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Are Student Votes on the Moving Truck? Early Primary Voting Starts Today

30 Jul

Today, Monday July 30, is the first day Wisconsin voters can take advantage of early and absentee voting before the August 14 primaries. Voting early, either in person at municipal clerks’ offices or by requesting an absentee ballot, makes civic participation and exercising the right to vote something citizens can do in their own time and on their own terms.

But amidst some lively, competitive primary races, some voters in Wisconsin may be trying to find their right to vote among boxes and packing peanuts. Student voters in particular are navigating new changes to elections law that put primary election day right on the cusp of the start date for many new leases. College towns like Madison are abuzz with moving vans on August 14. Some students even find themselves very temporarily homeless as one lease ends on August 14 and the next one begins on August 15.

Act 75 was signed by Governor Walker on November 16, 2011 so that Wisconsin could comply with the Federal Military and Overseas Voters Act. In order to make sure military and overseas voters could receive and mail back ballots, the date of the primaries were bumped up in states across the nation. Act 75 also included an option for these voters to receive their ballots and instructions electronically. Democratic legislators tried to get electronic balloting options included in the law for all voters, but that effort failed. (More electronic options should be the future of voting: Wisconsin Election Protection issued their report on the June 5 Recall Election in which they recommended options for people to show proof of residence electronically.)

We’ve blogged before about how changes in the elections rules and calendars impact student voters. It is unfortunate that thousands student voters who want to participate in primary elections will be experiencing the major life disruptions that come with moving in the back-to-school season. Fortunately early/absentee voting is still an option. Remind your fellow Wisconsin citizens that they can vote in the primaries now. For those who moved to a new Wisconsin address after July 18, voters will have to vote in the polling place connected to where they last established residency.

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation knows that citizens have the right to vote without barriers, misinformation or intimidation. We will continue to work to educate voters about their rights in order to counter the confusion, lack of clear information or the misinformation on the changes voting laws.

Voter ID On Hold, But Residency Requirements Lead to Confusion

18 Jul

Wednesday, July 18th starts the 28-day timeframe by which Wisconsin citizens establish their residency for voting. Wisconsin voters who move after Wednesday will have to register and vote at their old address in order to cast a ballot for the August primaries.

Don’t be surprised if residency requirements seem a bit confusing. For the June 5 recall election, the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, through our work with the nonpartisan Wisconsin Election Protection (@EPWisco) effort, helped to field many questions from voters about when residency restrictions began and what documents were needed to prove residency for those who were registering on Election Day. A complete list of documents needed to prove residency is available on the GAB website.

Residency requirements raised a lot of questions for college student voters who wanted to vote in the June recall, but moved away from their college residence after the end of the semester,” said Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “The new residency rules will definitely impact student voters this fall, particularly those who live or go to school in places where the primary races are the most competitive.”

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s legal department interviewed students from around the state who would be impacted by the requirements to show a photo ID to vote. Students who move to Wisconsin from out of state would be particularly impacted by voter ID if their school did not have a free student ID that complied with the law. But even students who live in Wisconsin year-around are impacted by new residency restrictions if they move between their family and college residence.

Yesterday a second judge issued an order to stop the implementation of the Voter ID law. A federal lawsuit from the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is still pending.  Read more about why we filed suit and why we amended our lawsuit to include a Voting Rights Act claim about the discriminatory racial impact of the law.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Students CAN vote in Wisconsin this summer – How to be prepared

1 May

Students: Download a PDF of a student voting rights FAQ online.

Recall Election is Tuesday, June 5, 2012:  Photo ID is NOT required to vote in the recall election.

You can vote in Wisconsin in the June 5 recall election even if you’re going out of state or away for the summer, as long as you consider Wisconsin to be your “voting residence” and intend to return here.  Of course, students can only vote in ONE place!  (Registration info below.)

Your “voting residence” can be either your college address or your family’s home address.

  • If your family’s home address is your voting residence: You can register (even on Election Day) and vote in the recall election at the voting location for your family home as long as your family lives in Wisconsin and has lived in that home for more than 28 days.
  • If college is your voting residence and you are not moving (or you move before May 8): You can register (even on Election Day) and vote in the recall election at the voting location for the address you’ll be at on June 5.
  • If college is your voting residence and you are moving between May 9 and June 5: You can register and vote in the recall election at the polling location for your May 8 address. So the polling place that corresponds to the address/dorm you lived in until at least May 8 is where you vote on June 5.

If college is your voting residence and you are leaving for summer vacation:

  • Consider voting “early absentee” before you leave for summer vacation.  From May 21-June 1, you can register and vote “early absentee” in person at the clerk’s office for your college address (even if you are moving between May 9 and June 5).  Most clerks’ offices are only open during the week, but some will be open Memorial Day weekend – call your clerk for details (http://gab.wi.gov/clerks/directory).

OR

  • Register before you leave for summer vacation at the clerk’s office for your college address and ask to have an absentee ballot mailed to you at your summer address.  (It must be postmarked by June 5 and the clerk must receive it by 4pm on June 8.)

To register to vote: 

  • You can register to vote anytime between now and the recall election on June 5.  You can even register at the polls on Election Day.
  • If you register at your clerk’s office or with a Special Registration Deputy before May 16, you don’t need proof of your address.
  • If you register after May 16 or on Election Day, bring a document with your name and voting address. This must be: a university photo ID along with a university fee receipt or list of dorm residents; a driver’s license; a state ID; a recent utility bill (electric, cell, phone, cable, etc.); a lease; a bank statement; a pay check; an employer ID card; or a government document or check.
  • If you have a Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID, bring it to put the license/ID number on the voter registration card. (If you don’t have a license/ID, use the last 4 digits of your social security number.)

Questions or problems? Call 866-OUR-VOTE on Election Day. Like Wisconsin Election Protection on Facebook or follow @EPWisco on Twitter to share your stories, questions and concerns!

Updated: 5/4/12

Students Shouldn’t Pay for Voter ID: No Citizen Should Pay For the Right To Vote in Wisconsin

24 Feb

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Student Senate is charging students for the cost of special IDs needed in order to comply with Wisconsin’s new voter ID law. The ACLU of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley Chapter complained about this additional charge to students in a letter sent on February 16 to the University’s Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich, special assistant to the chancellor Teresa O’Halloran, and student body President Phil Rynish. Today’s Eau Claire Leader-Telegram updates the paper’s readers about the status of this unfunded mandate.

UW-Eau Claire campus leadership was, like university and technical colleges across the state, forced into an unnecessary position after Act 23,  the voter ID law, was passed. The voter ID law allowed for student IDs to be among the accepted forms of photo IDs now required for citizens to cast a ballot. [However, the law required student IDs to have features that no existing student IDs had at the time the law was enacted.] It became the responsibility of accredited colleges and universities to scramble to create IDs that complied with the law. At a time when college budgets are being slashed, the UWEC Student Senate passed the costs of this unfunded mandate onto students.

The February 16 letter from the Chippewa Valley Civil Liberties Union was an important act of voting rights advocacy from a local organization committed to defending voting rights of student, elderly, low-income and minority voters who are most likely to be disfranchised under the state’s new voter ID law. The ACLU’s Chippewa Valley Chapter letter read:

“Now that Wisconsin’s Voter Identification Act is law, certain groups of voters, including college students, may be turned away from the polls this year when they were otherwise eligible to vote before the law was passed.

“As you are aware, this law restricts voting rights by requiring one of a limited type of government-issued photo IDs, eliminating corroboration of identity at registration, and requiring voters to have lived in their residence for a longer period of time.  For University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students in particular, this law prohibits the use of their school ID as it requires identification that includes the student’s current address, date of birth, and signature, information that the university-issued ID lacks.  For students who lack the official identification stipulated by the law, this presents a potential obstacle for their participation in the voting process. 

“Although the administration of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has made an effort to assist those students who need a government-issued photo ID compliant with the new law, the fact is, charging students money in order to obtain an ID for voting purposes is effectively a poll tax. This is a violation of the 24th amendment.  The university should offer the student IDs for free.

“In our view, requiring only certain types of photo ID imposes a burden on the right to vote that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.  While the university is not responsible for a law that is unjust in the first place, the university can, and should, minimize the harm of such a law by upholding students’ 24th amendment rights.  As a university whose mission includes fostering ‘intellectual courage’ in its students and providing them with a ‘foundation for active citizenship’ it is the very least you can do in this situation.

“Respectfully,

Stephanie Turner, President”

This letter isn’t a threat of litigation. It is a call to action. The state voter ID law discriminates against students who would otherwise be eligible to vote. That’s why the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of student voters as well as other eligible citizens who will not be able to vote this year due to the new law. Read more about the types of voters who will find trouble with Voter ID.

The best way for the UW-Eau Claire to support all student voting rights is not to charge students for the identification required under state law. But charging students to cover the cost of the new IDs is only a symptom of a larger problem: Voter ID. We’re taking that problem to federal court. UW-Eau Claire students can help us fight the state law by contacting the ACLU of Wisconsin if they do not have one of the other accepted forms of ID (such as a passport or Wisconsin Driver’s License) and can’t get a free Wisconsin ID. Tell us your story at vote@aclu-wi.org.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Madison School District’s No Vote for Charter School Is a Vote Against Sex-Segregation

20 Dec

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin said that Monday night’s decision by the board of the Madison Metropolitan School District marked a rejection of sex-segregation in publicly funded schools. Sex-segregation isn’t a solution to the racial achievement gap.

From the beginning, the ACLU of Wisconsin has made it clear that sex-segregation is inherently discriminatory. Fixing the racial achievement gap in Madison and across the state is going to take an effort that is larger than one charter school. It is going to take a district-wide commitment to expanding strategies that work and that don’t rely on unproven gimmicks like separating boys and girls.

The most recent debate over whether or not the Urban League’s charter school plan would include using unionized staff was important. However we cannot let the controversy over instrumentality obscure the fact that there were many unanswered questions even after the district’s final analysis. The analysis suggested that the legality of sex-segregation in the charter plan would have to be scrutinized by attorneys and essentially deferred the issue to future decision-makers. Even in the shadow of our district’s problems with race, we cannot let gender equality be taken lightly.

Tonight’s decision reflected the deep concerns of some school officials and the state Department of Public instruction that sex-segregation would create too great a risk for discrimination and legal action.

The ACLU of Wisconsin will continue its efforts to work for racial justice in our state’s public education system. It will also investigate reports of sex-segregated public schools in other areas of Wisconsin that came to the organization’s attention through the course of the public debate over the Madison Prep proposal.

Read the ACLU of Wisconsin’s op-ed from Monday online. We wrote, “much of the recent debate leading up to Monday night’s School Board vote on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy has focused on concerns about the school’s oversight and use of non-union staff. While those issues are certainly serious, equally troubling is the academy’s plan to separate students on the basis of sex. From both an educational and legal standpoint, segregating our kids by sex would be an egregious error that would further add insult to injury.”

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Wisconsin Senators Move to Turn Back the Clock on Sex Ed

18 Oct

In a fast-moving piece of legislation, Senators are using Governor Walker’s special session on job creation to repeal the progress made after the passage of the 2009 Healthy Youth Act. The Healthy Youth Act raised the state standards for public school human growth and development instruction.

We just read in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week that teen pregnancy rates have been declining since 2009,” said Stacy Harbaugh, Communications Strategist for the ACLU of Wisconsin. “This bill is so poorly timed. Not only does this piece of legislation not create a single job in our state, it threatens to move us backwards in building up the next generation of informed, healthy youth. We all know teens need information to make healthy and responsible decisions about sex. Parents and youth should be outraged at this legislative sabotage.”

This bill removes information on the health benefits of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections as well as a requirement for schools to identify support for victims of sexual assault. This bill requires schools to revert back to the proven failure of abstinence-until-marriage types of instruction. This bill even redefines what “medically accurate” and “age appropriate” means.

The comprehensive sexuality education model is based on evidence that when teens participate in school and community programs that stress both the importance of waiting to have sex while providing accurate, age-appropriate, medically accurate and complete information about the use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, teens delay sex and reduce sexual risk-taking.

For all young people, but especially those who do not receive medically accurate information from their parents, church or peers, our public schools are the best places to give them nondiscriminatory facts about how to stay healthy and make responsible choices. Repealing the Health Youth Act would be a regressive move for Wisconsin’s students and public health.

Senate Bill 237 will get a hearing in the Senate Committee on Education Wednesday, October 19 at noon in room 201 SE in the Capitol. You can read ACLU of Wisconsin live tweets of the hearing @ACLUMadison.

Call your state legislators and tell them to keep comprehensive sex ed for Wisconsin students. In Madison: 266-9960; Toll-free: 1-800-362-9472

Why Does Your State Senator Want Teen Pregnancy Numbers to Go Up?

14 Oct

That would be a good question for Senators Lazich, Galloway, Grothman and Leibham as well as Representatives Thiesfeldt, Bernier, Bies, Brooks, Craig, Jacque, Kleefisch, Knodl, Kooyenga, Tom Larson, Litjens, Meyer, Nass, Nygren, Alvin Ott, Pridemore, Ripp, Spanbauer, Strachota, Stroebel, Wynn, Ziegelbauer and LeMahieu who have all signed on to a bill that would repeal the Healthy Youth Act.

On Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at noon in room 201 Southeast at the State Capitol, the Senate Education Committee will have a hearing to repeal the Healthy Youth Act, a bill passed during the Doyle Administration that raised the state standards for human growth and development curriculum in public schools. The proposal to repeal the law is so poorly timed, it’s astounding. In light of the recent news that teen birthrates in Milwaukee have plunged for the second straight year, we know that for this and other reasons comprehensive sex ed works to keep young people informed of the facts of how their bodies work and how they can protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections or unplanned pregnancy.

Why do these legislators want to roll back the clock and keep teens in the dark about the facts of life? You’ll hear a lot of myths about sex ed from so-called family values, anti-gay and anti-abortion activists on Wednesday. Read more about the myths versus the facts on our blog.

Call your state legislators and tell them to keep comprehensive sex ed for Wisconsin students. In Madison: 266-9960; Toll-free: 1-800-362-9472

Students: Concerned About Your Voting Rights?

6 Oct

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin is concerned about today’s decision by the Government Accountability Board not to permit the use of stickers to modify college ID cards in order to make them voting compliant. This decision reverses the GAB’s recent position that use of stickers would be acceptable. The ACLU also objects to the GAB’s decision to prohibit the use of ID cards from accredited technical colleges in Wisconsin, an action likely to make voting more difficult for technical college students – many of whom are students of color.

These actions are just the latest manifestations of efforts to restrict the voting rights of Wisconsin students. The most significant underlying action is, of course, the legislature’s passage of a restrictive voter ID law that not only requires voters to show photo ID in order to vote, but disallows the use of existing, secure, college and university ID cards. This law appears clearly designed to make it much more difficult for students to vote.

While some colleges apparently plan to create voting-compliant ID cards – and we urge every Wisconsin college and university to do so as soon as possible – it is not clear that all Wisconsin colleges will issue separate ID cards, and none have yet created compliant cards.

The ACLU is asking that Wisconsin college, technical college and university students who reside in Wisconsin and want to vote in Wisconsin but lack Wisconsin drivers’ licenses, Wisconsin state ID cards, and passports, contact our intake coordinator at 414-272-4032 x 216, or inquiries@aclu-wi.org. We are especially interested in talking with students who expect they will have difficulty getting a compliant ID (for example, because they lack easy access to a DMV office, or will have difficulty getting the underlying documents they need for an ID card).

The ACLU of Wisconsin urges college and university administrators to take all steps necessary to ensure that the Voter ID law does not deprive students of their Constitutional right to vote.

Student Contact: ACLU of WI Intake Coordinator, 414-272-4032 x 216 or inquiries@aclu-wi.org

Madison School Board Drug-Dog Policy Raises More Questions Than Provides Answers

27 Sep

Last night the Madison Metropolitan School District Board approved a school search policy that expanded the powers of police, upon request of school officials, to sweep the campuses of middle and high schools. The vote was 5 to 1 with a dissenting vote from Board President James Howard who expressed his concerns with the presence of police dogs in middle schools. That idea was also shared by board member Marj Passman who ultimately cast a “yes” vote despite her concerns about students’ rights.

The ACLU of Wisconsin’s Stacy Harbaugh was there to speak about the civil liberties implications of the policy. Here’s what she said:

The last time I was in front of the board to talk about the expansion of the school’s police/K9 policy, I shared some of the bad stories of poorly-written or poorly-implemented policies that prompted litigation in other schools when drug-dog searches started making news around a decade ago (read more about ACLU litigation and drug-dog opposition in New Mexico, South Dakota, South Carolina, Washington). Clearly this policy-as-written takes into consideration the mistakes of the past.

However, I feel that this proposed policy still brings up more questions than it provides answers.

1. What if it doesn’t work? Will the number of drug incidents be the only determining factor for success? Varying studies show that drug-sniffing dogs can either miss the presence of illegal drugs OR give false alerts when drugs aren’t actually present (read more in the Chicago Tribune about racial bias in the use of dog searches in traffic stops and the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth study that echoed a couple of decades of the documentation of evidence that our paper currency can trigger dog alerts due to widespread cocaine residue). What happens if students bring drugs into school that the police dogs miss or if drug use shifts to a form that is harder for drug-sniffing dogs to detect such as prescription drugs? Will students then become desensitized to the sweeps and lockdowns? Is anyone considering a sunset provision?

2. At what point will we know this is too much? What does “periodic” mean? Will articulated suspicion trigger a Principal to contact police for a K9 sweep or will they just happen on a Principal’s whim? At what point will parents and students have a right to say that the presence of police and drug dogs in their schools have gone too far?

3. Will students be targeted for further search? If a police dog alerts, will students be pulled out of class to be searched? When banned items are confiscated and an “a police investigation conducted,” will students be informed of their right to remain silent? To call a parent? To an attorney? Students don’t give up 4th and 5th Amendment rights when they go to school, but their rights aren’t written into this policy.

4. What is the complaint procedure for false alerts? Even the most well-written policies could be poorly implemented. What is the complaint mechanism for students who are targeted for embarrassing and anxiety-producing searches by school officials and possibly police officers if a dog falsely alerts to the students’ locker or vehicle?

Finally, I would like the board to find a policy that respects civil liberties and avoids the lockdown. School lockdowns should be used only in emergencies such as bomb or weapons threats. Otherwise, the lockdown is a very punitive approach that is the opposite of supportive, nurturing atmosphere our schools should be.

What would this policy look like in practice if students knew drug-dog sweeps were possible or that they had happened, but were not aware of the presence of police dogs while they were in class? How can we ensure that the classroom learning experience of students who aren’t breaking the rules remains unaffected? The other side of “deterrent” or “prevention” is intimidation. And lockdowns intimidate all students, including innocent ones.

Ultimately, what does this teach our youth about their rights?

There were about eight other people who shared their thoughts during the public comments section of the meeting. Two supportive individuals decried the increase of drugs in school and in the community. One mother who also worked as a police officer told the board that she was equally concerned about the presence of drugs in school (and the potential for gun violence that comes with drug trade) as she was that students didn’t seem to think the policy was a big deal or that there could be human bias in the decision to bring in drug dogs to schools with a more diverse student body. Other policy opponents raised questions about how students whose families with more financial resources would better survive getting busted rather than not having equal treatment in the criminal justice system.

Ultimately, the policy-as-written doesn’t present an immediate violation of student privacy rights. Hopefully the school system will do as much diligence in reporting on the impact of K9 sweeps (including keeping data on how many students are pulled out of class for additional searches even if dogs falsely alert) as they did in reporting back on their engagement strategy to gather community feedback.

At some point in the future our community will scratch its head and wonder why there are so many young people in our criminal justice system. We will ask ourselves why it seemed like a veritable school-to-prison pipeline was constructed one decision and one policy at a time. We will wonder why we sought out a law enforcement solution to eliminating drugs when trends in drug availability and abuse were so clearly tied with an increase in poverty and a decrease in access to health care (neither of which our public schools have the power to fix). And in the future, we may look admirably at other school districts’ policies that took huge risks to ease up on zero-tolerance and find commonsense solutions to addiction and criminalizing youth.

The school board’s decision was also covered on madison.com.

(Also read about what happened when a drug dog alerted to a Pennsylvania student’s car, the car was searched and the student expelled, not for drugs, but for having work-related knives locked in his vehicle - this editorial says that zero-tolerance shouldn’t mean zero thought)

Student Free Speech Includes “Boobies” Bracelets: Lawsuit Filed Against Sauk Prairie Middle School Bracelet Ban

8 Sep
I heart boobies bracelets

Keep A Breast Foundation's I heart Boobies Bracelets

Student free speech should include the right to wear breast cancer awareness bracelets, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation and cooperating attorneys today. The suit was filed on behalf of a middle school student at Sauk Prairie Middle School who along with many classmates wore an “I Boobies! (Keep A Breast)” bracelet to school and prompted a school ban.

“While a public school can put some reasonable limits on expression that poses a credible threat of a disruption of its educational activities or school mission, the mere discomfort some may have with the bracelets’ slang language is not a justification for banning the bracelets and punishing students who wear them,” said Attorney Tamara Packard.

“I Boobies! (Keep A Breast)” bracelets are a part of a national campaign by the Keep A Breast Foundation. The rubber bracelets are similar to other bracelets that promote awareness of health or social issues and are geared to educate young women about the need for breast cancer research, education and early detection of the disease.

The Sauk Prairie Middle School had deemed the term “boobies” to be inappropriate slang for the school setting. However, the term, especially in the context of the serious issue of breast cancer awareness, is not lewd, vulgar or indecent and should be allowed as a form of free student expression.

“It is the very social stigma of discussing women’s breasts that keeps breast cancer prevention, education and research from moving forward,” said Attorney Lori Eshleman, who is also a breast cancer survivor. “When nearly 40,000 Americans will die of breast cancer this year, we should engage in a national discussion about prevention rather than suppress young women’s speech that includes the term boobies.”

This spring a federal court issued an injunction stopping a similar bracelet ban and agreed that the “boobies” bracelets were not indecent or disruptive student expression. Pennsylvania’s Easton Area School District has appealed that decision.

The lawsuit against the Sauk Prairie Middle School comes after repeated requests for the school to drop the bracelet ban were ignored and rejected. The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation and cooperating attorneys hope the school will rescind the ban and allow this form of student expression without further legal action.

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is a non-profit civil liberties and civil rights organization working to protect the rights of Wisconsinites. Cullen Weston Pines & Bach LLP is a well-respected full-service Madison law firm with a passion for the constitutional principles upon which our nation was founded, including free speech, equal protection, and participatory democracy.  Attorney Lori Eshleman specializes in health care and disability discrimination law at Traver, Haass & Eshleman.

For more on the work of the American Civil Liberties Union and Foundation of Wisconsin, visit our webpage. You can also get news and opinion on civil liberties in Wisconsin on our Forward for Liberty blog. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Voter ID Law Would Disenfranchise Citizens, Not Fix Illegal Votes

25 Jan

The new session of the Wisconsin Legislature has barely begun and legislators are pushing a bill that will require all voters to present a government-issued photo ID every time they go to the polls. The bill (Senate Bill 6PDF) will have a public hearing this Wednesday, January 26.

Vote Fraud is a Myth
The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin will be there to speak out against an attempt to treat all voters as potential crooks rather than as citizens in a democracy with free and fair access to cast their ballot.

Proponents of this measure exaggerate the instances of illegal votes cast in Wisconsin. Despite considerable resources spent to prosecute vote fraud in recent years, only 18 cases of substantiated illegal voting led to convictions. None of the cases would be avoided by requiring a photo ID to vote at the polls on Election Day. To the extent that a small number of felons on probation or parole who are ineligible to vote may cast ballots, this measure will not stop them from voting because they have or may get photo IDs.

For more information on the debunked allegations of voter fraud in Wisconsin, see the Brennan Center for Justice report, “The Truth About Voter Fraud.”

SB 6 Will Disenfranchise Minority Voters
The ACLU of Wisconsin opposes the proposal because it would place a significant barrier to voting rights would have a discriminatory effect on minority voters. Citizens who tend not to have current or state-issued photo identification include people of color as well as the elderly, people with disabilities, those who rely on public transportation, and mobile populations such as college students. This is an unconstitutional burden on the fundamental right and freedom to vote.

Even if the bill allows for individuals to obtain government-issued photo identification free of charge, the documents required for qualification for an ID often cost money and take time to obtain (see the state DMV’s website on the documents generally needed to acquire an ID card and specifically those required for proof of identity). Additional barriers can be experienced by citizens who face the circular challenge of obtaining documents for their photo ID when a photo ID is required to obtain documents. When individuals, especially low-income workers and those who rely on public transportation face the costs of taking time off of work, traveling to motor vehicle departments with limited locations and hours and paying fees for certified documents to obtain a photo ID simply for the freedom to vote, the ACLU of Wisconsin pledges to act on behalf of those disenfranchised by the proposed law.

The ACLU has opposed these deeply flawed laws in other states. But the law as proposed in Wisconsin is the worst and most restrictive we’ve ever seen. To deny potentially thousands of voters the right to freely cast a ballot to fix a non-existent problem is unconscionable in a free society.

Other Opinions About the Proposed Law
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel issued an editorial against voter ID along with many suggestions of how the law would have to be fixed in order to avoid significant disenfranchisement. The Capitol Times took a stand against fast-tracking the bill and Dave Zwiefel said the law was a solution in search of a problem. There was also a cautious editorial from the Oshkhosh Northwestern. The League of Women Voters has issued a statement against the law. On student rights and voter ID, the Huffington Post featured this opinion from a Rock the Vote field director. And the Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert discusses the photo ID issue along with problems with the proposal to eliminate another Wisconsin voting rights institution, Election-Day registration.