Republican Party has on our legislative elections. Join Grassroots North Shore and the Coalition for Fair Maps for a statewide program exploring how to USE OUR PEOPLE-DRIVEN POWER. Register here.

Here are two more key ACTIONS to take this week!

  • National Voter Registration Day is September 28. Get some training on assisting eligible citizens of Wisconsin to register or re-register to vote. The Wisconsin Voting Rights Coalition is providing this nonpartisan interactive workshop that will prepare volunteers to help with nonpartisan, voter registration in their community. Experienced organizers will explain best practices and specific Wisconsin voting laws. Sign up for some training here. And then sign up to phone people who have recently been purged from the voter rolls in Wisconsin. Grassroots North Shore will be holding its own orientation sessions to review how to use the Virtual Phone Bank and the script. So sign up on our website and choose an orientation and script overview session on the RSVP page.

  • Fight back against government waste and corruption, as "conservatives" were always demanding. Republicans are about to spend $680,000 to "review" the Wisconsin 2020 election. Tell you legislators you do not want your tax-payer dollars spent to re-enforce the fictitious idea that our elections are rife with fraud — that's the goal of such a "review," especially one headed by Michael Gabelman, a staunch, looney *rump supporter. Contact your WI legislators this week.

Finally, a reminder that we are hosting a wonderful, alas virtual, program on preventing gun violence. Speakers include State Assembly Representative Deb Andraca; State Senator LaTonya Johnson; Anneliese Dickson (The Brady Group); Liz Miller (Moms Demand Action); and Dr. Barbara Moser. They will discuss the obstacles to our state enacting sensible gun safety laws and how to push back. Please join us for this online forum. After you register, you will receive email with the Zoom information you will need.

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Useful things to do right now.

Labor Day looms and the end of summer is nigh. The events list continues to be sparse even though my inbox is filled to overflowing with candidates soliciting donations. So summer may be slow, but campaigning is forever fast and furious! Grassroots North Shore continues its steady pace of events, though. And here's one you really should not miss.

GRASSROOTS NORTH SHORE EVENT: Our program on SEPTEMBER 19th is now virtual, but still features great speakers. As many of you already know, we have changed our September 19th event to an online one to respond to recent concerns about the rise in Covid cases. From 3:00-4:45 we will gather to hear from legislators and experts and activists to explore why Wisconsin has not been able to pass sensible gun legislation — despite widespread support for it. One featured speaker will be Liz Miller of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a National Grassroots Organization working to decrease gun violence. Find out how to advocate for safer and stronger gun laws that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Learn about safe gun storage through their BeSmart program. Our follow-up email after the event will tell you how to make contact with the North Shore Milwaukee branch, which works with groups from the City of Milwaukee and other surrounding areas to increase awareness of the public health crisis of gun violence. To sign up for this event, RSVP HERE.

We're at an inflection point with GERRYMANDERING in Wisconsin as the legislature begins the process of drawing new electoral maps that will govern electoral districts for the state legislature and our Congressional Districts for the next decade. We heavily criticized the Republicans who drew the last set of maps in secret. Now's our chance to bring a little sunshine to bear on the process. We urge you to participate in the redistricting process by contributing to the Web portal the legislature has set up for just such a purpose. You can draw a map for your "community of interest," you can draw a full Wisconsin Legislative or Congressional District plan, or you can draw one or more districts in a given region of Wisconsin. The portal opens on September 1 and will accept submissions until mid-October. And it offers three FREE web-based technologies you can use to make your map.

There may not be an imminent election in Wisconsin, but there's a critical one looming in California. ACTIVATE AMERICA needs phone bankers to help Governor Newsom defeat a recall election. Here's their pitch:

The election is 15 days away, and 16% of ballots have already been returned. Of those, 54% are Democratic voters, 24% are Republican voters, and 22% are Independent voters. That’s a great sign, but all the experts warn that we’re likely to see a Red Tide by Election Day, with Republicans conditioned by Drumpf to distrust voting by mail walking their ballots into voter centers. Complacency is our enemy.

"We’re asking volunteers from around the country to devote a few hours to saving California from falling into the hands of a Drumpf Republican. Sign up for a phone banking shift (or two or three) and help get our voters to mail in their ballots NOW, so that we have fewer targets we need to contact as we get closer to election day. Don’t have time? Consider a donation to help support this effort.

In an interesting confluence of redistricting and the pandemic issues, there's a pointer to a research project at ELECTION LAW BLOG that explains why "NY Lost One Seat in Congress Due to Covid-Related Deaths".

That’s the conclusion of this new article by Bernie Grofman and Jonathan Cervas. From the abstract:

"It is well understood that even small differences in population can have a disproportionate impact on representation in the U.S. House of Representatives after a decennial census because of the peculiarities of rounding rules that require integer allocations. While the COVID-19 pandemic can be held responsible for accelerating the trend toward the increased use of mail-in balloting, and it affected the ability of the census to collect in-person information, here we call attention to an unanticipated effect of the pandemic on the electoral process that, as far as we are aware, has never previously been identified. By rerunning the apportionment numbers for all states under the assumption that deaths from COVID-19 prior to the start of the Census had not occurred, we show that New York’s congressional delegation would not have lost a seat. New York was the only state whose House seat allocation was affected by disproportionate COVID-19 deaths."

Finally, a Daily Kos diary picks up a disturbing article about ANTI-VAXXERS who SHUT DOWN MOBILE VACCINE CLINIC IN GEORGIA:

These clowns have now transitioned to vaccination obstruction. Not just mere anti-vax advocacy, not just their own personal ranting festival on Facebook. Obstruction.... This behavior from anti-vaxxers now threatens to cost lives from Covid. Such mobile clinics reach disadvantaged communities that may not be able to easily access a life saving vaccine, and thanks to 'social media', organizing to harass, intimidate, and threaten has never been easier.

For those who are celebrating the Jewish New Year next week: L'Shona Tovah.

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the redistricting battle begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The lessons of the past are still with us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Join the fight against the *rump coup!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Securing our democracy and putting on masks again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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