Thursday, April 21, 2016

Democracy and Republic Depend on Voting

By Tom Frazier

We have now had two elections in Wisconsin under the law requiring a photo ID, and the results are not encouraging. Consider the following examples:

1. An older female voter in Stevens Point who was well know by an election inspector for 20 years, and by four out of five poll workers at her polling station, was denied the right to vote because she did not have a driver’s license or photo ID.

2. A grandmother in Dane County who came to her polling station with her granddaughter, a first time voter, was turned away because her driver’s license had expired and, because she had lost her job and couldn’t afford to get it renewed.

3. An older African-American man in Milwaukee who applied to the DMV for a free photo ID was turned down after waiting for five months because the name on his out-of-state birth certificate did not match the name he had used his entire life. He was told he could correct his name through the Social Security Administration or go to court to legally change his name. The irony is that this man voted without incident in the formerly Jim Crow South only to be disenfranchised when he moved to Wisconsin.

4. An 89 year old woman who has been voting since 1948 and had served on her Village Board since 1996 cannot get a free photo ID because her maiden name is misspelled on her birth certificate which would cost $200 to correct. She says “No one should have to pay a fee to vote.”

There are other problems with the law, including the fact that the Wisconsin Legislature did not appropriate any money to educate voters about the new law, DMV offices have limited hours (e.g. just 31 of 92 offices maintain normal Monday through Friday business hours), and the reason cited for the new law (i.e. voter impersonation) is virtually nonexistent. In a court case challenging the law, Judge Lynn Adelman said “The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.” Adelman’s decision invalidating the law was reversed by the U. S. Court of Appeals.

Recently, Congressman Glenn Grothman created quite a controversy when he said that he thought Republicans could win the Presidential election because Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate and “now we have photo ID and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.” It is probably no coincidence that then State Senator Grothman also was quoted when the Legislature passed a law eliminating early voting hours on nights and weekends as saying he wanted to “nip this in the bud” before early voting spread to other parts of the state.

While as many as 300,000 voters in Wisconsin, by some estimates, may lack a valid photo ID for voting, another major negative impact on voting is redistricting (a.k.a. Gerrymandering). By fixing election district boundaries, thousands of votes are meaningless because the incumbent is in a “safe” district. Districts must be politically competitive for everyone’s vote to be equal.

I have always thought of voting as a scared right. My dictionary defines Republic “as a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.” Democracy is defined as “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” Unfortunately, I can only conclude that we are, at best, not meeting those definitions and, at worst, deliberately tampering with those definitions. In either case, we must not allow our right to vote to be taken away or our form of government will be neither a Republic nor a Democracy.

Tom Frazier is a member of the Common Cause in Wisconsin State Governing Board, and was the executive director of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups from 1983 to 2010.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bill Kraus: Book Review of Dark Money by Jane Mayer

By Bill Kraus

To get to respectable book length the author had to load up with bios of the billionaires and their forebears and tell you at tiresome detail where they got all that money.

Skim that.

What’s interesting is what they have been doing with that money to set the mostly domestic agenda and see that it is supported by bought and paid for legislators in the states and in the Congress.

The almost opening paragraph of the book is about inauguration day in 2009. Obama was taking the oath of office. The billionaires were gathering in California to set a strategy which would defeat Obama—failed—to make his life difficult—succeeded—and to take over statehouses across the country to get their views [called anachronistic totalitarianism by Bill Buckley] into the law and laws of the land—really succeeded.

Their timing couldn’t have been better.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The days of dark money and dirty advertising are dying

By Roger Utnehmer

The days of dark money and dirty campaign advertising are dying in America.

We can thank the core values reflected by the emerging millennial generation for the most significant improvement in political discourse since the emergence of the Progressive Party a century ago.

Millennials reject bombast, hype, exaggeration and most of the negative characteristics of political expression in America today. They dream, desire fairness and are race and gender agnostic. That means discrimination will die the same death as dark money and dirty campaign ads.

The surging Sanders support, the Trump phenomenon and the inability of the largest super pac in history to keep Jeb Bush in the presidential race are reasons for optimism.

Negative ads do not move millennials. The more Hillary Clinton attacks Bernie Sanders the higher he rises in the polls. Donald Trump's self-funded success without television creates the new post-millennial paradigm. Jeb Bush and his super pac spent more than $150 million on negative tv ads. The millennial rejection of dark money buying dirty ads will render thse ads ineffective and obsolete in future races.

Our television screens and mail boxes will soon be sanitized by the elimination of the dirty ads that no longer work.

Millennials respect authenticity. They reject the content of political ads that moved generations before them. Their greatest and most profound impact will come from their congenital commitment to fairness. The millennial generational affinity to fairness as a core value will impact the 2016 election and those to follow.

A campaign finance system rigged and corrupted by dark money is not fair.

Civil service and merit selection being replaced by political cronyism and patronage is not fair.

The concentration of political power in caucus leadership at the expense of political independence is not fair.

The emasculation of collective bargaining power is not fair.

Having to boil drinking water in Kewaunee County, as if it were a third-world slum, is not fair.

College debt so high graduates cannot afford a car payment much less a home mortgage payment is not fair.

And an immigration policy that prevents millions of people from experiencing a God-given right of self-determination is not fair.

Millennials make me proud and optimistic that are best days truly are ahead of us.

They are restoring civility, fairness, decency, authenticity, civic engagement and dreams to the political discourse of America. And that's very good news.

That's my opinion. I'd like to hear yours.

Roger Utnehmer is President and CEO of, and a member of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board.