Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Take Action: Tell Attorney General Holder to Protect Every Citizen's Right to Vote

Tell Attorney General Holder: Protect Every Citizen's Right to Vote

If you share our concern about the new restrictions on voting rights in Wisconsin, including the requirement to show photo ID in the 2012 elections, here's an action you can take right now. 

Tell AG Holder to review how these restrictions in Wisconsin and across the country violate the Voting Rights Act.
Share the action alert with your friends on Facebook or Twitter

More than four decades ago, the Voting Rights Act put an end to the widespread discrimination that robbed people of color of their voice at the ballot box. This year, in state capitals across the country, we are again seeing a pernicious attack on one of the American people's most cherished and fundamental rights: the right to vote.

Tell the federal Department of Justice to fully enforce the Voting Rights Act by aggressively scrutinizing new voting restrictions for discriminatory impact, refusing to pre-clear laws that have a discriminatory purpose or effect, and bringing cases in other states where necessary to challenge regressive voter laws. Don't let America turn back the clock on the fundamental right to vote.  

ACLU of Wisconsin Resources on Voting Rights Are Available On-line
With special and recall elections scheduled in various parts of Wisconsin in July and August and the recent passage of a "voter id" law, many people have questions about voting procedures. The FAQ below may answer most of voters’ common questions. Perhaps most important, voters should know that the photo identification requirement does not go into effect until 2012. Voters will be asked for identification, but they are not required to provide it at elections in 2011 and will be able to vote if they do not have an id. However, there are some changes to registration and voting procedures that will be in effect for the July and August elections. The Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in Wisconsin, has more information on the Voter ID law and other aspects of voting.
Fact Sheet: Wisconsin Voting: Know Your Rights; Voting Rights FAQ (detail)

More on the Why the Voting Rights Act Protects our Democracy
Today, 30 states have passed laws requiring voters to present identification to vote, and in 15 of those states, voters must present a government-issued photo ID. These laws will result in untold numbers of legal voters being turned away from the polls because over 21 million Americans do not have government-issued photo identification. Obtaining a photo ID presents a substantial — and unnecessary — barrier for many of our nation's citizens. There is no credible evidence that in-person impersonation voter fraud — the only type of fraud that photo IDs could prevent — is even a minor problem in our country.

The attacks are not just limited to voter ID. Some states are engaging in other voter suppression tactics like restricting voter registration drives and reducing the amount of time for early voting. All these laws disfranchise eligible voters — especially racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, low-income individuals, students, and voters with disabilities.

The Voting Rights Act vests significant authority in the Department of Justice to ensure laws are not implemented in a discriminatory manner. Because of some states' troubling history of voter suppression, any changes in their elections laws are subject to approval — or "pre-clearance" — by the Justice Department under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In jurisdictions not covered by Section 5, the Department must ensure that these laws are implemented in a way that does not discriminate against protected groups in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Volunteers Needed Statewide: Be a Poll Watcher on August 9th and 16th!

Want to volunteer during the recall elections in a nonpartisan effort? The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is asking our poll watchers and volunteers to connect with the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin in their effort to monitor the implementation of new voting restrictions during the upcoming recall elections. Sign up today!

Volunteer with the League of Women Voters
Be an Election Observer August 9th and 16th!

The Voter ID law was recently signed and parts of it are now in effect. The LWV-WI wants to be sure the law is implemented evenly across the state and does not disenfranchise voters. Working with many non-partisan groups across the state, we are looking for volunteers to be our eyes and ears to report on what happens in the Senate recall elections in August. We will be observing in six recall districts on August 9 and in three recall districts on August 16.

You can find the full list of which Senate districts are facing recall elections on the Government Accountability Board's website. You can find a map of the Wisconsin Senate districts (as of today's blog post on 7/25/2011) online (PDF)

Anyone can volunteer who:
  • Can spend six to seven hours (or all 13 hours) at a polling place in one of the nine state Senate districts with recall election,
  • Is willing to participate in a two-hour training session—a webinar—prior to the election,
  • Agrees to mail in a report following the election,
  • Has access to a cell phone.
  • You don't need to be a League member to volunteer.
League of Women Voters will provide:
  • Nonpartisan materials that let you know your role, what to look for, what to do if there are problems at the polls,
  • Online training,
  • A number to call on election day to report problems.

How to Volunteer
Go to the state League’s website,, and sign up on our 2011 Election Observer Volunteer Form to give us your name, address, cell phone number and the date(s) you would like to observe. We will get back to you about where you are needed and times for online training.

Tell your friends about this opportunity. We need over 1,000 volunteers to cover the nine Senate districts!
Contact Sharon Munson at 414-358-8393 or
or Dorothy Sherman at 414-425 0127 or

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ACLU of WI, Community Shares and the Center for Change: You Can Support Nonprofit Collabortion in Madison That Works

Did you know that the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is a member of Community Shares of Wisconsin? Below is an update on the Center for Change, a Community Shares project that we are a part of. You can read more about how the Center for Change encourages collaboration among nonprofits like ours. We are in the midst of a matching gift campaign, so if you are looking for ways to make your donations have a big impact across organizations, check this out. Gifts to the Center for Change will be doubled through August 12!

Support the Emerging Center for Change
The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation's Madison Area Office is a proud member of Community Shares of Wisconsin (CSW) and a tenant of the Center For Change, a shared office space that is more than co-location. Tenants are all nonpartisan nonprofits that share resources, space, volunteers and ideas to make Wisconsin better. 

We collaborate to identify common needs and concerns—whether through planned partnerships or spontaneous conversations in the break room.  Volunteer, intern, and staff resources are put to their most efficient use by sharing their time and skills. Our interconnectedness saves on overhead costs and increases our potential to create a stronger social justice movement at the same time.

Help Community Shares of Wisconsin build the social justice movement by supporting the Center for Change. Donate through August 12 and your gift will be matched, thanks to an anonymous donor.  With your help, the Center for Change will become a destination for social justice education and involvement.


Get Inspired: Celebrate CSW's Anniversary with 40 Ways You Can Create Change
To celebrate Community Shares of Wisconsin's 40th anniversary, we've highlighted "40 Ways You Can Create Change"—40 items you might consider to help our community.  Many of the 40 Ways offer interesting historical information about CSW or our member groups, and all of them offer suggestions for steps you can take.

The first couple of entries:

#1 of 40:  Thank someone who has made a difference for nonprofits.  Community Shares of Wisconsin began in 1971 with a small group of committed people searching for a way to help nonprofits.  Since then--thanks to our founders and to all of our supporters over the years—we have distributed over $13 million! Everyone who has given to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation through their Community Shares workplace campaigns has made a difference for us: Thank you for every donation that keeps us strong.

#2 of 40:  Support the emerging Center for Change. (See the news item above.)

Check CSW's website, Facebook, or Twitter updates regularly through the summer and fall to read all of the 40 Ways You Can Create Change.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Redistricting Is In a Rush: Legislators Must Slow Down As Proposals May Pose Violations of Federal Law

The ACLU of Wisconsin today urged the Wisconsin legislature to slow down the rush to redraw state legislative districts so that affected communities have time to fully review and respond to the proposals. 

Federal law prohibits the drawing of districts that have the effect of diluting minority voting strength.  Determining whether a plan dilutes minority voting strength requires careful consideration of a number of factors and alternative plans.  That analysis cannot be completed on the timeline contemplated by the legislature. 

The important task of redrawing of district lines demands deliberation and public input. Rushing the plan through without thorough analysis creates the risk that an illegal plan will be adopted.

This Eau Claire Leader-Telegram editorial gets is right on why partisans shouldn't draw political maps. Critical editorials were published all over the state by the Appleton Post-Crescent (which had another critical editorial on how the process hurts municipalities), the Oshkosh Northwestern, the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the Beloit Daily News, the Marshfield News Herald, and the Cap Times.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

FAQs About Voting in the Summer 2011 Recall and Special Elections in Wisconsin

Frequently Asked Questions About Voting in the summer 2011 Recall and Special Elections in Wisconsin

Do I have to show proof of identification/photo id to vote in recall or special elections this year?

No. The new “Voter Identification Act,” 2011 Wis. Act 23, does not require a voter to present proof of identification to vote until the Spring 2012 primary election and all elections thereafter.

However, election officials will ask voters to present proof of identification at elections prior to the Spring 2012 primary. A person who does not show proof of identification will still be able to vote, but will be given information about the new identification requirements. 2011 Wis. Act 23, § 144(2). There is no requirement that a person give a reason for not presenting proof of identification.

If you choose to show identification at elections this year, poll workers will compare the name on the identification to the name on the poll list to verify that the names “conform” to one another. Names may still “conform,” even if there are small differences, such as presence or absence of a middle initial, use of a shortened version of a first name (such as “Bob” for “Robert”) or variations of upper and lower case letters (such as “Maclane” for “MacLane”). GAB, Polling Place Voting Step-By-Step for All Elections Prior to 2012 February Primary (June 22, 2011). Poll workers will also compare the photograph on the identification to the voter’s appearance to verify that the photograph “reasonably resembles” the voter. ID. For all elections prior to the 2012 February Primary, there is no consequence if election inspectors believe the photo ID does not reasonably resemble the voter. Once photo ID is required in the February 2012 election, election inspectors will be instructed to challenge a voter if they believe a voter does not reasonably resemble the photograph on the identification presented.

I am not registered to vote. Can I register on election day?

Yes. The voter ID law did not change election-day registration. As long as you are at least 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen, have lived at your current address for 28 days, have proof of residence (see below), and are not serving a sentence – including imprisonment, probation, parole or extended supervision – for a felony conviction, you can register at the polls on election day. If you have a current and valid driver license, you will need to provide the license number on the registration form. Wis. Stat. § 6.33(1). If you do not have a current and valid driver license, you will have to provide your Wisconsin state identification card number or the last 4 digits of your social security number. If you do not have a current and valid driver license, state identification card or social security number, you will have to check a box saying you do not have any of these numbers, but you will still be allowed to register. You will also have to provide the location of your two “previous residence immediately before moving to” your current residence. Wis. Stat. § 6.33(1), as amended by 2011 Wis. Act 23, § 30.

I moved to my current address two weeks ago. Can I vote at the polling place for
my new address?

No. The new law requires a person to have lived in a ward or election district for 28 consecutive days prior to the election to be eligible to vote in that ward or district. Wis. Stat. § 6.02(1), as amended by 2011 Wis. Act 23, § 10. If you moved more recently than 28 days from another location in Wisconsin, you may vote at your previous polling place. Wis. Stat. § 602.02(2), as amended by 2011 Wis. Act 23, § 11. If you moved to Wisconsin from another state more recently than 28 days before any election in 2011, you may not vote in that election.

What documents will I need to register?

Any of the following documents are sufficient to prove residence, if they have your first and last name and your current street address:
• Current & valid Wisconsin driver’s license. Wis. Stat. § 6.34(3)(a)1.
• Current & valid Wisconsin state photo identification card. Wis. Stat. § 6.34(3)(a)2.
• An official identification card or license issued by a Wisconsin governmental entity. Wis. Stat. § 6.34(3)(a)3.
• An employer-issued photo identification card (not a business card). Wis. Stat. § 6.34(3)(a)4.
• A university, college or technical college identification card, along with either a receipt for tuition or fees paid within the previous 9 months or a certified list from the college or university of students currently living in student housing who are U.S. citizens. Wis. Stat. § 6.34(3)(a)7., as amended by 2011 Wis. Act 23, § 33m.
• A utility bill that is no more than 90 days old. Wis. Stat. § 6.34(3)(a)8.
• A bank statement. Wis. Stat. § 6.34(3)(a)9.
• A property tax bill or receipt from the past year. Wis. Stat. § 6.34(3)(a)5.
• A current residential lease in effect on election day. Wis. Stat. § 6.34(3)(a)6.
• A paycheck. Wis. Stat. § 6.34(3)(a)10.
• A check or other document issued by a unit of government. Wis. Stat. § 6.34(3)(a)11.3

Documents like credit card bills, collection notices, magazine subscriptions, personal mail and mail solicitations do not qualify for proof of residence.

I don’t have any of the documents for proving residence that are in my name. Can I have someone vouch for where I live?

No. Until the voter ID law passed, another eligible voter from your municipality who knew where you lived could “corroborate” your residence by signing a statement confirming where you live. The new law eliminates corroboration as proof of residence. See 2011 Wis. Act 23, § 17, amending Wis. Stat. § 6.15(2)(d)1r.

I heard that I will have to sign the poll list when I vote. Is that true?

Yes. If you are registered to vote before Election Day, there will be a box on the poll list for your signature. Wis. Stat. § 6.79(2)(a), as amended by 2011 Wis. Act 23, § 45. If you are unable to sign because of a disability, you can get an exemption from the signature requirement.

My signature changes all the time. Will the poll workers let me vote if my signature doesn’t look like it did when I registered?

Yes. The law does not require election officials to compare your signature on the poll list to the signature on your registration, the signature on your proof of identification or residency or to any other signature.

Can I vote in person before Election Day?

Yes. You can vote an in-person absentee ballot at your municipal clerk’s office or, in the City of Milwaukee, at the Election Commission Office starting the 3rd Monday before Election Day until 5 p.m. the Friday before Election Day. Wis. Stat. § 6.86(1)(b), as amended by 2011 Wis. Act 23, § 57. When you vote before Election Day in this way, your ballot is set aside for counting with other absentee ballots on Election Day. As with voting on Election Day, you will be asked, but not required, to show photo identification when you vote in person absentee in 2011. GAB, Major Impacts of the New Voter Photo ID Bill: Changes to the Election Process Effective Immediately at 3 (June 20, 2011). If you have not already registered, you may also register at the municipal clerk’s office before voting in person absentee. Wis. Stat. § 6.29(2)(a), as amended by 2011 Wis. Act 23, § 29.

Can I vote by mail?

Yes, you can cast an absentee ballot by mail. You can request an absentee ballot from the municipal clerk or election commission by mail, email or facsimile. Wis. Stat. § 6.86(1)(a). The application must be received by the municipal clerk no later than 5 p.m. the Thursday before the election. Wis. Stat. § 6.86(1)(b), as amended by 2011 Wis. Act 4 23, § 57. Municipal clerks will begin accepting in person applications for absentee ballots no earlier than the third Monday before the election. Id.

You may either vote the absentee ballot in the clerk’s office, or the clerk can mail it to you. If you request, the clerk must also send the ballot by email or facsimile. Wis. Stat. § 6.87(3)(d), as amended by 2011 Wis. Act 23, § 65.

You must return the completed ballot to the municipal clerk or election commission in a properly completed ballot envelope. The envelope will have a certification, which the voter and a witness (who is an adult U.S. citizen) must sign. Wis. Stat. § 6.87(2) & (4)(b)1., as amended by 2011 Wis. Act 23, § 66. The absentee ballot must be received by the clerk or election commission no later than 8 p.m. on election day. Wis. Stat. § 6.87(6). You can return the ballot in person or by mail, but remember that if you send it by mail it must arrive (not just be postmarked) by 8 p.m. on election day.

You must be registered in order to vote absentee, but you can register in person at the clerk’s office when you submit a request for an absentee ballot. You can also register by mail, but your registration must be postmarked no later than the third Wednesday before the election. Wis. Stat. § 6.28(1). You will not be sent an absentee ballot until you are registered and submit an absentee ballot request.

This document only deals with elections in 2011. When the voter identification requirement takes effect next year, a number of other questions will arise. Election Protection will produce a revised FAQ prior to elections in 2012.