Monday, November 3, 2008

Government-ordered political ad removal should be impermissable, long lines for early voting, nothing freaky about rights at "Freakfest"

Free Speech
The ACLU of Wisconsin today objected to the weekend decision of a County Circuit Court Judge who ordered the Coalition for America’s Families to take radio advertisements critical of Assembly candidate Mark Radcliffe off the air. Those advertisements asserted that Mr. Radcliffe supported the “Healthy Wisconsin” universal health insurance proposal. Radcliffe denies that he “supported” the proposal.

“The judge’s action amounts to an impermissible prior restraint on political speech,” said Christopher Ahmuty, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Especially during an election period, it is essential that debate on policy issues is wide-open and robust, so voters can make an informed vote. Political speech, even controversial political speech, stands ‘on the highest rung of the First Amendment hierarchy,’ according to the Supreme Court. Judges should not be in the business of deciding which political speech is acceptable for public consumption and which is not. If Mr. Radcliffe believes he has been falsely accused, he has as much right as the Coalition to take to the airwaves to set the record straight. And he can sue for damages and let a jury decide if he has proven that the Coalition’s advertisement was false and made with reckless disregard for the truth. But he is not entitled to have a Judge decide that the Coalition can’t even join the debate.”

The ACLU praised the Court of Appeals’ reversal of the County Circuit Court Judge’s temporary restraining order.

Voting Rights
The former Wisconsin State Attorney General, Peg Lautenschlager, comments on the difference between Election-season actions by the AG’s office during her tenure and the present one. The article includes descriptions of the diversity of observers including the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s volunteers who will be out monitoring the polls on Election Day.

Van Hollen says he won’t appeal the Dane County District Court’s decision on the HAVA check issue until after Election Day. The court case is costing the taxpayers over $43,000 in attorney compensation, court fees and countless more in diverted time for the DOJ staff.

The Capitol Times reprints the Government Accountability Board’s 10 Things To Know On Election Day list which covers voter preparedness and behavior at the polls.

Many people in Madison voted on the Sunday before Election Day – the first time the Clerk’s office was open to accommodate the early voters. Some still waited for two hours to cast their ballot. This afternoon, the line at the Madison Municipal building was still long (from the Clerk's office to the front door and then down to the back elevators), but people were happy to say that it was moving along faster than they thought it would.

Student Activism
Arrest numbers were down and attendance was up at Madison’s State Street Freakfest over the Halloween weekend. UW ACLU Student Alliance members handed out around 750 “bust cards” to educate revelers on their rights when interacting with police.