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America Votes - Wisconsin

The Trend that Needs to End Fast: Restrictive Abortion Laws

The nationwide pattern of legislation to restrict women's right to choose makes an 80s bouffant look beautiful.

A new trend seems to be sweeping the country. It's not akin to tie-dye, Crocs, or shoulder pads; it's the new abortion policies sweeping the nation that crush women's health rights.

Fourteen states have enacted more than 30 different measures imposing new restrictions on abortions. These policies include mandatory ultrasounds, regulations on clinics, and even banning abortions after a certain period. Proponents for such policy argue that fetuses can feel pain, or that regulations to clinics would better women's welfare.

Today in North Carolina, lawmakers heard testimonies on HB 695, which would also add more regulations on abortion clinics in the state with little improvement on patient safety. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill on Friday that would require all women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound and additionally add more regulations on abortion clinics. And in Texas, where State Senator Wendy Davis literally stood up for women in Texas by successfully filibustering a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, out-of-touch Texas legislators have pushed the bill through the General Assembly once more.

Conservatives continually fail to recognize is that this "trend" is not catching on -- 89% of Americans agree that women should have the right to choose to at least some degree. These important health decisions must be left in the hands of each woman who faces them -- not the government.

Doctors in Ohio testified that policies requiring doctors to give women requesting abortions ultrasounds with simultaneous descriptions of the fetus would, "create a climate that puts lives at risk." State lawmakers who say that abortion clinic regulations would help improve women's welfare also cover up the harsh reality that such policies, like the one recently passed in Virginia, would force abortion clinics to spend large sums of money on standards that are not medically necessary. A similar policy being discussed in Texas would actually cripple the state's private clinics -- and the state's Lt. Governor is not shy that this is exactly why he supports such a measure. So much for improvements to women's healthcare.

But progressive activists such as America Votes partners Planned Parenthood and NARAL have been quick to fight back and are gaining national recognition. Today, a federal court suspended the Wisconsin abortion law until it can undergo further legal review. More than 2,000 North Carolina protesters gathered yesterday for a "Moral Monday" rally at the state capitol. And in Texas, more than 5,000 people flooded the capitol last week as the new abortion bill kicked off in the state House, and Planned Parenthood is currently doing a statewide "Stand With Texas Women" bus tour to rally women to stand up for their health rights.

Americans thrive and survive on the right to choose. We choose what clothes we wear, what religion we follow, who we vote for, and where we live. We cannot sit back and allow states and Congress to pass these violations of rights. Progressives, and everyone who believes in individuals' liberties, need to stand against these convoluted attempts to strip women of their freedoms as if they were a bad pair of parachute pants.

- KT & KP


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Wisconsin GOP Trying to Weaken State Courts

Republicans in the Wisconsin state legislature are attempting to ram through a bill that would skirt the powers of circuit courts in the states. The measure would blatantly undermine the check-and-balance between the state legislature and state courts by taking away the circuit courts’ ability to block all or portions of state laws.

Here’s how state Rep. David Craig (R-Big Bend) justifies the bill: “A county judge elected by ‘a small fraction of the state’ shouldn't be able to stop a law that affects the entire state.” What Craig failed to note is that these judges are not using city charters or county ordinances to make decisions – they’re applying the Wisconsin Constitution.

The real issue at hand is that conservatives are feeling the sting from progressives, who have relentlessly challenged extreme right-wing laws such as voter ID and the anti-union collective bargaining laws in 2011. Circuit courts have granted several injunctions that temporarily blocked portions of these laws until higher courts could determine their constitutionality.

The separation of powers is important to maintain a balance between the three branches of government. This is clearly a conservative power play to undermine the “check” created by the state constitution to help prevent such extreme laws from being enacted.

America Votes partner One Wisconsin Now released a statement saying, “Under [the GOP legislature’s] scheme, our justice system would be turned on its head to satisfy their seemingly insatiable quest for political power. While they flout the Constitution, people's rights would be denied."

Republicans in the state legislature are hoping to push this through quickly to limit the amount of opposition voiced against the measure. It is up to Wisconsin progressives to protect the state constitution by spreading the word of the conservatives’ power-grabbing ploy and stopping this bill from gaining any traction.

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A Win for the Middle Class in Wisconsin

Today, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos stated that he would not push for a "Right to Work for Less" bill during the upcoming legislative session.

State Democratic and union leaders were worried that after the passing of the terrible legislation that ended collective bargaining rights for unions, that Republican leadership would push to make Wisconsin a "right to work" state.

Vos put our minds at ease, for now. It appears the state GOP doesn't want a recurrance of the bad publicity and protests that occured last time as we get closer to the 2014 Governor race.

Republicans may be trying to paint themselves as bipartisan for now, but we all know the truth. Their policies hurt the middle class.

America Votes will continue to work with our partners to fend off any chance of "right to work" legislation in the state and continue our pursuit for progressive goals for all citizens of Wisconsin.

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The GOP’s Plan to Destroy the Electoral College

GOP leaders want to do away with the popular vote in awarding states’ Electoral College (EC) votes and replace it with a gerrymandered map created by state legislators.

As of right now, there are only two states that don’t award their EC votes on a winner-takes-all basis -- Maine and Nebraska. Instead, they allocate their votes by Congressional districts. Republicans are now making a push for the swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to follow suit.

Conservatives have acknowledged that demographics are no longer on their side, and in a move that can only be seen as extreme desperation, they are ready to play dirty. By having complete control of these states’ governments, they are ready to move forward with this power grab to change the course of Presidential elections as we know it.

The GOP lost the national popular vote for their House candidates by more than one million votes, yet still maintained control of the chamber. This was only possible through extreme gerrymandering of Congressional districts -- squeezing all urban areas into smaller districts, while creating huge sprawling rural districts where less people live. These tactics not only decrease the voices of the majority, but give underrepresentation to them as well.

Now, they want to use these unfair and misappropriated maps in the Presidential elections.

Republican leaders should be working towards building a more inclusive platform for their party, but instead are busy with dirty politics as usual. Fair warning: there will be political fallout should they attempt to push these measures through. Not only will we as progressives work to fight against them, but we will be on the frontline banging the battle drum.

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The Republican Party wants to suppress your vote

Pennsylvania’s new voter-ID law seems to be creating more than a few headaches lately.

When a person has to stand in numerous lines, fill out multiple forms, and spend over four hours of their day to receive an ID that is only good for the sole-purpose of voting, there is a problem within our democracy.

Voter-ID laws are a trend occurring all over the nation in states controlled by Republican legislatures; including swing-states such as Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Wisconsin. They say that the new law will help protect against voter fraud. However, when allegations of voter fraud have been investigated, the numbers just do not seem to add up. In a major attempt by the Bush Administration to crack down on voter fraud between the years of 2002 to 2007, only 86 people were convicted of voter fraud out of the 300 million votes cast during that time. In the meantime, while Republicans beat their war drums against “big government spending,” the states that have implemented such laws will be spending a combined total of as much as $828 million over the next four years to have these laws implemented. This argument just lacks pure logical sense.

The reality is that state Republican legislatures are enacting a new form of “poll tax” on to groups who generally do not need or have a difficult time obtaining a new photo-ID. These groups (young voters, minorities, the poor, and the elderly) coincidentally enough, were what helped push Obama to victory in 2008. How odd that now these are the voices that Republicans seem to be attempting to suppress for the upcoming 2012 Election.

The Voting Rights Act prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure ... to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color." This put an end to that era’s Jim Crowe Laws that dominated the polls within the Southern states and reinforced the ratification of the 15th Amendment.

These new laws are nothing more than a replacement to the laws that civil rights activists worked so hard to overthrow. They are taking away people’s rights to vote and suppressing the voices of the people. These states should be taken to court where, hopefully, these laws will be found unconstitutional.

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Wisconsin and the Ryan Bounce

The race appears to be tightening for the Presidential election in Wisconsin. Or does it?

In the latest Marquette poll done in the state, Obama was only leading Romney 49%-46%, down from the 5-point lead he held in the same poll before the announcement of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate. At first glance, it would appear that the Badger State holds quite a bit of love for their hometown boy. Ryan starts off his honeymoon phase with a 41% favorability rating.

However, what’s more interesting to note is the extremely high percentage of those who hold an unfavorable view of the Congressman: 34%. This is the highest unfavorable rating for a running mate since the selection of Dan Quayle. And as all political analysts know this number always climbs higher as we get closer to Election Day.

How long will the brief Ryan bounce help Romney in the end? Our guess is not very.

Polling Data

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The Wisconsin recall -- a preview of a November to come? Maybe not.

High turnout and voter supression leads to a win for Walker, but does it mean anything for November?

Wisconsin voters took to the polls on Tuesday and decided that change is not what they wanted.

Republican Governor Scott Walker was re-elected with 53 percent of the vote over Democratic challenger Tom Barrett. An election fueled by public workers' anger over the loss of collective bargaining rights.

Tuesday's results show that despite possible election fatigue people are still showing up at the polls, with more than 2.5 million votes being cast. A potential preview of the importance of mobilizing voters to the polls in November.

Although despite large voter turnout, voter suppression tactics were in full force. With reports that a robo-call went out to voters telling them “if you signed the recall petition, your job is done and you don’t need to vote on Tuesday.” The Walker campaign denies any connection to the call. These voter suppression robo calls only added to voter confusion in an already unusual recall election.

Of note is the fact that, while Governor Walker won by about 6% of the vote, exit polls also showed that voters favored President Obama by 7%, 51-44.  Beyond that, exit polls show that many voters who cast ballots for Walker might just dislike the idea of a recall election.  From National Journal:

"Yet the Walker success in defeating Barrett and Democrats' attempt to
unseat him may be rooted in voters' unwillingness to remove a sitting
officeholder for political reasons. Just 27 percent of voters said
recall elections are appropriate for any reason; Barrett won this bloc
9-to-1. But the vast majority -- 60 percent -- said recall elections are
only appropriate for "official misconduct," and more than two-thirds of
these voters supported Walker."

So, is Wisconsin a preview of November?  Most likely not.

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Wisconsin Voter ID Law in Flux: Local Officials Unsure of Procedures for Tuesday Election

Two lawsuits challenging the legality of Wisconsin's Voter ID law were sent directly to the state's Supreme Court by lower Appeals Courts Wednesday.The law was stayed by two different Dane County circuit court judges in early March. The development puts Wisconsin election officials in limbo. If the Supreme Court decides to take up the cases, the law could be reinstated prior to next Tuesday's election.

The Government Accountability Board, which oversees the state's elections, says it has reached out to town clerks to clarify the status of the law.

"What we've been advising clerks is: train your poll wokers on the procedures for checking photo IDs. However, unless you hear otherwise from us, do not actually check photo IDs," said GAB spokesperson Reid Magney in an interview with Green Bay's Fox 11 News.

Clerks across the state have to be ready at a moment's notice to remove and replace signs advising voters to produce a photo ID. Some clerks have even hired additional poll workers for Tuesday in anticipation of widespread confusion.

"I feel like I'm somewhat ready," Neenah City Clerk Patty Sturn said, "but that could all change by the end of the week".

Wisconsin's Republican legislature passed its Voter ID bill last May. It is one of 32 states that have implemented Voter ID laws. Many of these laws are currently subject to pending court cases or review from the Department of Justice.


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Making Voting Harder: The Conservative M.O.

College students are young and according to New Hampshire Speaker William O'Brien they tend to vote for liberals because they lack life experience. At a Tea Party gathering in March he admitted that one of the benefits of the new laws requiring photo IDs to votes is that it would hurt turnout amount young, reliably liberal, voters. He claimed that he was specifically with out of state college students claiming residency in small towns and dramatically skewing election results. Such laws are becoming increasingly common and have faced significant public outcry in New Hampshire and Wisconsin, where voters are now required to show a valid photo ID at the polls. However, most university issued student ID cards do not meet state standards.

Neither students nor universities are simply accepting the new restrictions that would disenfranchise a large number of young people. University of Wisconsin students are either receiving new ID cards that comply with state law, or they can request a supplemental ID to bring to the polls. Students in Pennsylvania are using baked goods to protest a house bill that would instate similar restrictions. The University of Pennsylvania College Democrats recently gave out free baked goods to only those students who could present a valid ID. Those who could not were instead given a box of raisins plastered with a sticker protesting HB 934.

Not all college students are treated fairly, either. In Wisconsin, 400,000 students attend technical colleges, and the student IDs issued by these schools are not acceptable as voting ID. These students make up 10% of the state's voting age population. State officials have oscillated between policies allowing the use of technical IDs, and those disallowing the same cards. A final decision should be reached by mid-December.

Unfortunately college students are not the only population facing disenfranchisement. About 25% of African American voters and 18% of elderly voters may lack appropriate ID. One 84 year-old woman provides a particularly compelling case against the hardships that this new law may cause. When Ruthelle Frank was born in Wisconsin in 1927 she was not issued a birth certificate. She is a citizen, has a social security card, and has voted regularly since 1948, but she lacks a proper ID card. To further complicate matters, while her local register of deeds has an official record of her birth; her name is misspelled on the record. She now faces a lengthy battle and a potential cost of $200 to correct this clerical error and receive a valid ID so that she may vote.

Ruthelle is one of many. 177,399 Wisconsinites, or 23% of those over age 65, do not have proper ID and now need to jump through bureaucratic hoops in order to vote. Minorities, of any age, are also disproportionately more likely to lack proper ID.

Whether a newly minted 18 year old attending college, or an 80 year old who has been voting for years, everyone deserves the right to vote. However new laws requiring strict adherence to showing a photo ID prior to voting, put this right in jeopardy.


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