Archive | March, 2011

Election Day – Photo ID NOT Required (yet…)

29 Mar

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin would like to remind voters that they don’t have to show a photo ID to vote on Election Day, Tuesday April 5.

Though photo ID is not required to vote in Tuesday’s election, voters across the state may be confused about current voting laws due to a proposal before the legislature (SB 6) that if passed would require eligible voters to show one of a limited number of state-issued photo identification documents each time they vote.

“First we hope that confusion about the proposed law doesn’t keep eligible voters without a current ID from exercising their right to elect officials on Tuesday,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Associate Director Renee Shavers. “But further, people should know there is still time to voice their opposition to photo ID requirements for voting.” The Government Accountability Board issued a statement Monday that also reminded voters that ID was not required for the upcoming Election Day.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation estimates that if the proposed law were passed, it could cost the state nearly $3 million dollars in training, equipment, materials and lost revenues from a requirement to provide free identification. The Government Accountability Board estimates that over $2.3 million dollars would be needed to update databases, forms, provide voter education, poll worker training and other costs associated with major changes in voting rights laws (find more on the bill’s fiscal estimate online).

Also, the Department of Transportation estimates that about 20% of Wisconsin’s eligible voters do not have a state-issued photo ID. Citizens who tend not to have current photo identification include a disproportionate number of people of color as well as the elderly, people with disabilities, those who rely on public transportation, and mobile populations such as college students. The ACLU of Wisconsin opposes SB 6 because it would restrict the free and fair voting rights of eligible voters while having a discriminatory effect on minorities. Read more about our opposition to voter ID on our blog.

“When our state has such a long history of free and open elections, we need to work to make sure every citizen has the right to vote, no matter what’s in their wallets,” said Shavers.

The ACLU of Wisconsin has information on the right to vote (including people who have had criminal convictions) at aclu-wi.org. Please contact the Milwaukee or Madison office if you have complaints about voter access at your local polling place on Election Day.

The Governor’s Fantastic Math for Public School (De)funding

17 Mar

Governor Walker is doing some fantastic math these days. And our public schools are going to suffer for it.

The Governor claimed in a media conference, which was closed to the public yesterday, that projected revenue losses for local public school districts could be made up in most cases from employee benefit concessions. In reaction, educators immediately pointed out to the media that his figures are misleading because they fail to take into account a variety of factors, including inflation, existing contractual obligations, and disparities in wealth among districts.

“The Governor’s privatization ideology appears to have blinded him to the stark realities Wisconsin school children will face if a budget is passed with a $834 million cut in school aids over the course of the biennium,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Christopher Ahmuty. “Walker’s de-funding scheme coupled with a costly and wasteful expansion of the failed private school voucher program in Milwaukee and independent charter schools statewide will privatize public education in Wisconsin.

“The failed privatization effort in Milwaukee has reduced resources for public schools statewide. Even though the private schools in the Milwaukee have resisted meaningful accountability and evaluation, it is clear that they do not, in most cases, achieve better outcomes for students than public schools.”

Wisconsin is not the only state where public schools are facing privatization. Ohio Governor John Kasich’s recently released budget also includes deep cuts and an expansion of vouchers. It appears that national proponents of privatizing public education have found more than one receptive Governor to defund public schools.

“The ACLU of Wisconsin calls on Governor Walker to stop serving national special interests and listen to the people of Wisconsin who are served by strong public schools,” said Ahmuty. “The ACLU of Wisconsin remains open to working with legislative leaders to bring sanity into efforts to reform education funding.”

Our state budget must not be balanced by shortchanging public school children and busting teachers’ unions. If public schools keep getting defunded, maybe the only math lessons our kids will be learning will be as fantastic as the Governor’s budget calculations.

Saturday, We’re Recognizing Wisconsin’s Endangered Civil Liberties and Honoring Racial Justice, Education, and Housing Advocates

16 Mar

On Saturday, March 19, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin members and supporters will recognize some of Wisconsin’s community leaders in civil liberties at its annual Bill of Rights Celebration. This year’s special guest will be actor and comedian Aasif Mandvi.


Aasif Mandvi will share his experiences of growing up as an Indian Muslim in the United States, acting in Hollywood, and working with the ACLU to bring awareness to the experiences of victims of torture and rendition. Mandvi is best known in his work as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Several outstanding organizations and community leaders who work to protect freedom in Wisconsin will receive awards from the ACLU of Wisconsin:

Barbara Munson: The Eunice Z. Edgar Lifetime Achievement Award – Munson will be recognized for her many years of work to encourage schools to eliminate race-based mascots. As chair of the “Indian” Mascot and Logo Taskforce for the Wisconsin Indian Education Association since its inception in 1997, the Taskforce actively worked to support the 31 Wisconsin school districts that have retired race-based mascots and was instrumental in the passage of Act 250 in 2010.

Tenants of the South Milwaukee Lake Bluff Apartments: William Gorham Rice Civil Libertarians of the Year Award – Residents of Lake Bluff filed a federal complaint of housing discrimination in 2003 when it was clear that their city government intended to raze the integrated, accessible, affordable housing complex. The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, Legal Action of Wisconsin and the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee assisted the families in court where a federal jury found that tearing down the apartments would have a discriminatory effect on persons of color and persons with disabilities.

Riverside University High School Teachers, Bonnie Brusky, Paul Moga and Tom Wild: Jack and Lucy Rosenberg Youth Civil Libertarian of the Year Award – Riverside University High School in Milwaukee’s core values in teaching include social responsibility and justice. These teachers’ leadership has paved the way for students to participate in powerful social awareness programs about racial justice, homelessness and the importance of civic participation. Participants in Riverside’s ACLU Student Alliance have gone on to become young community leaders in Milwaukee.

The event is held annually as a benefit for the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s work to educate Wisconsin residents about their civil rights. This year’s event will be held at the Pfister Hotel at 424 East Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee and begins at 6:00 p.m. A private reception with Mandvi is available at a separate ticket price.

Tickets are still available: Please visit the event webpage to order tickets online or contact Emily Plagman by email or phone at (414) 272-4032 extension 24.

Education Cuts: Joint Finance Could Bring Reason to Governor’s Budget

4 Mar

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin is open to working with members of the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance to restore reason to Governor Walker’s budget proposals for K-12 public education in Wisconsin. The Governor is recommending slashing equalization and categorical aids to school districts rather than trying to fix a school funding formula that many have regarded as broken for years.

Christopher Ahmuty, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin called the proposed cuts, “‘penny wise pound foolish.’ You can’t put our children’s education on hold. These proposals will widen the already shocking gap between the education children receive in poor districts versus well-off districts.

“If the Governor and his ideological allies intend to create an underclass of Wisconsinites who will have less of a chance to become productive citizens, his budget proposals will move our families toward that outcome.

“In the weeks ahead the ACLU of Wisconsin will be working with parents, students, school board leaders and educators to show legislators that the Governor’s proposals will fail under-served children in all parts of our state,” Ahmuty concluded.

For more on education cuts in the state budget, read this Wisconsin State Journal article about increased funding for private schools and decreased funding and resources for public schools.