August 1, 2014

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds Act 10, Voter ID, Domestic Partner Registry

WRN file photo

WRN file photo

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has brought legal challenges to Act 10 to a close. On a 5-2 vote Thursday, the justices threw out previous rulings from a Dane County circuit judge, who had said that the Act 10 public union bargaining limits did not apply to local and school unions. It was among several lawsuits which challenged the constitutionality of Act 10, Governor Scott Walker’s signature legislation from 2011, which limits the ability of public employees to bargain collectively. The ruling means Walker and Republicans who control the state legislature can now claim victory in preserving Act 10 as they head into fall reelection campaigns.

The justices also upheld Wisconsin’s photo ID requirement for voters, but that law won’t be implemented unless federal courts also sign off on it. The justices voted 5-2 to dismiss lower court decisions which threw out the ID requirement. A pair of Dane County judges had ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, which contended that the 2011 law discouraged minorities, the elderly, and young people from voting. Earlier this year, Federal Judge Lynn Adelman ruled the law violated the Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. State Attorney General J-B Van Hollen has appealed that decision, but a ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago is unlikely anytime soon. Wisconsin voters will not need to show ID to vote in the state partisan primaries on August 12th, and probably won’t be required to do so in November’s elections.

The Supreme Court also upheld Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry, which provides same-sex couples in the state with some of the legal benefits of married couples. The unanimous ruling marked a defeat for Wisconsin Family Action, a group which tried unsuccessfully to get the justices to strike down the registry just before its 2009 implementation. The registry provides for hospital visitation rights and various end-of-life decisions to couples who apply.

GOP candidates in 6th Congressional District meet for debate

The Republican candidates for the 6th Congressional District meet on state (Photo: KFIZ)

The Republican candidates for the 6th Congressional District meet on stage. (Photo: KFIZ)

The three candidates vying for the Republican nomination in Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District met on stage Tuesday for a debate on issues ranging from Common Core to legalizing marijuana. State Representative Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), along with state Senators Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan) and Glenn Grothman (R-Campbellsport) are seeking the GOP nomination for the seat currently held by U.S. Representative Tom Petri (R-WI), who is retiring at the end of his current term.

Stroebel argued the out-of-control spending in Washington is the result of people who don’t say “no,” such as his opponents. He argued the “temperature in the kitchen is gonna get a lot hotter in Washington…than Madison, and we need strong conservative leaders.”

Stroebel referred to votes by Leibham and Grothman on budgets during Governor Jim Doyle’s administration. Grothman argued that, if Stroebel had done his homework, he would have realized that Republicans were in control of the Legislature for a portion of Doyle’s terms in office. “There were times in which Jim Doyle was the governor in which we had a Republican Legislature…and we did a good job of reining in the spending that Jim Doyle wanted to do in those budgets.”

Leibham said it was laughable to suggest he was a big spender, noting that he was among the lawmakers who focused on “getting the state’s fiscal house in order” during the 2010 budget process.

All three candidates also shared their positions on immigration, showing agreement on the idea of securing the nation’s borders. Grothman also voiced concerns that the United States has become a welfare magnet for the western hemisphere.

Grothman, Leibham, and Stroebel will face each other in the August 12 primary. The winner will go on to face Democrat Mark Harris, the Winnebago County executive, in the November general election.


Primary election 2 weeks out, absentee voting under way

Kevin Kennedy (FILE PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Kevin Kennedy (FILE PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin’s primary election is scheduled for August 12th, but absentee voting has already begun. “People can go to their municipal clerk’s office and cast an absentee ballot,” says Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the Government Accountability Board. “The hours do vary by municipality, but they can only vary within a window from 8 in the morning til 7 at night. There is no in-person absentee voting allowed on the weekend at all anymore.”

The purpose of the primary is to winnow down the selection of candidates and pick someone who’ll move on to the general election in November. “The partisan primary contains a lot of names because what this is, is sort of a winnowing process where you determine … the voters get to pick who is going to be the nominee of a particular party.”

Primary elections are partisan. That means voters can only pick candidates from one political party — Democratic, Republican, Constitution, or an independent. Cross-voting will result in an invalid ballot. Voters can split their ticket in the general election in November, if they choose.

Kennedy says the biggest question his office gets from voters is, “Why can’t I vote in both primaries?” 

Voters will find on the ballot candidates for governor, lt. governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, congressional seats, and state representatives. Find answers to your questions at the GAB’s Voter Information Center.

Ozanne campaign spending report missing details

Dane County District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne

Dane County District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne

A candidate for Wisconsin’s top law enforcement post failed to explain almost one-third of his campaign’s expenses for the first half of the year, as required by law.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne is one of three Democrats running in a primary for attorney general on August 12. In a report filed with the state this week, he did not list how $33,000 of the $97,000 his campaign spent between January and June was used. The reports list a number of checks with no recipient, as well as a number of electronic withdrawals that don’t include a reason. One of the withdrawals was made from a New Orleans ATM in May.

A campaign official says they just ran out of time and plan to revise the report to add more details.

Ozanne is running against Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ and State Representative Jon Richards of Milwaukee in the Democratic primary. He has only raised about a third as much as each of his Democratic opponents, and his finance report shows he only had about $3,400 on hand at the end of June.


Walker, Burke tied in new Marquette poll

Mary Burke and Governor Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Mary Burke and Governor Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Republican Governor Scott Walker is slightly ahead of his likely Democratic challenger Mary Burke among registered voters in the latest Marquette Law School Poll. Though, Burke leads by one point among likely voters.

Poll Director Charles Franklin says the numbers haven’t changed much from the last poll in May. 

Walker gets the support of 46 percent of registered voters and Burke receives 45 percent. Among registered voters likely to vote, Burke leads Walker 47 46 percent — a statistical dead heat. “Really no meaningful change from the May poll to this poll in July,” says Franklin.

Among independents Walker narrowly leads Burke, 45 percent to 44. In May Walker was ahead among independents by a higher margin, 49 percent to 40.

The poll was conducted July 17-20 and included 804 registered voters. The margin of error is 3.5 percent on the full sample, 4.3 percentage points among likely voters.

Burke for Wisconsin Communications Director Joe Zepecki released a statement following the release of the poll. He states, in part:

“Wisconsin voters know we need a new direction, and are responding enthusiastically to Mary’s comprehensive plan, based on her success in the private sector, to grow the economy and create more good paying jobs.  …  Walker’s barrage of attacks are about one thing – distracting voters from his abysmal record on job creation as his vote, job approval and favorability continue to slip.”