stand up for local school boards
There's a lot going on nationally, but little of it is new. Hence last week's invocation of the doldrums — a nautical term referring to the latitudes near earth's equator where sailing ships often found themselves stuck in virtually windless waters. Right now, we seem to be adrift in windless political waters. The Build Back Better Bill, aka the reconciliation bill, is stuck in endless negotiations that seem to go nowhere. The January 6 Select Committee is asking the House to approve a criminal referral to the Justice Department to try to force Steve Bannon to relinquish documents and to testify about the events leading up to the insurrection. The pace of the request, announced last Thursday, seems glacial. Majority Leader Schumer announced that he will bring bills to address voting rights to the senate this week, but we know they can't pass because of the filibuster and the refusal of at least two Democrats to abolish or amend the filibuster rule. The whole promise of the Biden administration seems at least indefinitely stalled or perhaps even doomed.
Here in Wisconsin, plenty of issues are percolating, the most fraught of which is the attacks on school boards. The vitriol is pretty widespread in the state. For example, here's a recent article from WiscNews: Wisconsin school board association condemns threats made against local members. "Discussion of COVID-19 mitigation protocols, such as mask mandates in the Beaver Dam and Oshkosh school districts, prompted a number of threats against school board members in Wisconsin. Members of the public also threatened the Waukesha School Board after they voted unanimously to opt out of a federal program that offered free meals to all students, in order to reinstate a free and reduced meal plan for economically disadvantaged students."
Ruth Conniff, writing in the Wisconsin Examiner on September 24, summed up the problem: "The anger unleashed in the Drumpf era, fanned by Republicans at both the national and state level in order to motivate the former president’s voters, is now focused on a soft target — local school boards. Across Wisconsin, they have endured mini versions of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. In Kenosha, a crowd jammed a meeting and forced a vote to drastically cut school board members’ salaries, while making it mandatory that they attend meetings in person. In Eau Claire, a school board meeting was cancelled after some participants refused to wear masks. Recall efforts targeting school board members for voting to sustain mask requirements and online learning during the pandemic have proliferated across the state. And school board members in different districts across the state quit this fall saying they and their families were threatened by angry members of the public."
In our own bailiwick, there's a special election — an attempt to recall four incumbent members of the Mequon-Thiensville School Board — taking place on November 2, just two weeks from today. The website for the Coalition to Support MTSD argues that school boards are and must remain non-partisan. The group points out that those behind the effort to take over the school board ("Recall / Restore MTSB") "has maintained all along they are non-partisan. However, over the last week, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, the Republican Party of Ozaukee County, the gubernatorial campaigns of Rebecca Kleefisch and Jonathan Wichmann, and the Patriots of Ozaukee County have all stepped out of the dark to reveal they are backing the 4 Recall / Restore candidates. Their social media posts expose the lie that Recall / Restore MTSD is just a local group of concerned apolitical parents."
The site includes an image of a message from the Republican Party of Ozaukee County that urges people from EVERYWHERE to lend the recall effort aid: "YOU DO NOT NEED TO LIVE IN MEQUON-THIENSVILLE TO HELP IN OUR EFFORT! Everyone is welcome, even if you live in another municipality!!" The Coalition to Support MTSD even shows proof that outside funds are fueling the ideologically driven recall effort. And it urges people who care about the integrity of the current school board to Get Involved, Volunteer, Order a Yard Sign, Express Your Opinion, and Talk to Your Friends and Neighbors. So if you live in the Mequon-Thiensville school district, know people who do, or are just hot under the collar about this attempt at a hostile takeover of a school board, it's time to get busy!Read more
The waiting game
I think we're in the dreaded doldrums! Nothing good seems to be happening: the reconciliation bill — aka the Build Back Better bill — seems perpetually stuck; the non-Fox-like-media seems unable to quit the narrative that Dems are in disarray; and the "fraudit" parade here — with former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Gableman pretending to be in charge — is bumbling along, maybe with legitimate subpoenas, or maybe not. See "'Shut this fake investigation down': Attorney general slams GOP election review, calls subpoenas unlawful" in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online for the complete and confusing back-and-forth. And wait for something to happen, I guess.
We do have some tiny green shoots coming up though. This morning, Representative Adam Schiff (a member of both the House Intelligence Committee and the House Jan. 6 Select Committee) signaled that the Select Committee is being quite serious about the subpoenas the committee has already issued to Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, Kash Patel, and Dan Scovino. "Those who don't cooperate with our committee are going to be the subject of criminal contempt" (Talking Points Memo, 10/12/2021). And the Washington Post reports that "A record number of workers are quitting their jobs, empowered by new leverage" (Washington Post, Oct. 12, 2021). The rate at which people are voluntarily quitting jobs is quite high and reflects "the options workers have in the current economic market, with job openings outnumbering unemployed workers and people reevaluating what they want to do," Nick Bunker, economist at Indeed, is quoted as saying.
Here's another, possible, green shoot: according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, as quoted in Rick Hasen's Election Law Blog post, "Will Georgia voting laws reduce turnout? Maybe not, studies show." The AJC article asserts that "a body of research on voting rules such as those in Georgia doesn’t support the narrative that turnout will decline significantly because of the law." It does not, however, link to any of the research it purports to cite, at least not in the part Hasen quotes. So, more than a grain of salt needs to accompany consumption of this article. Plus, the voting changes are simply onerous and should definitely be contested.
In not so chipper news, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Wisconsin (JSOnline, Oct. 11, 2021), even though the overall US numbers are declining (Washington Post, Oct. 12, 2021). Dr. Ian Gilson will be updating Grassroots North Shore supporters — and anyone else you'd like to invite — to an update on the pandemic, on Monday, October 25, at 7pm on Zoom. The link will be sent to you when you register. Don't wait to sign up!
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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, 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, 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].
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."Read more
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.Read more
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."Read more
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:
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.
- 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.Read more
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:
"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".
"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:
For those who are celebrating the Jewish New Year next week: L'Shona Tovah.Read more
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.
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"?Read more