Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Website

Thank you for reading "What Are You Looking At?" over the years!

We are moving the blog to our company website. To see new blog posts please visit

This web address will stay up for our archived posts from 2008 to early 2011.

Thanks again!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Wisconsin Recall Process and Timeline

Summary: What to know about State Senate Recalls in Wisconsin this year.

On Friday, grassroots organizers in the La Crosse area announced they had collected more than twice as many signatures as they needed to recall GOP State Senator Dan Kapanke.

Many Wisconsinites, and non-Wisconsinites alike, have been asking about the exact process and timeline for the recall of state senators this year.

This is the jist of it.

The recall process is complex and, due to the unprecedented number of recall efforts happening at the same time, specific timelines for recalls in any individual State Senate district are uncertain.

Petition Due Dates
Recall petitioners have 60 days to collect the appropriate number of signatures needed to initiate a recall election following the registration of their committees.

The number of signatures a recall petition committee needs to collect is equal to 25% of the number of votes in the most recent race for Governor in that district.

The following table reviews the petition due dates and signatures needed for every State Senator facing recall efforts.

*Recall petitions completed.

Timeline for Recall Elections

General Timeline

The normal timeline (according to state law) for recall elections is as follows:

*Depending on when the closest Tuesday is to that timeline.

Thus, the earliest any general recall election will take place (Kapanke’s) would be July 19th. The latest any recall election (Lassa’s and Hansen’s) can happen this year is September 6th.

Consolidated Recall Elections

The Government Accountability Board has not yet determined what actions it may take to try to consolidate recall elections to the same dates. There is no rule or legislation in Wisconsin for consolidating recall elections because no one ever thought there would be this many recall efforts happening simultaneously.

Nonetheless, the GAB has indicated that they may use the court system to consolidate these elections, arguing that it is unfair to voters who might be confused as to what exact date they are supposed to vote in the recall election in their district.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What to Know About Wisconsin’s Voter ID Bill

Summary: Important information for voters and political operatives when Voter ID becomes law.

The Wisconsin State Legislature will soon be passing a Voter ID bill, and it will be quickly signed into law by Governor Walker. Just as the recent move to eliminate collective bargaining was meant to reshape the electoral landscape, so is Voter ID.

The right-wing in Wisconsin says that voter fraud is an ongoing epidemic -- particularly in Milwaukee -- that has allowed Democrats to “steal” elections. The way they see it, there’s no way they could actually lose elections -- people love them! There must be a scam going on.

The truth is that voter fraud is incredibly rare and virtually impossible to get away with. This bill is clearly designed to disenfranchise voters who tend to support Democrats.

But all that aside, here’s what you need to know.

For Voters

For the April 5th election, poll workers will be required to ask for identification. However, you DO NOT need to give it to them if you’re already registered. The bill’s provisions are not enforceable until 2012. Republicans stuck that part in to scare younger and poorer voters (aka, Democrats) from voting this year.

In 2012 you will need one of the following pieces of identification (with up-to-date residency information) to vote:
-- A drivers license
-- A state ID
-- A passport
-- Naturalization papers
-- A military ID
-- A Native American tribal ID

Student IDs will no longer be acceptable. Right now student IDs can be used, with poll workers cross referencing the ID with a list of students living on campus provided by their college. But college students vote more for Democrats than Republicans, so they will now need their driver’s license (or another state-issued ID) to include their campus address to vote there.

Similarly, disabled veteran cards will not be accepted. Disabled veterans tend to vote for candidates who support things like BadgerCare, so they will need another form of identification.

It should be mentioned that if you don’t have your ID the day of the election, you can still cast a provisional ballot, but you must show an election clerk your ID by 4pm on the Friday after the election.

Additional things you must do to vote:
-- Register early (same-day registration is going away, because it helps busy working people and college students vote)

-- Live at your residence 28 days before the election (the current 10-day requirement helps the mobile population cast their ballots, and studies show these voters tend to be younger and more progressive)

-- Sign your name in the voter log when you go to the polls

For Political Operatives

Democratic consultants and campaign staffers will need to start to focus on getting their supporters to climb the new barriers to voting.

Here are three things we will need to start doing:

1) Registering Voters Early. Operatives for our side already do it in most states; we just need to start to do it here too. Hiring organizers, sending voter registration applications in mailers and other efforts will be required. This will be especially important on college campuses and in the inner-city.

2) Better Voter Education. Because Wisconsin has a history of relaxed voting laws, Democrats have never seen a strong need for educating voters on what they need to do to vote. That’s going to have to change. We will need to communicate the law in a clear and effective manner to re-enfranchise our voters.

3) Fight for Repeal. The law is going to pass, and it’s going to pass soon. The Republicans in Madison work in lock-step and can pass anything they want. Looking forward, however, we must support candidates who promise to roll-back this attack on voting rights. Climbing barriers to voting will distract us from focusing on other important campaign operations -- we must break the barriers.

Monday, February 28, 2011

What Losing Unions Means for Democrats

Summary: Why Wisconsin's "budget repair" bill is really about giving the GOP unlimited power.

By now, everyone is aware of what’s happening here in Wisconsin.

Our newly elected governor, Republican Scott Walker, has introduced a “budget repair bill” that would strip public-sector workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Although there are budget-balancing measures in the bill, it goes far beyond that.

What the bill would do to public-sector labor organizations:
• Prevent collective bargaining over salaries and wages beyond cost-of-living adjustments
• Ban collective bargaining over pensions and health care benefits as well as working conditions
• Stop unions from receiving dues through paycheck deductions
• Require the unions to hold annual elections among their members for the recertification of the union.

When you put all these things together, it is obvious that many public employees will ask the same question: why keep the union?

Make no mistake, if this bill passes in the form Walker is demanding, it will dissolve public employee unions.

Walker claims the bill is to prevent a $137 million shortfall in the state’s budget, and to close the gap public employees needed to put approximately 6% of their income toward their pensions and 12% of their income toward their health care plans.

The unions conceded on those grounds long ago.

So state Democrats issued a proposal that would balance the budget -- and give Walker virtually everything he wants -- while leaving collective bargaining untouched.

Walker: “not good enough.”

Then, state Republicans offered another proposal. It would give Walker virtually everything he wants, with a two-year moratorium on collective bargaining.

Walker: “still not good enough.”

So why does Walker insist on busting unions?

At this point, it is clear that the controversial bill has nothing to do with balancing the budget. It doesn’t even have to do with destroying unions. It has to do with Democrats.

It’s often said that the Democratic Party is a “big tent” party. Well, if the Democrats are a big tent, the unions are the poles that hold it up.

Back when I worked on a congressional campaign in northeast Wisconsin, and my organization needed to quickly round up volunteers, I always told my interns to contact three groups of people:

1) Previous volunteers
2) Leaders in the local county Democratic Party.
3) The United Steelworkers

Unions are critical to the Democrats. No one else in the tent offers the same structural support. Environmental groups, LGBT groups, minority groups, and even women’s advocacy groups tend to be little more than social clubs that offer their votes and -- occasionally -- a little money.

Unions, on the other hand, are well financed and well organized for the mass support efforts needed to win elections. And with the exception of SEIU and a few others, public-sector unions like AFSCME and the teachers are the only ones left with any real strength.

Without organized labor, Democrats will lose easy votes, a ready-to-assembly pool of volunteers, and most importantly, a lot of massive PAC checks.

(Want further proof? The three public employee unions who endorsed Walker and who tend to be more conservative -- the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, and the Wisconsin Troopers’ Association -- were all exempt from his proposal.)

Simply put, without organized labor, Democrats will be neutered.

To be fair, the Republicans have a lot of similar resources (like the Tea Parties) rooted in business groups (Koch Industries being the most notorious these days). But business groups are at no risk of being broken up, especially in the age of Citizens United.

As a political operative for Democratic candidates, I have real concerns about staying in Wisconsin if this bill passes. If labor groups don’t survive, how will my party survive? If my party doesn’t survive, how will I survive?

Make no mistake; this bill is about destroying the opposition -- not balancing the budget.