Saturday, May 28, 2016

Two thoughts on the federal Voter ID case

Expanding access to the voting booth in larger cities doesn't hurt the suburbs, as some claim it does

A federal court is considering the changes made to Wisconsin’s voting laws, including how voter ID and early voting restrictions have negatively impacted citizens in the state.

I read with great intrigue a series of articles that detailed these problems, but I want to offer my own two thoughts on a piece I read in the Cap Times that detailed the Walker administration’s defense of these changes.

First, the state’s lawyers argued that the number of people affected by restrictions are so minuscule that they don’t warrant any serious attention:
Attorneys for the state argue the plaintiffs are using anecdotal, "one-in-a-million" cases as an argument to strike down the laws.
This is a disingenuous statement for many reasons. There are approximately 3.5 million registered voters in the state. That there are six litigants in the case alone disproves mathematically that this is a problem for just “one-in-a-million.” But that’s even before counting the numerous cases of problems for voters that AREN’T part of the lawsuit. The fact is, several people had problems voting under the new rules, many of them well-documented, not just a small number.

It’s also disingenuous because it runs counter to an argument that Gov. Scott Walker initially made in support of the voter ID law. “It doesn’t matter if there’s one, 100 or 1,000,” Walker said when defending his push for the law.

Yet the same argument could be made for implementing aspects of these new voter restrictions. It doesn’t matter if it’s one voter or 1,000. What matters is that, if someone is impacted negatively by these laws, it’s within their rights to see them remedied to allow them the ability to access the ballot box.

The previous argument by the governor is being ignored by the state’s attorney’s today. If it’s only a few voters, “hey, no big deal,” they insist. It’s a radical departure from what they argued previously.

The second thought I wanted to offer is that those who testified on behalf of the state had contradictory statements in their depositions when it came to how positive they felt about the new rules vs. allowing greater access in larger cities.

Elections clerks had said that with the changes were fine, stating that there weren’t any problems from what they could tell:
A series of changes to Wisconsin election laws including a voter ID requirement hasn't negatively affected voting in suburban communities near Milwaukee, city and county clerks testified in federal court Tuesday.

"From the start, we have had virtually no problems at all," said Waukesha County clerk Kathleen Novack.
But as for allowing municipalities to be open longer hours, if desired? That’s where the REAL harm is, according to these clerks:
Novack said she believes eliminating weekend voting "level(s) the playing field" between large urban areas and smaller suburban and rural communities that lack the resources to staff weekend hours.

"If there’s an office open 30 days versus an office that’s only open 10 work days, there are obviously voters that have a lot more access than someone else," Novack said. "There has to come a point where it’s just giving over-access … to particular parts of the state."
These clerks who are “pro-limits” on voting access are trying to have it both ways. They’re saying that limiting times to vote doesn’t impede their constituents’ abilities to cast a ballot. Yet it would somehow become unfair if other, larger municipalities had longer hours available to vote.

How can that be? If there are “no problems” with the new voting rules, including getting voters to the ballot in their own communities, then any additional access to the ballot elsewhere creates no harm toward these suburban areas. If everything is fine in one area, changing the rules to give added benefits elsewhere doesn’t make things any less fine.

What works for Milwaukee might not work for Cedarburg -- longer hours might cost more, or create confusion among suburban residents, as clerks in these areas have argued. But the opposite can also be true: what works for Cedarburg might not work for Milwaukee.

Having a shorter time to access the voting booth may work out just fine for Cedarburg residents, among whom only 1.7 percent of families live in poverty. But in Milwaukee, where the poverty rate is ten times as high, making time to get to the ballot can pose a challenge for many. Limiting hours or having just one early voting location can diminish turnout in significant ways, a problem these smaller communities don’t have to deal with as much.

I’m unsure how this lawsuit will turn out. What I am certain of, though, is that those saying greater access to the polls acts as impediments to suburban voters’ rights are full of hogwash. Voter ID laws, too, have created burdens for voters that aren’t necessary to protect people’s votes.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Governor, state lawmakers use questionable rhetoric in defending “potty crusade” lawsuit

"Jim Crow" language exposes bigotry, and nothing more, drives conservatives on debate over bathrooms

Wisconsin is joining ten other states across the country in a lawsuit against the Obama administration for its recent recommendations to recognize the rights of transgender students to use the restrooms that correspond to their gender identities.

This is hardly a surprising, but still very depressing, turn of events. As I’ve noted frequently, transgender students deserve recognition as the gender they identify with, and should be granted the right to use restrooms that reflect that identity.

But others see it differently, and intend to use taxpayer dollars to sue the federal government to change its directive. In defending the planned lawsuit, Gov. Scott Walker and other Wisconsin politicians have expressed themselves in some very concerning ways.

Republican Rep. Tom Larson told reporters that he felt God “wrote in my heart that I shouldn’t go into a women’s restroom because I’d be tempted to be a pervert.”

This is troubling for two reasons. First, Larson is stating that his temptations are staved off only by limiting his access to a private room with females present. It’s not hard to imagine that such comments could sound off alarm bells for women working in the Capitol building.

Second, it implies that transgender men and women wishing to use facilities aligning with their genders are perverts. They are not -- the American Psychological Association explains that transgender individuals are simply pursuing their true identity. Some have suggested, in the past and more recently, that trans individuals suffer from a “mental disorder,” but those ideas are similarly shot down and refuted by the APA:
A psychological state is considered a mental disorder only if it causes significant distress or disability. Many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder. For these individuals, the significant problem is finding affordable resources, such as counseling, hormone therapy, medical procedures and the social support necessary to freely express their gender identity and minimize discrimination. Many other obstacles may lead to distress, including a lack of acceptance within society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, or assault.
That last line is especially telling -- transgender men and women often face huge burdens of discrimination, including being prevented access to restrooms that they identify with. When such burdens become overwhelming, the result far too often is self-harm, including documented events of suicide.

But Larson’s comments aren’t the only examples of troubling rhetoric from Wisconsin conservatives. Gov. Scott Walker, in defending the decision to sue the feds, offered his thoughts as well.

“The federal government has no business telling local school districts what to do with bathrooms for kindergarten students,” he tweeted out.

That same line of argument, however, was repeatedly used by bigoted segregationists in the south when they tried to legitimize keeping blacks separate from whites in public restrooms. Southern lawmakers, the descendents of secessionists, used the “states’ rights” argument for generations to legitimize Jim Crow laws, even after the Civil Rights Act was passed.

It is especially hypocritical of Walker and other Republicans to say it is wrong for a higher government authority to limit the actions of local governments. Wisconsin Republicans have passed nearly 130 bills since 2011 that limit local control, and just this past year Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) tried to pass a bathroom bill that would have directed how local school districts must treat transgender students -- in a negative way.

To use the same rhetorical tactic in the restrooms debate that racist lawmakers used in the past undermines any arguments that Walker and company can make, especially about supposed safety concerns that are overblown and exaggerated. The true motivations of those supporting this lawsuit are exposed -- it is bigotry that drives their ambitions, and nothing more.

Transgender students deserve to feel safe in Wisconsin schools, not derided by the lawmakers that are meant to represent their interests. They deserve respect and to be treated as the gender they identify as. Gov. Walker and other GOP state representatives need to educate themselves on transgender issues, and drop their planned lawsuit against the Obama administration.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

WisGOP's partisan-based gerrymandered zig-zagged maps should be tossed out

Wisconsin GOP made democratic preference of voters irrelevant in drawing new district lines

Here’s some peculiarities to consider as a federal court hears arguments on Wisconsin’s redistricting lawsuit:
  • If you live on the west side of Lake Winnebago, you’re in the 6th Congressional District. Go to the east side of the lake, and you’re in the 8th Congressional District. Fine enough -- unless you travel another 40 minutes east, then you’re back in the 6th District. Even stranger, go fifteen minutes west of Lake Winnebago, and you’re back in the 8th if you live in Winneconne. The district lines zig-zag in significant ways.

  • The 7th Congressional District grew in geographic size from 2000 to its 2010 map. But in order to do so, three large-ish (and Democratic) Wisconsin cities were booted out of the 7th District -- Stevens Point (which voted 64 percent in favor of Barack Obama in 2012), Wisconsin Rapids (53 percent for Obama) and Chippewa Falls (56 percent for Obama). The geographic gains in the new district lines are primarily Republican-country.

  • The three cities listed above that were formerly in the 7th District now join the 3rd Congressional District. That means that Stevens Point is in the same district as Platteville, which is a three hour’s drive south. Yet Plainfield, just thirty minutes south of Stevens Point, is in a separate district from both. The 3rd District also now resembles the shape of the letter “Y.”
These are just a few instances of strange electoral maps that Wisconsin Republicans drew -- in secret -- that favors their party considerably. And this is just the Congressional districts we’re talking about. When it comes to state legislative districts, it gets worse.

How bad is it? In 2012 voters favored Democratic candidates over Republican choices by 52 percent of the overall vote count. Yet Republicans won 60 out of 99 Assembly seats. A clear “efficiency gap” emerges, demonstrating that a disadvantage for Democrats exist where more competitiveness should regularly be.

To be sure, a clear standard for throwing out gerrymandered maps on being too partisan isn’t yet established. The key word there is “yet” -- the High Court is certainly ready to establish such a standard. In a 2004 case, the justices split 4-4 on a partisan-based gerrymandering case. Anthony Kennedy, the deciding vote, couldn’t move himself to establish a new precedent at that time:
“The failings of the many proposed standards for measuring the burden a gerrymander imposes on representational rights make our intervention improper,” Kennedy wrote.
But he DID leave room for the possibility...
Nevertheless, he concluded that “if workable standards do emerge to measure these burdens … courts should be prepared to order relief.”
Emphasis in bold added.

If ever there was a set of electoral maps that existed that demonstrated a clear reason for needing to be tossed out, these Wisconsin maps would surely fit the bill. The secrecy and plain-as-day partisan nature in which they were drawn renders them unfit for use. They should ceased being used entirely, with the old maps in place until a better solution is presented.

And a new method for creating maps should be implemented, one that is nonpartisan in nature and takes into account the democratic leanings of the people lawmakers are meant to represent.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court revives John Doe investigation into Walker's illegal campaign coordination

SCOTUS grants permission to file "writ of certiorari under seal," a sign it wants to hear more about the case

The so-called “John Doe” investigation into illegal campaign coordination between Scott Walker, third party special interests groups and his donor base is moving forward.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted prosecutors permission (PDF) to file “a writ of certiorari under seal,” meaning they can file a request for the Court to hear the case with personal information of principal players redacted. A John Doe investigation is purposely performed under secretive means to protect the identities of those being investigated, usually in high-profile cases.

It’s been confirmed to the public, however, that the John Doe investigation includes Gov. Scott Walker and politically-aligned conservative groups that he coordinated with in order to allow donors to make unlimited donation amounts to help win his recall election back in 2012. One such donation, $700,000 from Gogebic Taconite, likely resulted in helping secure legislation favorable to allow the company to mine in northern Wisconsin.

Five county district attorneys, including Ismael Ozanne of Dane County and John Chisholm of Milwaukee County, sought to investigate just how far this collusion went, but were abruptly stopped by intervening state courts that demanded the investigation come to a halt and that all evidence be destroyed. Appealing to the state Supreme Court, four conservative justices agreed with the lower court rulings.

But some of those justices had benefitted financially from the very same organizations involved in the case before them, causing many to question whether their opinions weren’t influenced in some way. More than $10 million was spent to support these judicial candidates by these conservative groups that were at the center of the investigation.

Wisconsin’s code for judges and justices states that a “judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety,” which includes actions that “would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity” would be compromised. Certainly receiving millions of dollars in campaign donations and refusing to recuse oneself would fit the bill -- at least, it would in a reasonable mind, and it has in previous Supreme Court cases.

Which is likely the reasoning behind the order made by the federal Supreme Court to allow the writ to move forward. The order means that the justices want to hear more from Chisholm and the other DAs, which is a good indicator that they want to have the case end up before them eventually. It isn’t a guarantee, of course, but why else would the Court allow the writ to continue if it were otherwise?

What’s known for certain? The John Doe investigation isn’t dead like some reported it was. It’s very much alive, thanks to some reasonable minds on the federal Supreme Court.

Q and A with Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm

Chisholm answers questions on John Doe, elections integrity, and crime in Milwaukee County

You might not realize it, but there's a very important election coming up for voters in Milwaukee County in August -- in fact, it may be the most important election this cycle.

I'm talking about the election for Milwaukee County District Attorney. I was lucky enough to be able to sit down and speak to current DA John Chisholm, who's held the job since 2007 and is running for reelection.

You're soon to be running for reelection to your current office. Why do you deserve another term, and what's something you'd like voters to know you'll fight for if you do win again?

I believe I deserve another term because our office, under my leadership, is now nationally recognized as an office that has been at the forefront of criminal justice reform, but doing so in a way that makes sure that we keep people safe, and in a way that actually respects their civil liberties and their rights.

The programs that have been the foundation of the office the last ten years have been things like community prosecution, where we put experienced assistant DAs out in the community with the express goal of helping people solve their problems at a neighborhood level and they get to direct how we solve those problems. 

That's a radical change that we do in conjunction with community policing strategies, but always, always with neighborhood based organizations that help us identify what the problems are and who the problem-makers are. Then we try to come up with solutions. 

It's a public health model called "crime prevention through environmental design." Sometimes it's just tying neighbors together so that they can work with each other to identify the problems. It could be a nuisance property; a drug house; an abandoned home; it could be a group of young individuals who are committing crimes, and we want to focus on them. We want to be able to get information from the community to help identify what the problems are so you're not over policing, you're not doing things that are making the good people angry, because they're being stopped unnecessarily or treated unfairly. So that's one of the goals. 

The next thing we've done is we've implemented a nationally recognized program for identifying people who are arrested, and it's really four categories: people with mental illness; with drug addiction; with alcohol abuse issues; and youthful offenders who are just not thinking clearly. A lot of the time those individuals have been exposed to a lot of trauma in their life and a lot of adverse conditions like poverty, poor school conditions, poor environmental conditions and poor health care. We really enhanced the office's ability to focus on, for example, violent sex offenders, [as well as] people using guns to commit crimes. I've established a witness protection unit, which is really rare for a DAs office. 

I specifically worked with Carmen Pitre from Sojourner Family Peace to come up with this national model for the Sojourner Family Peace Center, which actually co-locates Children's Hospital with advocates from Sojourner and my own prosecutors and advocates, and then all of the social services for the county are all located in one beautiful new building. 

We fundamentally understand now that kids exposed to violence are more likely to commit violence. If you do a search of independent validators, they would generally say that there's three or four prosecutors in the country who are recognized by foundations that are interested in criminal justice system reform (by the US department of justice, by academic institutions, as well as prosecutors that are all willing to lead the way on systemic change). We believe that we can keep people safe, but we can do it by relying less on jail and prisons and working more with assets in the community to solve these problems. 

An article in the New Yorker by Jeffrey Toobin (The Milwaukee Experiment”) was the first time people came to understand some of the things that I'm doing, because we're not a PR firm. We have such limited resources, and everybody in the office is doing actual work every day. I don't have anything like a public information officer, so it's really about addressing the community's problems and solving them, not taking credit for them. I don't care about the credit -- I care about the results.

Click below to read more of this interview, including questions on John Doe, crime in Milwaukee County, and what should be done about elections integrity.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Assume every state besides WI created zero jobs in 2015 -- we’re STILL behind most of the nation

Latest verified jobs report shows that 28 states outperform in four years what Wisconsin accomplished in five years

The headline says it all, but I’ll explain further.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development released its most recent verified jobs numbers (not that they matter much anymore to the Scott Walker administration). While the numbers show continued growth for the state, the news is not all that good.

Wisconsin has lagged behind the rest of the nation up to this point. We can’t be sure that these numbers are indicative of continued lagging, but they are similar to numbers we saw one year before, when the Badger State ranked 38th out of the fifty United States in private sector jobs growth. We're left to believe that our ranking could be similar when the full national report is released next month.

Other states have yet to release their verified numbers for 2015. Walker started releasing quarterly reporters early in 2012, initially as a way to drum up support one month before his recall election in June of that year. His administration has continued the practice since then, but because the numbers are out early we can’t compare them yet to other states.

However, a funny thing occurred to me when I started thinking about this most recent release: what if we compared these new numbers, and all of the jobs created in Wisconsin from December 2010 to December 2015, to jobs numbers in states ONLY up to 2014? That is, give Wisconsin a golf handicap: compare its five years of jobs growth to the rest of the nation’s four years of jobs growth, but assume that a net zero jobs are created elsewhere in the rest of the nation, and divide EVERYONE’S jobs growth by five years.

The result? Wisconsin STILL would lag behind most of the country under those assumptions. We’d rank 29th overall nationally in our average yearly rate of private sector jobs growth since Walker took office, and we’d rank 7th out of ten states in the Midwest.

Data derived from BLS, DWD

Our annual jobs growth rate from December 2010 to December 2015 is 1.45 percent on average. Minnesota’s average during that same time period -- again, assuming that they created ZERO jobs in 2015 -- would be about 1.62 percent on average.

In fact, from 2010 to 2014 Minnesota created 177,713 new private sector jobs. From 2010 to 2015 Wisconsin created 13,000 less jobs. In other words, Minnesota (and 27 other states) outperformed in four years what it took Wisconsin to accomplish in five.

So the next time you hear someone touting the “Wisconsin Comeback,” remind them: even with an additional year of jobs numbers, we still fail to catch up to other states' growth (by rate or by raw data).

Thursday, May 19, 2016

17-year old plans to run for State Assembly seat

Cedarburg teen David Pelikan provides positive indications that younger generations will be more engaged in political matters

Who says the kids aren’t all right?

David Pelikan (image via WKOW)
A 17-year old in Cedarburg is running for political office. Though state law requires him to be 18 to collect signatures to get on the ballot -- heck, he won’t even be able to vote for himself in November -- independent candidate for office David Pelikan is undeterred.

"If I, as a 17 year-old, can run and maybe become a human interest story and get people excited about these local elections, to get people to evaluate their vote, then I'll have achieved something," he said recently.

Though he won’t be able to vote in November, Pelikan will be legally old enough to serve in the Assembly if he is elected. His birthday is in December, and state law says anyone over the age of 18 can serve in the legislature, which inaugurates new members in January.

According to his press release, Pelikan is running on a platform of bipartisanship. He is fiscally conservative, but leans progressive on matters of “educational reform, environmental protection and energy development.”

I’m not certain yet if his is a candidacy I can fully endorse. As a full-fledged progressive, his conservative side gives me pause. I’d need to know more about the candidate, and what specifics he stands for before I can say to others in the area, “Hey, vote for Pelikan!”

But one thing I am certain of is that his age shouldn’t be an issue. Pelikan demonstrates an effective understanding of how politics works, and his candidacy is a positive sign of youth engagement in the younger Millennial and burgeoning Generation Z populations.

We need more young people like Pelikan, not less, who are willing to step up to the plate and serve their state and local communities.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

GOP lawmaker uses questionable survey to tout alleged "Wisconsin Comeback"

CEO Magazine's survey doesn't provide objective data on "best" states to do business in

Several Republican politicians in Wisconsin believe that the state’s economy is recovering. Scott Walker has made the claim on several occasions, and a recent press release from Republican Rep. Keith Ripp states with confidence that “the Wisconsin Comeback is real.”

Except, it isn’t -- I posted recently that the governor’s assessments of the Wisconsin Comeback are flawed at best, and purposely exaggerated at worst.

Ripp’s commentary is similarly flawed. Unlike Walker, however, who relied heavily on unverified jobs numbers to make his “Wisconsin Comeback” claim, Ripp uses the state’s improved standing in CEO Magazine’s annual “Best And Worst States for Business” rankings (PDF) as a metric for why we’re doing better.

“We've improved 30 places in this survey's rankings since 2010,” Ripp said.

That’s GREAT! But there’s a problem with using that survey: the rankings aren’t based on anything more than 500 CEOs attitudes on how they feel about certain states.
CEOs are asked to provide their selections for the 4 best states for doing business and the 4 worst states for doing business. We assign points to each state each time they are cited as a top 4 state...
While asking industry heads to complete a survey may provide some insight to economic trends, there’s no data that provides objective proof that Wisconsin has done any better, or is faring better than the rest of the nation, based on those assessments. A CEO with a grudge against one state, for example, can rate that state poorly for no other reason than their attitudes on who is currently governor.

In other words the survey can be wrong -- and has been in the past. In 2014 the survey placed Wisconsin at the 14th best place to do business in, an improvement of 27 places since 2010 to that time. Yet Wisconsin’s GDP growth from 2010 to 2013 was 27th place in the nation.

Indeed, it’s hard to fathom how we can be considered 11th best in the nation today using objective measures. We saw more than 10,000 layoffs in the state last year alone (this year isn’t looking good either). Our state is failing to produce startups at the rate it should (we’re last in the nation), and companies simply don’t want to move here, despite the governor’s assurances they would when he first entered office. And businesses aren’t hiring at the pace they are across the country: Wisconsin ranks 40th out of 50 in terms of job creation in the U.S. since Walker became governor, according to the most recent verified numbers.

Ripp does deserve kudos for pointing out that our state’s crumbling infrastructure needs attention. “We have a looming transportation crisis that must not be ignored,” he writes (though it’s entirely possible that he and other Republicans may use that crisis as a precursor to introduce road tolls on Wisconsin highways).

But Republican lawmakers, be they the governor or anyone else, need to stop using CEO Magazine’s rankings as a testament of our alleged success. The rankings they cite are not objective data, and cannot be used as a reliable measure of whether Wisconsin is doing better under their watch. Most measures, in fact, say otherwise.

Monday, May 16, 2016

How Wisconsin Republicans plan to steal elections using Voter ID, in three easy steps

GOP lawmakers aimed to preserve political power in passing voter ID, according to former WISGOP staffer

U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman’s words on how Wisconsin’s newly implemented voter ID law will flip the state red in the presidential election still haunt me.

When asked about the Republicans’ chances to win Wisconsin in November, Grothman responded last month, “Now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is gonna make a little bit of a difference.”

Many jumped on the comments as proof that voter ID wasn’t about preventing fraud at all. And although Grothman tried to walk back his commentary following the minor uproar, it isn’t too far of a stretch to consider this as part of a big Republican plan to win swing states and their legislatures.

Today, we received confirmation of those fears -- that Wisconsin Republicans passed the ID law for their own political benefit. At least one Republican has stepped forward, pointing out that lawmakers from his own party who passed the voter ID bill were “giddy” about the prospects of disenfranchising large segments of voters that traditionally voted for Democrats.
[Former GOP aide Todd] Allbaugh added some [Wisconsin lawmakers] were “politically frothing at the mouth,” singling out Sen. Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa and former Sen. Randy Hopper of Oshkosh. He added Sen. Mary Lazich of New Berlin and then-Sen. Glenn Grothman were also among the most enthusiastic members of the caucus during a closed-door meeting in supporting the bills.

“They were talking about impeding peoples’ constitutional rights, and they were happy about it,” Allbaugh testified over the objections of the state Department of Justice.
And from the Cap Times (emphasis in bold added):
[Former State Sen. Dale] Schultz, who did not seek re-election in 2014, voiced some opposition to the bill and what it might do to voting rights, Allbaugh said. His opposition was met by a spirited defense from then-Sen. Glenn Grothman, now a member of Congress.

"At that point, Sen. Grothman cut him off and said, 'What I’m concerned about is winning. You know as well as I do the Democrats would do this if they had power … so we better get this done while we have the opportunity,'" Allbaugh said.
The fact is that preservation of legislative seats (and gaining more seats) was the primary goal of the Republican Party from the get-go. They just needed a way to win the elections, and win them easier. In other words, they needed a way to steal seats.

It’s not all that hard to steal an election under the guise of voter ID -- all it takes is three steps.

Step one: implement an unnecessary voter ID law. 

Not only implement a law that isn’t really necessary to begin with, but also makes it more difficult to get the right kind of ID in the first place.

How unnecessary is voter ID? From the Christian Science Monitor (emphases in bold mine):
...we’re talking about 31 apparently fraudulent ballots cast out of roughly one billion. That amounts to 0.0000031 percent of the total votes cast over the time period that Levitt studied and it amounts to a quite obviously infinitesimal amount of the total ballots cast. Again, that doesn’t dismiss the fact that the incidents he uncovered were in fact crimes and that the people involved in them ought to be appropriately prosecuted. What it does suggest, though, is that the argument that voter ID laws are necessary because of some widespread problem is simply not true, and that more weight ought to be given to the arguments of those who point out the difficulties that voter ID laws create for certain classes of voters, most often the poor, minorities, and the elderly.
And from Think Progress, examples of how hard it is for those without ID to get one:
After filling out a series of forms at Milwaukee’s DMV and posing for a picture, Barksdale was able to obtain a state ID he can use to vote on Tuesday. Helem was not, because she did not have a copy of her birth certificate. Though she presented her Social Security card, proof of residence, and Illinois State ID, the DMV staff said it would take them at least three weeks to find and verify her birth certificate.

Step Two: make sure enough people are ignorant about the new rules. 

The law Gov. Scott Walker signed that put voter ID on the books included a provision that required the state to educate the public about what kind of identification would be acceptable, and how to go about getting a new ID if it were necessary.

But the new law went into effect during this year’s spring elections -- without any education campaign at all.

A Marquette Law School Poll in February demonstrated that nearly one in every six registered voters didn’t know main aspects of the law, or even that they needed an ID to vote. With about 3.4 million registered voters in the state, that equates to more than 542,000 voters in Wisconsin that don't understand the new ID rules.

Step three: execute the plan in a swing state (like Wisconsin). 

The Democrats have won every presidential election in Wisconsin since 1988. In recent years, the difference between the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate have been slim. Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in 2012 by less than 220,000 votes. In 2008 he won with just over 400,000.

The two elections prior to those were even slimmer: in 2004 John Kerry won with just 11,384 more votes than George W. Bush, and in 2000 Al Gore defeated Bush with just 5,708 votes.

Having more than half a million voters being uneducated about the new ID law certainly could affect a presidential election where the average totals for the last four elections between the Democratic and Republican candidates have been decided by just 160,000 votes or so. That sounds like a lot of voters, but if three out of every ten voters who don’t understand voter ID remain in the dark about it by November, it could tip the balance in favor of Republicans.

That’s exactly how you create a political “fix” in Wisconsin, if you’re a Republican. You create a new voter ID law that’s unnecessary, you refuse to educate the public on the new law, and you enforce it knowing that a sizable number of people in the state won’t understand the new ID rules -- not to mention that a sizable number WILL understand them but still won’t be able to vote because of huge restrictions in what’s an acceptable ID.

It’s disgusting to hear that leaders were just aching to pass this law, not for its necessity, but rather because it would ensure more political victories for their side. Wisconsinites need to know the truth, and need to reject this type of lawmaking by electing new leadership to head the state legislature.

Scott Walker accuses Facebook of bias -- without tangible evidence

Ignoring both the U.S. Constitution and biblical lessons, Walker launches petition against social media site in an effort to gain campaign dollars

The U.S. Constitution codifies the right of the accused to face those who make accusations against them of crimes or other improprieties.

Being allowed to face one’s accuser can also be traced all the way back to the Bible, to Acts 25:16, which pointed out the right Paul had to face those making claims of criminal conduct against him: is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges.
Though they haven’t been brought before a court quite yet, social media website Facebook deserves similar treatment before any conclusions should be drawn about it purportedly using bias in filtering out conservative news stories on its Trending Stories section.

The accusations were reported earlier this month by tech site Gizmodo, relying on the criticism of one former conservative content curator who worked as a contractor for Facebook.

The contractor hasn’t revealed him- or herself, nor has their evidence been provided by Gizmodo. The reporting isn’t verified, and the accusations don’t have much of a leg to stand on at this point in time.

For its own part, Facebook has responded in an appropriate and commendable manner. Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive and co-founder of the social media giant, has made himself available to meet with concerned members of conservative media, including Glenn Beck, S.E. Cupp, and others.
"I'm going in with an open mind and an eagerness to learn more," Cupp said. "Conservatives and Silicon Valley actually come down on the same side of many issues and share some common concerns. I'm sure we'll find plenty to talk about, and I'm honored to have been included."
If some concrete form of evidence is presented that would suggest Facebook has tampered with its Trending Topics section of the site, then criticism is warranted. That part of the site has been billed as being unbiased, and if it’s discovered that curators have indeed meddled with it, purposely keeping conservative news from trending on the site, then there is definitely cause for concern and outrage.

However, no evidence has yet surfaced to suggest improper management of that section. Still, many conservative organizations and leaders have tried to capitalize on the (so far baseless) accusations, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Walker has taken his tirade to Twitter (and to Facebook itself), while also creating a petition/fundraising drive asking for support to “stand up against conservative suppression” on Facebook.

“Be sure to sign the petition and stand against Facebook’s attempt to silence conservatives,” he wrote last week.

Walker is certainly free to share his own thoughts on the matter, but he is foolishly leaping to conclusions. There is no proof yet, besides hearsay evidence, that Facebook has done anything wrong.

As the son of a pastor, he is being forgetful of the cautionary lines from Acts 25:16; and as an elected official, he’s being forgetful of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Both demand that the accused be allowed to face their accusers before judgment is passed. Walker ignores that principle, and judges Facebook anyway, without evidence to support his claim.

Of course, we’ve seen in the past that Walker hasn’t been the best biblical scholar, nor has he been a reliable authority on Constitutional values.

Walker is able to give up the principles found in both, willing to overlook values important to our nation and to many of its people in order to make a quick buck for his campaign coffers.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Without explaining why, Walker blames Obama for state debt deferments

Gov. Walker is accustomed to passing the buck when troubling economic news arises

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is planning to defer $101 million in debt payments, kicking the proverbial can down the road and costing state taxpayers millions of dollars in increased interest costs rather than footing the bill now.

This is something that governors of Wisconsin regularly do. Jim Doyle, for example, restructured debt payments by about $687 million over his two terms in office.

But Walker is claiming that he’s a responsible budgeter of Wisconsin’s finances. His total debt deferments say otherwise, having already surpassed Doyle’s deferments totals in a shorter span of time, totaling more than $773 million in a period of just five years. And that total is BEFORE you take into consideration the debt restructuring that was announced this week.

So while Gov. Walker touts questionable budget surpluses, remember: he’s just making a mess for future governments to clean up years down the road. After all, anyone can claim a surplus when they don’t take into account their debts.

But yesterday the governor made some interesting comments about WHY he’s deferring the debt in the first place. His rationale? He’s blaming the president, of course.
Gov. Walker told 27 News Wednesday he wants to keep that cash on hand to cover any shortfalls caused by unexpected economic downturns in the national economy.

"The bottom line is we have concerns about the Obama economy nationally and we want to make sure Wisconsin's prepared for it," said Gov. Walker. "And the reason we're able to do that is we have the lowest level of bonding in some 20 years…”
As Jake of Jake’s Economic TA Funhouse points out, that answer is utter b.s.
This isn't a refinancing of debt, where some form of debt is traded in for lower interest rates and costs over time. This was $101 million that would have been paid off and be off the books. What the Walker folks are doing is the equivalent of begging their creditors to restructure their debt because they can't pay them right now.
Blaming the president is problematic for Walker for another reason: economically speaking, President Barack Obama has a much better record than our governor does.

The U.S. has seen its economy grow by a stronger rate, for example. From 2010 to 2013 (PDF) the U.S. GDP growth was 2.0 percent. In Wisconsin, GDP grew by 1.8 percent during the same time period. While that’s not a huge difference, it is reason to give pause to Walker’s warnings about “concerns about the Obama economy nationally” -- concerns that Walker doesn’t give any explanation to whatsoever.

On jobs as well, Wisconsin is doing substantially worse than the rest of the nation under the current governor’s watch. In fact, out of the 50 states in the union Wisconsin ranks 40th in terms of jobs growth since 2011, when Scott Walker took control of the governor’s office.

Passing the buck on the state’s economic problems isn’t unfamiliar ground for Gov. Walker. He’s done it before, blaming everything he can imagine (except himself) for the state’s dismal record. From Obamacare, the debt ceiling, the 2012 presidential elections, and yes, even rain itself, the fault lies everywhere else except at his own feet according to Walker.

But if you were to ask me, I’d tell you straight up that Wisconsin’s economic problems lie squarely with the governor himself. He has failed to produce anything substantial in Wisconsin, save for his fancy sound bytes and empty press releases.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Be skeptical of “Wisconsin Comeback” claims -- Walker’s made them before

Unverified numbers don’t fit governor’s “gold standard”

Gov. Scott Walker authored an op-ed this week in which he explained the "Wisconsin Comeback" was still going strong.

Of course, the last time Walker said such a comeback was happening he was facing a very bad week in office. His claims were also unfounded, based on scant evidence and jobs numbers that weren’t verified.

So forgive me if I seem skeptical, because once again Walker is touting numbers that are unverified to claim there is a comeback.

Requiring that jobs numbers be verified isn’t my standard -- Walker himself created the rules by which we can criticize his jobs numbers in the weeks prior to his recall election.
While it is understandable that jobs estimates are often discussed when they are released, because they are the most recent job statistic, the actual job count data [quarterly report] is the gold standard of jobs measurement.
Yet Gov. Walker’s op-ed this week doesn’t tout the quarterly report -- it talks about the monthly jobs estimates that he was once critical of.

But perhaps I’m being too harsh. After all, Walker is citing some pretty impressive stats, including being “No. 1 in the Midwest for job growth from February to March” and having “the best 12 months of job growth since 2004.”

On that second point, however, I’ve already pointed out that Walker made a similar claim to that in the past -- and that the claim came up way short once the jobs numbers went through the verification process. Walker provides no reason why we should believe these newer numbers should be any different.

And on being number one in the Midwest, Walker also made a claim just like that in 2014 during his re-election campaign against Mary Burke. After the numbers were verified, however, it turned out he was completely wrong.

Walker said we were third in the Midwest back then in jobs created from July 2013 to July 2014. But once again, when the numbers went through the verification process they didn’t hold true.

In fact, using numbers from the second quarter jobs report in 2014, we see that we weren’t third in the Midwest as Walker said we were -- instead, we were dead last in jobs creation in the region.

But by then, of course, the damage was done -- the verified jobs report came out one month after Walker had already won re-election, in no small part to that ad campaign that claimed there was a “Wisconsin Comeback.”

That comeback was a false description of what actually happened. And there’s every reason to believe that Walker’s most recent claims about a “Wisconsin Comeback” are similarly disingenuous.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Walker, WisGOP put their party's ambitions first in backing Trump for president

State Republicans refuse to take a principled stand against a dangerous candidate

Wisconsin Republicans have put the ambitions of their party ahead of the nation's interests.

Though several of the state's highest ranking GOP leaders had previously backed other candidates for president, the departures of both Ted Cruz and John Kasich have signaled a Donald Trump victory for the Republican Party's nomination contest, and with it a blind obedience by GOP dignitaries in the state to follow in his destructive path.

Among them is Gov. Scott Walker. Citing a pledge he made in August of last year as a presidential contender, Walker reiterated that he would support the GOP nominee no matter who it was.
"On August 6, I stood on the stage in Cleveland and said I would support the nominee," Walker said. "I said it repeatedly since then, and I'll be supporting the Republican nominee once that's officially set at the convention against Hillary Clinton."
State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald has also indicated that he will be backing Donald Trump for president. "We're on the Trump train now," he said earlier this week.

Even those who were quite vocal about being #NeverTrump proponents in the recent past, like Assembly Majority Leader Rep. Jim Steineke of Kaukauna, have backtracked on their previous comments a bit.
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) — a vocal Trump critic — softened his position slightly. He declined to say what he would do in the fall, other than to say he wouldn't vote for Clinton.

"My vote is my vote and I'll make my decision somewhere down the line," he said.
Party unity is sometimes important. But when Republicans put party first and the country's interests second, unifying behind a controversial figure like Trump serves no grand purpose other than their own. And as I've pointed out before, sometimes pledges that were previously made are worth breaking, such as Walker’s pledge to back the eventual nominee.

Though I endorsed Bernie Sanders earlier this year, it does appear that Clinton is poised to win the Democratic Party's nomination for president. Presuming that she is the nominee, it's clear that she'd be the better of the two candidates by every measure you can imagine. On foreign and domestic policies, Clinton is simply more capable to lead than Donald Trump is.

In spite of this, Republicans in Wisconsin and elsewhere appear ready and willing to back Trump. The only conclusion that can be drawn from such blind support is that they are simply thinking about the promotion of their own party’s ambitions, unconcerned with what direction their vitriolic and impulsive candidate could possibly take us as leader of the free world.

Donald Trump is a dangerous candidate. But he’s the Republican candidate for president, and that’s all that seems to matter to many members of the Wisconsin GOP.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Rep. Bob Gannon is wrong -- voter ID education is not only needed, but mandated

Gannon refuses to acknowledge the need for voter ID education, cites irrelevant statistics

Rep. Bob Gannon (R-Slinger) says there are no problems with understanding voter ID in Wisconsin. And if he says so, then it must be true.

But Gannon says if there’s anyone to blame for voter ID miseducation, it’s those dang college students (PDF):
There are no problems with voting other than the students at the University of Wisconsin; some of whom also disrupted the assembly chamber on Election Day to protest the new voter ID rules.
Bitter much, Bob?

To cite that he KNOWS there isn’t a problem with voting in the state, Gannon states the number of votes cast in this past spring election.
There are more people voting in these elections than ever before. In the 2012 Presidential primary, when there was no ID law in effect, there were 1,088,102 votes in Wisconsin. This year there were 2,113,544 votes in the Presidential primary in Wisconsin.
Except that’s not really how it works at all. A higher number of votes doesn’t mean that more people understand voting laws. It just means more people voted. There are myriad reasons why that may be.

For instance, in 2012 Barack Obama was the presumed nominee for the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket, and Mitt Romney had won more than 56 percent of the pledged delegates up to that point (to compare, Trump had only won about 45 percent up to Wisconsin this year). In short, there wasn’t as much enthusiasm in Wisconsin in 2012 as there was in 2016.

Instead of comparing vote totals, Gannon should look to voter attitudes on the subject of voter ID. In a Marquette Law School poll conducted this year (PDF), for example, about one-in-six voters didn’t understand that you needed an adequate ID to vote at all. With nearly 3.4 million voters registered to vote in Wisconsin, that amounts to around 542,000 registered voters that are under-educated on the changes.

But hey, that’s no big deal according to Gannon. And besides, educating voters just costs too much money:
The legislature should spend money as judiciously as possible and only when absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately for Gannon, it IS necessary to spend money on voter education -- if not for the sheer numbers outlined above, then because the very voter ID bill that he supported and Gov. Scott Walker signed into law mandates as much (PDF).
Act 23 requires that the Government Accountability Board (GAB) conduct a public information campaign in conjunction with the first regularly scheduled primary and election at which the voter identification requirements of the Act initially apply for the purpose of informing prospective voters of the new voter identification requirements. The Act also requires GAB to engage in outreach to identify and contact groups of electors who may need assistance in obtaining or renewing a document that constitutes proof of identification for voting and provide assistance in obtaining or renewing that document
So, as much as Bob Gannon would like to pretend that funding a voter ID education campaign not a necessary expenditure, it is…because the law says it is.

You may also be interested in reading:
Bob Gannon "flips the bird," remains ignorant on gun stats in Wisconsin