Friday, October 31, 2008

Voter challenge fiction - video

The latest installment of the ACLU of Wisconsin youth-created voting rights PSA on You Tube!

Check out this parody of "Pulp Fiction" on voter challenges. It has lots of facts at the end about student rights in voting and how to resist your eligibility being challenged at the polls. Pass the link along to friends!

"ACLU of Wisconsin Student Voter Rights and Voter Challenge Fiction"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Governor criticizes move to send cops to polls

Voting Rights
In an update on the decision by the WI Attorney General to dispatch law enforcement and DOJ agents to the polls on Election Day, the Governor is criticizing the move citing lack of authority. According to a Journal Sentinel article, there will be fifty Department of Justice agents and lawyers assigned to election-day duty in twelve regions: Milwaukee, Madison, Waukesha, Racine/Kenosha, Beloit/Janesville, Wausau/Stevens Point, Hudson, La Crosse, Appleton/Fox Valley, Eau Claire, Green Bay and Superior.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

DOJ agents to monitor polls for fraud, abortion about more than privacy

Voting Rights
State Attorney General Van Hollen plans to send Wisconsin Department of Justice agents out to fight election fraud. But will they also be cracking down on voter intimidation and misinformation?

Here is an interesting opinion piece from the Milwaukee Magazine about how the AG’s lawsuit against the Government Accountability Board is impacted by partisanship and, if successful, could ultimately gut the power of the board and the non-partisan judges that compose it.

Reproductive Rights
Here is a piece that echoes this week’s post about the fight over the South Dakota abortion ban referendum. This excellent blog that says that with the Supreme Court and future battles over abortion rights in our future, abortion is a fundamental right for women – because of more than privacy but because of equal protection both from discrimination as women but also having the government patronize us by “knowing what’s the right choice” for us to make.

Monday, October 27, 2008

ACLU of Wisconsin activists join the fight against South Dakota abortion ban

On a sunny October weekend, three ACLU volunteers drove from Madison, WI to join up with activists from across the country to work to encourage voters to say “no” to an abortion ban referendum in the state of South Dakota.

These committed volunteers knocked on 4,326 doors, called 5, 891 homes, made 2,652 contacts and identified 659 new supporters through their efforts. But the fight to stop the abortion ban isn’t over. If passed, the referendum would surely face legal challenges (including from the ACLU) and could be the next court case to end up in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. Now more then ever grassroots activism, legal challenges and future nominations to the Supreme Court are of central importance to this election.

One of the Madison volunteers, a student named Jeanette, had never been a part of a campaign action weekend. But she felt that it would be an opportunity to show her commitment to her strong belief in a woman’s right to her own medical choices.

"The volunteers there were amazing," said Jeanette, "and everyone was very dedicated, which was awesome to see. Even though phone calls began to get more and more difficult to bear, I knew that at the would pay off. The last day when we had the opportunity to have a visibility action in a very busy area of town, I knew there would be heads turning and fingers flying. I was ready for it all! I received many power fists and thumbs up from both women and men. I know that I will stay tuned in to find out about the end results for South Dakota and its families on November 4th."

Another Madison volunteer named Nancy had had a lot of experience working in the pro-choice movement and looked forward to making a measurable impact on women’s rights that weekend. She said that she was compelled to take action because she missed the opportunity to fight the narrowly defeated anti-abortion measure that was introduced in the same state two years ago.

"The first time I saw the abortion ban pop up in South Dakota, I thought it was a joke,” said Nancy. “I couldn’t imagine that the majority of a state would be so extreme as to enact a law banning abortion. But it is no joke. When I realized how close they are this year to passing the ban, I had to roadtrip down to Sioux Falls to help out. I’m so glad I did."

Nancy said that the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families (SDCHF) is an awesome, hard-working and passionate group of activists who are doing all they can to protect women’s right to medical privacy.

"But the ones who moved me the most during my weekend volunteering in Sioux Falls were the South Dakotans who answered their doors and quietly responded, 'yes, I believe it should be a woman’s choice. Yes, I’m voting against the ban. But no, I can’t take a yard sign… not in this neighborhood… I’m scared of what my neighbors would do.' Even if they were too scared to volunteer, too scared to show their opposition to this sweeping ban, I met a quiet but slim majority of people who affirmed to me how important the human connections are when we do this volunteer work. Not only did I get to help make a difference in educating voters about the dangers of this ban in their state, but I also could see gratitude and the relief of being reminded that they weren’t alone in the eyes of those who knew the ban went too far."

The ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project organized just a part of the effort, but more work can still be done to fight the ban with potentially far-reaching effects.

What more can we do to help? SDCHF has the technology to host remote phone banking. You can gather a group of friends to help get out the vote (GOTV) in November. In a state as spread out and rural as South Dakota, phone banking is one of the most important ways to get voters to polls. All each person needs is a computer with internet access and a cell phone. It’s that easy to make a difference in the protection of abortion access for all women across this country. For more information on how to help or to host a phone bank party, contact Stacy in the Madison office and she can get you the details or visit the SDCHF website to view the TV ads.

"There is truly strength in numbers," said Nancy, "and we had some awesome numbers and strength in Sioux Falls during ACLU’s volunteer weekend to fight the ban."

Check out today’s NPR story for more on what is at stake in South Dakota.

Read more from the ACLU project's director on the ACLU blog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

WI AG voter roll purge lawsuit thrown out!

Get the scoop on the news later today...

WisPolitics: Judge dismisses Van Hollen's suit against GAB

By Greg Bump

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi this morning dismissed a suit the attorney general filed to force broader voter registration checks.

Sumi said the Government Accountability Board's decision to require HAVA checks on new voter registrants beginning Aug. 6, instead of Jan. 1, 2006, as J.B. Van Hollen requested, was not a violation of either state or federal law. She said nothing in state or federal statutes requires a "data-match" as a condition to vote.

Sumi said a voter has the legal right to cast a ballot, and "it doesn't matter if the DOT misspelled his name or her middle initial is missing on a list."

See more in today's PM Update.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Debut!!! ACLU of Wisconsin Voting Rights PSAs

Hot off the You Tube press!

Check out these voting rights videos designed and produced by ACLU youth activists in Milwaukee. The film shorts feature students from the ACLU Student Alliance at UW Milwaukee and were shot by Sal Gomez, a producer/director whose work has been featured on Milwaukee Public Television.

To share these humorous parodies on the importance of registering to vote, follow the You Tube links and send them to friends!

ACLU of Wisconsin “Strong Elections” – Voter Registration

ACLU of Wisconsin “Timeless Classics” – Voter Rights

ACLU of Wisconsin "The Voting Zone" - in-person voting

The ACLU of Wisconsin jumps into the voter registration lawsuit debate

This week, the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation and the Voting Rights Project of the national ACLU signed a "friend of the court" brief (it’s a good read, I promise) in support of the Wisconsin State Government Accountability Board’s (GAB) motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen. The lawsuit, filed in the Dane County Circuit Court on September 10, would demand that all voters’ registration records be cross-checked with the Department of Transportation database dating back to January 1, 2006. The lawsuit has been a prominent controversy in the news and has garnered strong reactions from clean government advocacy groups and city clerks alike.

Why the lawsuit is bad for voters
Not only does the lawsuit cast doubt about the security of their registration into the minds of the most loyal, consistent voters in the state, but such efforts to “fight voter fraud” can easily turn into barriers for many eligible electors. Read this excellent Wisconsin State Journal article that reveals why such disfranchisement isn’t about people who are too dumb to follow the rules: flawed databases and voting rights barriers disproportionately impact the elderly, the poor and students.

For an excellent summary and timeline of the controversy, read this WSJ article to understand the big picture. The GAB responded to the AG’s lawsuit on the day the suit was filed. In their statement, the GAB pointed out that Van Hollen’s proposed requirements would boot out over a fifth of voters from eligibility due to typos and no-matches. Even four out of six of the GAB members’ names (retired judges) would be no-matches.

Some pre-lawsuit history
More of the backstory of this controversy lies in the previous request by the Republican Party of Wisconsin to the GAB to cross-check registrations and to require anyone with a no-match to bring proof of ID/residence to the polls on Election Day. Provisional ballots would be then given to those who did not have such ID and would only count if the voter went back to the clerk’s office with proof by the end of the next day. Provisional ballots have been controversial with voter roll purges in the previous two presidential elections. The GAB didn’t accept this proposal and instead decided on a more deliberative approach to keep cross-checking records but not booting out no-matches.

Absentee ballot request mailing “mistakes” and database errors
More related news involves last month’s absentee ballot request mailing "mistakes" by the McCain campaign and the state Republican Party. Several voters reported to the GAB that they were receiving ballot requests with the incorrect clerk’s return address. It’s funny that in recent articles (Cap Times and the State Journal) a spokesperson from the Republican Party was quoted denying that McCain campaign applications for absentee ballots sent to voters with the incorrect clerk’s return address were sent on purpose, Wisconsin state Republican Party Executive Director Mark Jefferson said “you do the best with the lists you have - no list is perfect.” Maybe he should have a talk with our Attorney General about databases and mistakes?

Voices of opposition
Many organizations and editorial boards are weighing in on why this situation is bad for voters, bad for government and shows a conflict of interest on the side of the Attorney General (who is also the chairman of the McCain campaign in Wisconsin). Here is just a sample of the flood of opposition to this ill-timed and potentially disfranchising lawsuit.

League of Women Voters - opposes "a rule that will disenfranchise people just because at some time in their lives, their data was entered somewhat differently into two different databases."

One Wisconsin Now - "Van Hollen is doing the bidding of the Republican Party to compromise the right to vote for hundreds of thousands of legal Wisconsin voters."

La Crosse Tribune - "We should not allow such blatant partisanship when it comes to the right to vote."

Green Bay Gazette - the state must fight voter fraud, but "if the lawsuit can stand on its merits, it can do so without Van Hollen. He needs to remove himself from this case."

Sheboygan Press - The lawsuit is "nothing more than partisan politics hiding behind the guise of vote integrity."

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - "The attorney general’s lawsuit is a solution in search of a problem."

Judge’s decision and timeline
A Dane County judge said at the initial hearing on September 24 that Van Hollen may remain on the court case, despite the fact that his office is involved in other cases on behalf of the GAB. Hearings for motions in the case will be made as late as October 23, bringing into question whether or not the GAB could possibly comply with a full database check by the November 4 election. Regardless, voters have valid worries about long lines and challenges to their right to vote.

What you can do
Don’t panic: Check your status in the statewide voter database. If your registration isn’t up to date, contact your city clerk’s office directly to fix the information. Same-day voter registration is still a part of Wisconsin elections, so if you think there may be a question of your records you can always be prepared to register when you vote.