Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Happy New (Voting) Year!

By Tom Frazier

Recently I received an interesting email from an Aging Unit Director from northern Wisconsin who had the City Clerk talk to a group of 18 seniors about the photo ID requirements for voting which are in effect for 2016. Of the 18 older adults, three (17%) did not have a valid photo ID. Fortunately, the next election is not until April 5, 2016 so there is time for them to obtain a “Wisconsin Identification Card” from the Division of Motor Vehicles' service center.

While this was just a random meeting of older people and not a scientific sample, I think the 17% figure could be close to the percentage of older people who may not be able to vote in 2016 unless they get a valid photo ID prior to April 2016. There are approximately one million people in Wisconsin aged 60 and over and even if only 60% of them vote that translates into over 100,000 seniors (17% of 600K) who may not be able to exercise their right to vote in 2016 under existing Wisconsin law.

I urge the Wisconsin Aging Network (three Area Agencies on Aging, 72 County Aging Offices, and 11 Tribal Offices) and every organization that works with older persons to do what this Aging Unit Director did by providing expert, accurate information about the photo ID that is required to vote in 2016. This information is available from many sources, including Common Cause in Wisconsin, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Area Agencies on Aging, and County and Tribal Aging Units to name a few. Of course, one meeting is not enough—we need to reach older voters through every possible means, such as media, newsletters, trainings, and having information available wherever older people may be gathering.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Extraordinary Bad Decisions

By Ann Grewe

Our clean government in Wisconsin just received two additional blows this November, setting the scene for corruption and partisan decisions in the future.

Government Accountability Board (GAB) was composed of six retired judges, including our own Judge Thomas Barland, who served as Eau Claire County Circuit Court Judge until his retirement in 2000, then continued to serve as Reserve Judge and an independent mediator, arbitrator and court referee, while also serving as an active member of the GAB.

We have been so fortunate to have a nonpartisan, highly ethical organization such as the GAB charged with ensuring that elections, campaign finance, ethics and lobbying were all conducted according to the laws of Wisconsin. Their website,, uses clear language and short sentences to spell out the standards of behavior for everyone connected with Wisconsin’s government.

Just passed during November’s extraordinary session of the Assembly were the GAB destruction act (AB 388) which splits the GAB into two new boards staffed with partisan appointees and ends the GAB’s ability to investigate alleged wrongdoing by public officials -- such as the GAB-approved probe into Governor Walker's aides and associates that put six of Walker’s staff in jail.

A law passed in October now exempts the crimes that jailed Walker’s staff from being investigated under the state’s John Doe process. (John Doe investigations are done to determine whether a crime has occurred and, if so, by whom.)

A second bill just passed, campaign finance deform (AB 387) allows unlimited campaign contributions from a range of sources, permits corporate contributions to political parties and legislative campaign committees, and boosts contribution limits to candidates. It also makes clear that candidates may coordinate with so-called “issue advocacy groups” that need not disclose how they raise or spend money to influence Wisconsin voters.

All these bills combine to allow political corruption to take root and flourish in Wisconsin. Credit our Republican governor and Republican majorities in Wisconsin’s Senate and Assembly for these extraordinarily bad decisions.

Ann Grewe is a concerned citizen from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A good week for bad government... mostly

By Bill Kraus

In a week that the legislative-led state government added to its “protect the majority and the incumbents” proposals, a lawsuit about gerrymandering took a step toward a hoped for Supreme Court appearance.

The legislature completed it’s defanging of the Government Accountability Board by bringing partisan management in and getting Kevin Kennedy out of election and ethics oversight and investigation.

Another pro-incumbent move was to open another tap for the flow of money to power.

Gerrymandering, which is the machete of incumbent protection, wasn’t discussed.

There will be no movement on the issue by the legislative leaders who are now fully in charge of running state government. The governor’s role is secondary and docile. He doesn’t have to initiate. He will sign whatever he is sent.

But over in the federal courthouse, a lawsuit had a hearing before three federal judges who were asked by the 7th District Court of Appeals to rule on a motion by the state of Wisconsin to dismiss a plan which would make gerrymandering, like racially motivated discrimination, a sin.