Cheri Honkala to keynote Democracy Convention

August 1, 2011
Liberty Tree
Cheri Honkala photo

With the Democracy Convention beginning in 23 days, we are please to announce our second keynote speaker: Cheri Honkala. She joins Tom Hayden and Michelle Shocked in headlining five days of celebration, strategy, and community-building. 

RELEASE: As faith in system crumbles, organizers to announce launch of new U.S. Democracy Movement

August 1, 2011
Liberty Tree


As faith in U.S. political system hits historic lows, organizers announce that

(MADISON, WI) ~ The eyes of the nation will return to Madison, Wisconsin, August 24-28, as nearly 1,000 community, labor, and student organizers gather at the first Democracy Convention to launch a movement to bring democracy to the United States.

CAP TIMES: GOP redistricting maps split off, dilute minority communities

July 19, 2011
Jessica Vanegeren

A missed opportunity.

That's how the state's only Latina state lawmaker sums up the new Assembly and Senate district boundary lines draw up and released by Republican lawmakers a little more than a week ago.

With the state's Latino population jumping from roughly 193,000 in 2000 to 323,000 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, says one of the state's 33 Senate seats could have been turned into a predominantly Latino district. The move would have given the state's growing Latino population its first guaranteed voice in the Senate.

MSJ: Nickolaus says she does not plan to show all election-breakdown results

July 18, 2011
Laurel Walker

Waukesha - When Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said in May that she intended to start providing unofficial election night results broken down by municipality - something that might have flagged the kind of snafu that earned her notoriety after the Supreme Court election this spring - she did not mean all municipal results.

Nickolaus told the County Board's Executive Committee on Monday that she'll change her reporting practices based on advice from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

When pressed in committee by Supervisor David Swan as to whether she'd return to past practice of showing results for municipalities, even if the state elections officials don't suggest it, she said, "Not at this point."

JOHN NICHOLS: GOP maps warp state democracy

July 17, 2011
John Nichols

Gov. Scott Walker started his political career as a loser.

A big loser.

In 1990, at the age of 23, Walker waded into state politics as the Republican nominee against first-term state Rep. Gwen Moore in Milwaukee County’s old 7th District.

Walker ran an aggressive campaign that highlighted his strengths and drew support from Republicans who even then saw him as a rising star.

But when the votes were counted on election night — which saw Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson secure a landslide victory — Walker had been pummeled.

Moore (now a progressive Democratic congresswoman) got 69 percent of the vote to Walker’s 31 percent.

Was Walker really that inept? That unappealing?

WSJ: Outside groups flooding recall districts with ads

July 17, 2011
Craig Gilbert

Three things are obvious from the ad wars that are quickly escalating in Wisconsin’s recall elections.

One: They will be very, very expensive.

Spending on broadcast TV for just one race — the northwestern Wisconsin seat now held by Republican Sen. Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls — has totaled roughly three-quarters of a million dollars in recent weeks, according to estimates by CMAG, the national firm that tracks campaign spots.

“We are in uncharted territory,” says political scientist and CMAG president Ken Goldstein, referring to the unusual dynamics of these legislative races: mid-summer, stand-alone, quasi-nationalized elections in which nobody is quite sure who will vote and how big the electorate will be.

THE PROGRESSIVE: Sen. Olson hypocritical in his critique of big campaign donations

July 15, 2011
Elizabeth DiNovella

Wisconsin State Senator Luther Olsen is one of the six Republicans facing a recall election this summer. After Tuesday’s Democratic primary, he will now face Representative Fred Clark in the August 9 general election.

Republicans ran “protest” candidates in the primaries in order to drag out the electoral process. All six “fake Democrats” lost.

Delaying the general election allowed the incumbents more time to campaign—and to get more campaign contributions. Millions of dollars are pouring into Wisconsin, some coming from groups outside the state.

JOHN NICHOLS: How ‘fake Democrats’ strategy blew up on GOP

July 14, 2011
John Nichols

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, his conservative legislative allies, the Republican Party of Wisconsin and county Republican parties tried everything in their power to thwart the recall election process, which could check and balance Walker's extreme anti-labor, anti-public schools, anti-social services and anti-local democracy agenda.

Frightened by the prospect of losing three or more Republican-held seats, and with them control of the state Senate, the GOP challenged the petitions that forced the recall elections against six Republican senators who backed the governor's agenda. And they failed.Then Republican lawyers sought injunctions. And they failed.

CAP TIMES: GOP's redistricting plan splits up communities of color

July 14, 2011
Jessica Vanegeren and Shawn Doherty

When Fitchburg Mayor Shawn Pfaff first was elected to office in April, one of his first priorities was to create new voting districts that reflected the city's diversity.

To that end, a committee created one district that circled Fitchburg's farms, another that included its urban area, and two that included more minority voters than whites.

The move to create so-called majority-minority districts made it more likely that the city's 5,000 Hispanics and 2,500 African-Americans would be represented by one of their own. Giving "communities of interest" a distinct voice in the electoral process is a priority of redistricting, according to federal guidelines.

CAP TIMES: Real Democratic recall candidates cruise to victory over fakes

July 14, 2011
Jessica V

None of the six placeholder or "fake" Democratic Senate candidates pulled off an upset victory during the first round of a historic recall election season in Wisconsin Tuesday.

But then again, few expected they would.

"We certainly did not expect any victories out of the protest candidates," said Katie McCallum, a spokeswoman with the Republican Party of Wisconsin. "They did the job they were intended to do ... which was to give the incumbents time to get back to their districts and talk with voters after passing the budget."

THE NATION: ALEC exposed for rigging elections

July 12, 2011
John Nichols

In the heat of Wisconsin’s brutal battle over Governor Scott Walker’s assaults on unions, local democracy, public education and social services, one of his closest allies suddenly shifted direction. State Representative Robin Vos, Republican co-chair of the powerful Legislative Joint Finance Committee, determined that making it harder for college students, seniors and low-income citizens to vote was an immediate legislative priority, and pressed lawmakers to focus on enacting one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the nation.

DAILY KOS: Lies about Virginia robocalls to Wisconsin

July 12, 2011

(Reposted from TeamsterNation.)

This is rich. The woman who heads Wisconsin Right to Life told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the robocalls we've been hearing about in today's recall primary were aimed at informing "friends and supporters" of the organization. They were supposed to encourage people to vote in the upcoming recalls (not today's primary), Lyons said. She denies they were calls to suppress the vote.

We think she's lying. We also think the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is too dumb (or biased) to catch her in the lie.

The Atlantic breaks down Wisconsin's summer recalls

July 12, 2011
Abe Sauer


That is the number of state legislative elections Wisconsinites may potentially vote in between now and the end of 2011. Between the primaries and the generals, there are 17 elections being held in relation to the nine state senators -- there are 33 total in office -- who were recalled in the clatter and hullabaloo that followed Gov. Scott Walker's successful defense of his budget "repair" bill last winter and spring.

MJS: Major Walker donor gets probation for campaign finance violations

July 7, 2011
Don Behm

West Bend - William Gardner, president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. and a major donor to Gov. Scott Walker, was sentenced Thursday to two years of probation for violating state campaign finance laws.

Washington County Circuit Judge James Pouros also sentenced Gardner to 100 hours of community service at Tenor High School, a charter school in Milwaukee.

Gardner hopes he can persuade a few high school students there to learn a skilled trade and pursue a career in railroading, defense attorney Dean Strang said.

Gardner was convicted May 5 of two felony violations of state campaign finance laws after he pleaded guilty to the crimes.

BREAKING: Legislative committee recommends cuts to WI Arts Board

May 6, 2011
Patti Wenzel
news photo

The Joint Finance Committee voted today to end the independent agency status of the Wisconsin Arts Board, moving the oversight of arts to the Tourism Board. The proposal will now go before the State Assembly and Senate for final approval as part of Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-13 biennial budget. The vote was along party lines with 14 Republicans voting in favor and four Democrats voting against.

The committee did restore some of the cuts Walker proposed, returning over $350,000 to the agency over the next two years. The Board was facing a drop from $3 million to $750,000; now it will have just over $1 million in the next budget period.

The JFC also reversed Walker by allowing the Arts Board the autonomy to select its own executive director in the future.

BRADBLOG.COM: WI's Supreme Court Election 'Recount' is a Mess

May 3, 2011
Brad Friedman

Wisconsin is no Minnesota.

Where Minnesota's post-election hand count of the 2008 U.S. Senate election between then Sen. Norm Coleman and now Sen. Al Franken was, as we wrote at the UK's Guardian at the time, "one of the longest and most transparent election hand-counts in the history of the US," Wisconsin has made it extremely difficult (putting it nicely) to know what the hell is actually going on in their statewide "recount" of the April 5th, 2011 state Supreme Court election between Justice David Prosser and Asst. Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg.

UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT: ES&S optical scan machines prone to loss of data due to battery failures

October 8, 2010
Tigran Antonyan, Nicolas Nicolaou, Alexander A. Shvartsman, Therese Smith


Optical scan (OS) voting systems play an increasing role in the United States elections, with over 40 states deploying such systems. The AccuVote optical scanners (AV-OS) manufactured by ES&S account for over 20% of all OS systems. OS systems typically use removable media (cards) to provide election-specific programming to the scanners and to convey precinct election results for central tabulation. Several reports document occurrences of AV-OS memory card failures, with up to 15% of all cards failing in some cases.

PEW CENTER: Higher rates of residual votes found in Florida among African-American, Hispanic, and senior voters

October 1, 2010
Paul Gronke, Charles Stewart III, James Hicks

This report describes a project that examined the residual vote rates in the state of Florida’s 2008 presidential preference primary, taking advantage of a state law that, for a time, required all jurisdictions to report over- and under-votes at the precinct level.

RADIO NETHERLANDS: World watches as Dutch vote with pencil

June 7, 2010
Radio Netherlands

This Wednesday, Dutch voters will go to the polls to elect a new parliament. Each voter will enter the voting booth, unfold a large piece of paper, and use a red pencil to check a box next to their preferred candidate. Not one voting machine will be used. The Dutch returned to voting with pencils because computers can't guarantee the privacy of voters. The return to voting with a pencil has attracted interest from democracies around the world. The Netherlands is the first country to go back to voting with paper ballots, after making the transition to computers. Other countries are wondering if they should follow the Dutch example.

Not used to counting ballots

BOSTON GLOBE: Massachusetts House passes National Popular Vote bill

June 2, 2010
Boston Globe

The Massachusetts House has approved a bill intended to ensure that the winner of the presidential election is determined by the national popular vote and not by the Electoral College system.

The House voted 114-35 this afternoon for the National Popular Vote bill, sending it to the Senate.

Under the proposed bill, all of the state's electoral votes would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationally. Supporters are trying to get such bills enacted in states across the nation. Once states possessing a majority of the electoral votes (or 270 of 538) have enacted such laws, the winner of the popular vote would be assured a majority of the electoral votes, no matter how the votes fall in other states.

More Info: 

ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Town wanting to opt out of Voting Rights Act draws rebuke

June 2, 2010
April Hunt

Sandy Springs, the first Georgia city to try and bail out of of the Voting Rights Act, on Wednesday drew its first public rebuke, a Fulton County Commission resolution scolding its efforts.

The resolution opposing Sandy Springs' request carried no legal weight, but it sharply defined the differences between the county and a city that incorporated four years ago, with the latter claiming its residents are not receiving proper attention and service from the former and then seeking to be relieved from federal oversight of elections.

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Supreme Court refuses to stop Arizona Clean Elections law

June 2, 2010
Alia Beard Rau


The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a one-sentence denial to an emergency request to halt the matching-funds portion of Arizona's publicly funded Clean Elections program. Within hours, the attorneys representing matching-funds opponents asked the high court to reconsider.

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Supreme Court refuses to stop Arizona Clean Elections law

June 2, 2010
Alia Beard Rau

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a one-sentence denial to an emergency request to halt the matching-funds portion of Arizona's publicly funded Clean Elections program. Within hours, the attorneys representing matching-funds opponents asked the high court to reconsider.

Justice Anthony Kennedy's order left open the door for the attorneys to refile, as long as they also ask the court to hear the case itself. The attorneys had asked only that the court block the disbursal of funds.

"The court appears to want assurance that the injunction would not last forever and that it would have the chance to decide the merits of the case," Goldwater Institute attorney Clint Bolick said.

More Info: 

Original article ...

OAKLAND LOCAL: What's IRV? Civic organizations to educate public on new system

June 1, 2010

As Oakland follows in the footsteps San Francisco took six years ago and switches to ranked-choice voting for this November's election, a diverse pool of organizations are heading voter education campaigns to boost county outreach efforts.

The city of Oakland is paying the Alameda County Registrar of Voters $146,000 to administer a heavily media-based campaign that includes mailers, brochures and videos, according to city clerk LaTonda Simmons. However, foreseeing that the county’s campaign will not reach all demographics, some community groups are – or plan to begin – spreading the word about the new system that allows voters to rank up to three candidates in order of preference and eliminates separate run-off elections.

TIMES OF INDIA: State moves to get prisoners their voting rights

May 31, 2010
Times of India

The state government has initiated a process whereby undertrials and convicts can cast their votes. India is one of the very few countries that does not allow prisoners to vote. Despite the state's best efforts, legislations could not be amended on time to allow prisoners to cast their votes this time.

However, the matter will now be consistently pursued jointly by the state election commission and the state home department, it has been decided.

MOORE: Regaining voting rights for felons is challenging but worthwhile

May 31, 2010
Linda A. Moore

More than 30 years ago, before Stevie Moore was an activist, he did time for selling drugs.

It took several convictions before the founder and president of the anti-violence campaign Freedom From Unnecessary Negatives realized he "wasn't smarter than the system."

Getting out meant living a better life and setting a good example for his then young sons.

So Moore had his right to vote restored.

"When I got out of jail, I got custody of my boys and I raised them for eight years before I got remarried," Moore said. "It's so important that you correct it, to try to set an example for your children."

More Info: 

Original article here...

Voting Rights Restoration in Tennessee: For information, go to the Tennessee Department of State's website at Click elections, followed by voter info.

GUARDIAN: EU pressures Britian on voting rights for prisoners

May 30, 2010
Jamie Doward

The government faces being hauled before the European court of human rights it gives prisoners the right to vote as a matter of urgency.

The revelation comes as several law firms seek to launch claims on behalf of thousands of UK prisoners who are demanding compensation – estimated to be as much as £750 each – on the grounds they were illegally denied the right to vote at the last general election.

The contentious issue threatens to become another test of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition. The Lib Dems were strongly critical of the previous government's refusal to enfranchise the prison population while the Conservatives have consistently avoided addressing the issue.

MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE: South Dakota settles voting-rights suit

May 26, 2010
Paul Walsh

Voting rights have been restored for two American Indians in South Dakota who sued after being wrongly turned away at their polling places in the 2008 general elections because they were convicted felons, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday.

The agreement on behalf of Pine Ridge Reservation residents Kim Colhoff and Eileen Janis was reached Monday with the state and Shannon County.

While state law bans voting by anyone sentenced to prison, the disenfranchisement was improperly applied to Colhoff and Janis, who were only sentenced to probation.

ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Civil rights coalition targets voter verification

May 25, 2010
Péralte C. Paul

A group of civil rights advocates, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, are seeking a permanent injunction blocking Georgia's citizenship voter verification requirements, arguing in a federal court Monday that it targets and discriminates against minorities.

Monday's hearing before a three-judge federal panel comes days after Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue named the state GOP's general counsel as a special attorney general to sue the Justice Department to obtain approval of the contentious measure.

The civil rights advocates, which also include the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, filed suit in October of 2008 on behalf of Jose Morales, a Cherokee County man and a naturalized U.S. citizen.

More Info: 

Original article here...
ACLU - Voting Rights
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund

NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD: Philippine Elections Rife with Violence, Irregularities and Voting System Malfunctions

May 20, 2010
Paige Cram

Seven members of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) observed pre-electoral and election-day conditions during the Philippines’ historic election last week and found widespread irregularities, a high potential for fraud, voter machine breakdowns, military intimidation and a deadly gun battle inside the poll. NLG observers joined over 80 other observers from 12 different countries as members of the People International Observer Mission.

More Info: 

Contact: Paige Cram, Communications Coordinator, National Lawyers Guild,, 212-679-5100, ext. 15

WASHINGTON POST: Virginia Governor cuts wait times for felons wanting voting rights

May 20, 2010
Rosalind Helderman

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced today that he is reducing the time that must pass, from three years to two, before a nonviolent felon who has completed his sentence can apply to have his voting rights restored. McDonnell also pledged that his office will act on those requests within 60 days after receiving information from the felon, courts and other agencies.

McDonnell said the new process is designed to speed reintegration into civil society for felons who have completed their sentences. He said the goal was to create the "fastest and fairest" process in modern Virginia history.

AP: Maryland ends prison-based gerrymandering

May 10, 2010
Kathleen Miller

Urban lawmakers across the country say their counterparts in rural areas have gotten an unfair advantage from an unlikely group: prisoners.
Now, lawmakers in Maryland are changing that by having inmates counted as residents of where they last lived — typically urban centers — not the rural areas where they're often imprisoned. Nine other states are considering similar legislation. Advocates say the way inmates are tallied when redrawing election maps has skewed how people in all areas are represented in Congress, legislatures and other elected offices.

More Info: 

Original article here...

Read more about prison-based Gerrymandering at the Prison Policy Initiative website

CASPER STAR-TRIBUNE: Federal court rules at-large elections violate Native American voting rights

April 30, 2010
Tom Morton

Fremont County must stop using its existing at-large system to elect commissioners because it violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the strength of the Indian vote, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Instead, county officials must submit a voting plan to the court by June 30 to create five districts in the county so residents on the Wind River Indian Reservation can better achieve fair representation on the five-member commission, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson wrote.

The ruling comes more than three years after a nine-day bench trial in February 2007 before Johnson in which five enrolled members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes stated their case against Fremont County, its commissioners and the county court clerk.

Three weeks ago, attorneys for the Indians asked the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to force Johnson to make a decision.

The 102-page opinion did just that.

More Info: 

Original article here...

RECLAIM DEMOCRACY: ACLU shifts stance on campaign spending, needs to go further

April 22, 2010

Since 2003, the organization Reclaim Democracy has pushed the ACLU to rethink its claim that money = speech regarding investments in political campaigns and its position equating corporate communications with free speech, beginning when the ACLU took Nike Corporation's side in the infamous "corporate right to lie" dispute (Nike v Kasky).

More Info: 

Original report from Reclaim Democracy here...

NATIONAL CONFERENCE: "We the Corporations?" Life & Law in the U.S.A. after Citizens United v. FEC

April 16, 2010 (All day)


University of Wisconsin Law School
975 Bascom Mall Room 5240
Madison, WI 53706

On January 21st, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. An avalanche of criticism from grassroots organizations, members of Congress, and the President of the United States followed. Hundreds of thousands of Americans signed motions calling for action to overrule the Court -- including amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

John Bonifaz and Laura Flanders on the Corporate Supreme Court

April 15, 2010
John Bonifaz and Laura Flanders

GRIT tv host Laura Flanders takes up the topic of the Supreme Court, corporate power, and the Citizens United ruling. Guest John Bonifaz, the director of Free Speech for People discusses the results we're already seeing from that ruling, how it impacts corporations, unions, and real flesh-and-blood people, (including how it has already impacted our thinking) and what needs to be done. Bonifaz explains how we can amend the Constitution to reclaim our first amendment, and the kind of popular movement that will be required to do it. He describes what people are doing at the local level in their free time to advance this agenda. (Discussion begins at 10:22)

Additional Information: 

Originally posted here by David Swanson of After Downing Street.

ROTHSCHILD: Corporations Aren't Persons

April 10, 2010
Matthew Rothschild

ON FEBRUARY 16, ABOUT 200 people gathered on the steps of the Wisconsin state capitol. “It’s fitting that we stand out in the cold,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

“That’s where the Supreme Court has left us.”

He was referring to the court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which granted corporations the right to spend unlimited funds on so-called independent expenditures to influence the outcome of elections. The crowd heartily agreed with McCabe. Signs said: “No Corporate Takeover of Elections,” “Free Speech, Not Fee Speech,” “Money Is Not Speech, Corporations Are Not Persons.” And a chant went up: “Overrule the Court.”

Ben Manski, executive director of the Liberty Tree Foundation, drew the crowd in with a historical analogy.

More Info: 

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

More information on Move to Amend here.