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A is for ACLU and Avenue Q

2 Aug

Tickets on sale now…

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, in partnership with Skylight Music Theatre, presents a special preview of the Milwaukee premiere of Avenue Q!

Join us on Thursday, September 20 for an evening of irreverent fun and free expression. Thursday night is the final, full-dress rehearsal for Avenue Q and a limited number of seats will be sold to benefit the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation.

When – September 20, 2012:

6:00 p.m. – Reception – cocktails and ample hors d’oeuvres

7:30 p.m. – Avenue Q in the Cabot Theater

Where – Skylight Music Theatre:

Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, Milwaukee WI 53202

Tickets for the September 20 event are on sale now! Buy tickets online or if you cannot make the event, consider making a donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation.

Find more about the Skylight Music Theatre’s production of Avenue Q on their website.

Winner of three Tony Awards including Best Musical and written by the composer of The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q is a hilarious adult-themed spoof of Sesame Street. Part flesh (human), part felt (puppets) and packed with heart, Avenue Q tells the story of Princeton, a recent college grad who moves into a shabby NYC apartment in the only neighborhood he can afford, all the way out on Avenue Q. He soon discovers that the residents of his building are not your ordinary neighbors. Together, Princeton and his new friends struggle to find decent jobs, stable relationships and a purpose in life, but ultimately realize the real world isn’t so bad after all.

This event is made possible by:

Birch Lodge Fund of

the Cream City Foundation

Pam Kriger

 Johnson & Pabst

LGBT Humanity Fund

of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation

Host Committee:

Ross Draegert & Robert Starshak

Paul Fairchild

Pam Kriger

Jennifer Morales

Joseph Pabst

Louis Weisberg

Paul Williams

ACLU’s Federal Lawsuit Against Voter ID: Today’s Filing Asks for Injunction, Voting Rights Act Claim

2 Mar

Today the ACLU took another important step in the federal lawsuit against Wisconsin’s voter ID law. Attorneys working on the case amended the lawsuit to include charges that the law illegally blocks minorities and veterans from accessing the ballot box.  The amended complaint also seeks an injunction so that plaintiffs who face significant barriers to obtaining one of the limited forms of ID required by law can vote in the upcoming April 3 election.

The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, and Dechert LLP, also seeks an injunction so that many of the named plaintiffs can vote on April 3, when Wisconsin will hold its presidential primary and local elections.

The filing today supplements a federal challenge against one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the nation and on behalf of a broad spectrum of plaintiffs, including white, black, and Latino voters, homeless and low-income citizens, veterans, and students. 

“We can now demonstrate what we have always suspected—that strict photo ID laws have a more severe negative impact on black and Latino voters,” said Jon Sherman, an attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “The Voting Rights Act was created to combat exactly this type of barrier, and we intend to see it enforced in Wisconsin.”

You can also hear the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Communications Director Stacy Harbaugh on WORT-FM 89.9’s In Our Backyard describe why this step to amend the lawsuit was important:

The original suit, filed in December, said that Wisconsin’s practice of only allowing certain types of photo identification imposes severe and unjustifiable burdens and imposes a poll tax on voters.

The amended complaint charges the voter ID law:

  • Violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans the use of voting practices that have a disparate negative impact on racial and language minorities. Research commissioned by the ACLU indicates the law has a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino voters, who are more likely to lack photo ID accepted for voting in Wisconsin.
  • Arbitrarily prevents veterans who only have a Veterans Administration ID card from voting. Wisconsin deems such identification unacceptable.
  • Violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because Wisconsin’s photo ID law results in the arbitrary treatment of voters trying to get a state ID card.

Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, emphasized the importance of obtaining relief for named plaintiffs. “It is unconscionable that Wisconsin would prevent veterans who possess a valid federal ID from voting,” he said. “This is no way to thank them for their service to our country.” 

One of those veterans is Sam Bulmer, 63, who served in the Air Force for 13 years and is currently homeless. Bulmer lacks a driver’s license and cannot obtain a state ID card due to the stringent requirements for a birth certificate in his home state of Kansas.   

“Mr. Bulmer’s experience is startling, but it’s not unique,” said Heather Johnson, civil rights attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.  “Veterans experience homelessness at an alarming rate, and many will be excluded from the democratic process if this law goes forward.  We need to send a clear message to Wisconsin and every other state considering similar legislation: we won’t let you silence the voices of homeless veterans.”

Also among those suing are two Black Milwaukee residents: Eddie Lee Holloway, Jr., who used to regularly serve as a poll worker, but whose incorrect birth certificate will prevent him from getting a state ID and voting; and Shirley Brown, who was born in Louisiana at home by midwife and as a result, has no record of her birth.

“All citizens should be free to vote,” said Neil Steiner, an attorney with Dechert LLP. “Disenfranchising eligible voters is not a valid rationale for a law.”

The defendants include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb, who oversees the Department of Motor Vehicles and members of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which oversees election laws.

Attorneys on the case include Sherman, Laughlin McDonald, and Nancy Abudu of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Dupuis and Karyn Rotker of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Johnson and Karen Cunningham of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and Neil Steiner, Craig Falls, and Diane Princ of Dechert LLP.

To read the complaint in Frank v. Walker, go to:

This announcement has also been shared on the national American Civil Liberties Union website:

For more information about voter suppression, go to:

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 Legislators’ Letter to US Attorney General Brings Attention to Disfranchisement in Wisconsin

13 Jan

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin applauds today’s move by state legislators to request action from the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to “use the full weight of the Justice Department to take legal action, as authorized under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, to ensure that the right of Wisconsin citizens to vote is not abridged or denied on the basis of race or color. Signed by Governor Walker on May 25, 2011, Wisconsin’s requirement to show one of a limited number of government-issued, photo identification to vote will cause confusion at the polls and disfranchise elderly, disabled, veteran, student and minority voters.

“Today’s letter from state legislators echoes the call to action the American Civil Liberties Union has made to the U.S. Attorney General’s office since July 2011. Since then, the ACLU has delivered over 75,000 letters to Holder on this issue,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Communications Director Stacy Harbaugh. “The ACLU has taken legal action in Wisconsin and across the country to stop a new wave of voter suppression laws. It is time for U. S. Attorney General Holder to connect the dots between Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID law and discrimination against citizens who face barriers to participating in our democracy.”

Take action today: Ask U.S. Attorney General Eric  Holder to investigate voter suppression laws in Wisconsin and across the country.

On December 13, 2011, the ACLU of Wisconsin, the national American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty filed a lawsuit in federal court charging that Wisconsin’s voter ID law is unconstitutional and will deprive citizens of their basic right to vote. The lawsuit is the only active federal challenge against a voter ID law, the most common type of legislation that is part of a nationwide attack on the right to vote.

If you or someone you know will not be able to vote next year due to Wisconsin’s restrictive Voter ID law, share the story with the ACLU of Wisconsin. Download our feedback form online.

The complaint says that allowing only certain types of photo ID imposes a severe burden on the right to vote in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. It also states that the law violates the 24th and 14th amendments because it effectively imposes an unconstitutional poll tax. The lawsuit was filed on the same day that AG Holder spoke at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin about the legacy of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the continued importance of ensuring all citizens’ access to the ballot box without barriers.

To read stories about the plaintiffs in the Wisconsin voter ID challenge, visit:

In addition to Wisconsin, six other states recently passed voter ID laws: Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Other voter suppression measures that have been enacted nationwide include limiting the early voting period, eliminating same-day or Election Day registration, and restrictions on those who help register people to vote. The ACLU has also submitted comment letters to the U.S. Department of Justice regarding discriminatory voting laws in South Carolina and Texas. The ACLU intervened in court cases in which North Carolina, Alabama and most recently Arizona are challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. The ACLU filed a motion to intervene in a similar case in Georgia.

Attorneys involved in the challenge to Wisconsin’s voter ID law include Jon Sherman, Laughlin McDonald and Nancy Abudu of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Larry Dupuis and Karyn Rotker of the ACLU of Wisconsin and Heather Johnson and Karen Cunningham of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

To read a copy of the complaint, go to:

Social media: Tag this story by mentioning @ACLUofWisconsin, @ACLU, #VoterID or #votingrights.

ACLU Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Wisconsin’s Unconstitutional Voter ID Law

13 Dec

You may have already heard the story about the 84-year-old Wisconsin resident, Ruthelle Frank, who will be disfranchised by our state’s new law requiring voters to show a photo ID to vote.

Today the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty filed a federal lawsuit charging that Wisconsin’s voter ID law is unconstitutional and will deprive citizens like Ruthelle of their basic right to vote. The lawsuit is the only active federal challenge against a voter ID law, the most common type of legislation that is part of a nationwide attack on the right to vote.

Find more information about voter suppression, including a video of Frank online.

“This lawsuit is the opening act in what will be a long struggle to undo the damage done to the right to vote by strict photo ID laws and other voter suppression measures,” said Jon Sherman, an attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “Across the nation, legislators are robbing countless American citizens of their fundamental right to vote, and in the process, undermining the very legitimacy of our democracy. We intend to redirect their attention to the Constitution.”

The complaint says that allowing only certain types of photo ID imposes a severe burden on the right to vote in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. It also states that the law violates the 24th and 14th amendments because it effectively imposes an unconstitutional poll tax. The lawsuit was filed the same day that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was scheduled to speak about the importance of ensuring equal access to the ballot box.

“The state of Wisconsin has created a voter ID system that is making it very hard or impossible for residents to exercise their cherished right to vote,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Wisconsin residents, including veterans, minority voters and seniors who have been voting for decades, will be turned away from the polls under this law’s restrictive photo ID requirements. Our lawsuit aims to block this unconstitutional law so that Wisconsin can continue its proud tradition of high participation in elections.”

The law will also have a severe impact on homeless voters, many of whom do not have photo identification.

“Protecting homeless persons’ right to vote is crucial, since voting is one of the few ways that homeless individuals can impact the political process and make their voices heard,” said Heather Johnson, civil rights attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “By limiting participation to Wisconsin residents with photo identification, this law effectively silences homeless persons’ voices. With homelessness rising by 12 percent in Wisconsin since the recession began, we cannot allow the state to set this dangerous and unconscionable precedent.”

The ACLU and the Law Center filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin on behalf of 17 eligible Wisconsin voters who may not be able to vote under the law. They include:

Ruthelle Frank, 84, of Brokaw, who does not have a birth certificate. When she was born at home in 1927, her mother recorded her birth in the family Bible. Under Wisconsin’s law, she is unable to obtain an ID needed to vote. She herself is an elected official, having served on her village board since 1996. “I have exercised my right to vote in every election since 1948,” Frank said. “I should not suddenly be barred from voting just because I don’t believe in paying for identification in order to vote. That’s like a poll tax and sends this country back decades ago when it comes to civil rights.”

Carl Ellis, 52, is a U.S. Army veteran living in a homeless shelter in Milwaukee. His only photo ID is a veteran ID card, which is not accepted under the law. “If I can serve my country, I should be able to vote for who runs it,” Ellis said. “Veterans and others who do not have a certain type of photo ID should not be kept from voting. These laws are undemocratic and un-American.”

Anthony Sharp, 19, is an African-American Milwaukee resident who does not have any of the accepted forms of photo ID under the law. Sharp, who lives with his family, does not have income needed to purchase a $20 certified copy of his birth certificate in order to vote. “You shouldn’t have to pay all this money to be able to vote,” he said. “I’m a citizen and was excited about voting, but I don’t have the money to pay for all these documents. Every American must be able to vote, not just those who can afford to get an ID.”

The 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 was signed into law May 25 and is effective starting with the state’s primary in February 2012. Under the law, Wisconsin voters will need to present a certain type of photo ID, which many eligible voters do not have. Many photo ID alternatives are excluded. For example, the law does not allow technical college and veteran ID cards. More than 380,000 students are in Wisconsin’s technical college system, and over 15 percent of them are minorities. Voter suppression laws disproportionately affect minorities, the elderly, students, people with disabilities, and low-income and homeless voters.

In addition to Wisconsin, six other states recently passed voter ID laws: Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Other voter suppression measures that have been enacted nationwide include limiting the early voting period, eliminating same-day or Election Day registration, and restrictions on those who help register people to vote. The ACLU has also submitted comment letters to the U.S. Department of Justice regarding discriminatory voting laws in South Carolina and Texas and has intervened in court cases in which North Carolina and Alabama are challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. The ACLU also filed motions to intervene in similar cases filed by Arizona and Georgia.

Attorneys on the case include Jon Sherman, Laughlin McDonald and Nancy Abudu of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Larry Dupuis and Karyn Rotker of the ACLU of Wisconsin and Heather Johnson and Karen Cunningham of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

If you or someone you know will be disfranchised by Wisconsin’s photo ID requirements at the polls in 2012, tell us the story.

Download our feedback form online and send it to the ACLU of Wisconsin.

Read a copy of the complaint online.

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.

Saturday: ACLU Bill of Rights Celebration in Milwaukee, Ana Marie Cox, Civil LIberties Awards and More

15 Feb

On Saturday, February 20, 2010 the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin members and supporters will exercise their own freedom of assembly at the annual Bill of Rights Celebration.

This year’s event will feature pioneering political journalist and founder of the Wonkette Blog Ana Marie Cox. The “Wonkette Emeritus” continues to shape the future of journalism across media, at her personal blog and on Twitter where she has more than 1.5 million followers. Cox is a frequent guest on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show and broke new ground with live blogs of the State of the Union for GQ Magazine and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hearings for The Awl.

This ACLU of Wisconsin event will honor the work of several outstanding organizations and compatriots in the fight to protect our freedoms.

The Eunice Z. Edgar Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to The Progressive Magazine in recognition of more than a century of incisive journalism. The Progressive was founded in 1909 by beloved Wisconsin Senator and civil libertarian Robert La Follette and is a voice for freedom. Projects like “McCarthyism Watch” exemplify the role of the press as a check on the actions of government and a defender of civil liberties and civil rights.

The William Gorham Rice Civil Libertarians of the Year Award will honor the West Bend Activists for Free Speech who stood up to book burners and censorship in their community.

Jack and Lucy Rosenberg Youth Civil Libertarian of the Year Award acknowledges the work and legacy of Camp Everytown for producing a generation of young Wisconsin leaders. Each summer high-school age participants receive intensive leadership training to help them become outspoken advocates against discrimination of every kind.

Tickets are still available. Go to our website for more information on the event and to order tickets online or contact Marion by email or phone 414-272-4032 extension 18.

You might also want to check out the latest issue of the Milwaukee Gazette (PDF), a sponsor of the Bill of Rights Celebration. You can see the fancy ad, and also read the article the magazine did on the important subject of homeless LGBT youth and the Cream City Foundation study which found that 23% of homeless young people in Milwaukee are sexual minority youth.

Happy hour, DC conference, news roundup

4 Jun

Whew! Life has been busy at the Madison Area Office!

We’re gearing up for summer fun with our volunteer interns. Our core team of seven students will spend June and July researching facts and trends in youth civil liberties. By the end of summer we hope to have a dynamic Know Your Rights workshop to teach young people about how the Bill of Rights applies to them. We also will have additions to our Freedom FAQ factsheet series. Check out our Youth and Civil Liberties website for the complete list of available materials for download. Stay tuned to the Cap City Liberty blog for future reflections from the volunteer interns themselves.

Read on for a recap of some civil liberties news from the past week or so. Also check out these events that are coming up.

Happy Hour: Thursday, June 5th 6:00 p.m.
Genna’s 105 W. Main, upstairs
Join the ACLU of Wisconsin Madison Area Office as we recognize our volunteers and have a fun send off for those going to the national membership conference in Washington D.C. The event is free with a cash bar. Door prizes too!

Speaker: Saturday, June 7th 11:45 a.m.
Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.
“A Fair and Impartial Judiciary” Awards Luncheon with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Madison. Luncheon is part of the League of Women Voters of WI annual meeting but has luncheon-only registration ($25) at

Film: Sunday, June 8th 7:00 p.m.
Escape Java Joint, 916 Williamson St.
The United States Versus. Sami Al-Arian: A Case of Domestic U.S. Anti-Muslim and Anti-Palestinian Persecution
In February 2003, university professor Sami al-Arian – a leading Muslim and pro-Palestinian civil rights activist in the U.S. – was arrested in Tampa, Florida and charged with providing material support to a terror organization. For two-and-a-half years he was held in solitary confinement, denied basic privileges and given limited access to his attorneys. While the Bush administration called this a landmark case in its campaign against international terrorism, Sami Al-Arian claimed he was targeted in an attempt to silence his political views. The film raises questions on whether it is possible for a man like Sami Al-Arian to receive a fair trial in the United States given the current hostile environment against Muslims and the strong U.S. support of Israel. It presents our democracy in a new light in a post-9/11 culture of fear, where “security measures” trump free speech and punishment is meted out in the name of protection.

Event includes a guest commentary by Mel Underbakke who has been touring the U.S. on behalf of the Al-Arian defense campaign. She will screen the 2007 film “USA vs Al-Arian” and give an update on the case. ”USA vs AL-ARIAN” is an intimate family portrayal of an American-Muslim family’s struggle to fight terrorism charges leveled by the US government. It follows Sami Al-Arian’s wife Nahla and their five children throughout his six month-long trial. This is a nightmare come to life as a man is prosecuted for his beliefs rather than his actions.

Admission is free – donations will be accepted to cover room costs and for the Al-Arian defense campaign. Co-sponsored by the Peregrine Forum, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and the ACLU of Wisconsin-Madison Area Office.

For more information call the Peregrine Forum at 442-8399 or email, and/or go to the website

News round up:
We knew this already, but it looks like the saying “every time Bush speaks, another ACLU membership card is printed” is about right. Life after the Patriot Act is bad for America, and Americans are waking up to the need to come to the defense of civil liberties. Check out this Detroit News article on the ACLU’s national spike in membership.

This Daily Kos blogger thinks his membership to the ACLU is important enough to donate his stimulus check to the organization. Check out his video blog and find out how you can be a supporter too.

Madison, WI gets some attention from the LA Times, but not for our bike paths. Read on for the story on how the economic profilling and crackdowns on the homeless has changed “liberal” Madison.

A Dane County Circuit Court Judge upholds the anti-gay marriage amendment and says the two-part question was OK. Anyone who went door-to-door to organize against the amendment can testify that the two-question question was confusing to voters. Even people who said that they opposed “marriage” said things like “the second one is OK,” referring to the second line as if it was an option at the polls.

On a semi-related note, a decision to restrict the partisan political affiliation of judges running for election stands. Now if we can just get their highly partisan campaign funders to agree with the decision’s spirit.

Check out what the ACLU of Texas said about the introduction of potential legislation in their state to require Photo ID at the polls. “The state of Texas is wasting its time on this,” said Sonia Santana, who focuses on election issues for the Texas ACLU. “As it is, we’ve already got a pathetically low turnout. Why put up another barrier when it’s just a nonexistent problem? It’s fear, hype, and racism.” We would experience similar problems in Wisconsin if a Photo ID law were passed. Read the Truthout article for the description of the challenges Photo IDs pose in the wake of the unfortunate Supreme Court decision in the Indiana Photo ID case.

A Q&A section in the Wisconsin State Journal had a blurb on Real ID and another on banned books. Nice to see solid civil liberties issues in the paper.

Private police? Here’s a bizzare story about a private security company in De Forest that takes playing cop a little too seriously and issued parking tickets to legally parked cars. This is an excellent example of why security companies are licensed and regulated and how private companies masquerading as government staff is a scam.

There’s an update on “The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007.” Some of the plans for profiling Muslims and Arabs (and activist groups for that matter) were abandoned due to strong public pressure, but the legislation lives on in the form of HR 1955. If you need a mnemonic device to help you remember the bill number, just think of one of the hot years for the “House Un-American Activities Committee.”

Speaking of the internet, laptop users have a resource through the Electronic Frontier Foundation on how to protect themselves from warrantless searches of electronic devices at the border. Not a criminal and have nothing to hide? All the more reason to protect your privacy from abuse of power. Those family photos and digital bank statements are yours alone.

And federal lawmakers are still debating on net neutrality and antitrust law.

Indiana ID at polls OK by SCOTUS, border searches of electronics OK, Day of Silence under fire and more

28 Apr

Madison’s discussion on homelessness registers in the Chicago Trib radar screen. The article describes other civil liberties concerns such as the “banned from State Street” list enforced by local police and describes how cities nationwide have cracked down on visible homelessness via law enforcement measures.

Another citizen and Wisconsinite gets snagged in the flawed immigration/Homeland Security system.

At the border, agents can search laptops and electronics without cause. An appeals court ruling agreed that electronics weren’t too personal to search. However it was left unclear how individuals would be required to help agents with their search by providing passwords to protected devices. How do I set a passcode lock on my iPhone again?

A vet group is making a fuss over a Spanish class recital of the flag pledge in espanol. Didn’t Jon Secada sing the Star Spangled Banner in spanish at the white house for the inaugural back in 2001?

LGBT rights
Gay-Straight Alliance sponsored Day of Silence promotion is attacked at a Janesville school district board meeting. Anyone else fatigued by people who pit religion against gays and lesbians? U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s office issues a statement in support of the Day of silence and how it recognizes LGBT rights, especially as anti-gay violence and school harassment is a lingering problem.

Some of the more conspiracy-minded might think that citizens should be leary of giving the government their private indentity data because of the risk of its misuse. Actually the biggest threat these days is simply a lack of oversight of keeping that data secure and private. After some data bungles earler this year, the Governor set out to increase data security. Here is some of the new news about a report that assessed the state’s privacy regs, Doyle’s reaction and the ACLU of Wisconsin’s response.

The story didn’t end in January though. Here is another story about gaps in security for database info on Wisconsin seniors.

Taped fight at Toki makes it to YouTube, but admins say that security cameras may be next. Example may introduce the need for communities to discuss how to handle new technologies and privacy protections.

Voting rights
There is bad news on the voting rights front. The US Supreme Court upheld the Indiana voter ID legislation. While this will be heralded as a victory for “election integrity,” it should be pointed out that Indiana had no cases of fraud via in-person voter misrepresentation. Indiana also does have free IDs, however the dissenting justices’ opinions clearly laid out reasons why obtaining an ID is a barrier to voting. The ACLU got involved in the case on behalf of Indiana voters.

The ACLU of Wisconsin will continue to fight efforts to require photo IDs at our polling places. This is especially important because currently WI state DMVs charge money for state-issued ID cards ($28 for an ID; $34 for a renewal – up ten dollars to pay for the Real ID program that hasn’t been implemented yet).

Read the full opinions from the Supreme Court.

Reproductive rights
The pharmacist who denied patient birth control will seek a State Supreme Court review. While forum posts on on-line articles tend toward the bizarre if not psychotic, trends in reader feedback tend to reflect an understanding of the importance of not allowing religious beliefs to impede a woman’s access to birth control.

Heard of cybersquatting? A fake family planning site makes cybersquatting hit close to home (namely, Wausau).

Women’s rights
What explains the difference in our paychecks? Wisconsin Women still make only 78 cents on a man’s dollar.

Other news
Hey look! It’s our board president! Guenther gets interviewed about his involvement in a project to teach Afghan lawyers about civil liberties and the rule of law.

Watch for ACLU Legal Observers at the May Day march. The rally starts at 11:30am at Brittingham Park on Thursday, May 1. For more information about how legal observers serve as volunteer witnesses at public protests, or to find out how to become a legal observer for the ACLU of Wisconsin, contact the Community Advocate, Stacy Harbaugh.

More on homelessness, anti-torture action alert

14 Apr

The Cap Times describes how the debate on homelessness has taken a hostile turn. This hostility has been significantly seen (electronically) through debates among mostly anonymous forum postings on area on-line newspapers as well as debates between high-profile blogs (like Blaska’s blog which suggests that Madison’s leadership coddles the homeless in general and ignores criminal behavior by downtown “transients” in particular, and Alder Brenda Konkel’s blog which points out the civil liberties concerns with profilling the homeless in unsolved murder cases.)

This Channel 3000 report also described the hostility in its report on the press conference called by anti-homelessness advocates which identified the “economic profilling” of the homeless by police. This report however noted comments by police spokesperson De Spain that the rounding up of the homeless in the investigation was just to ask them questions about what they might have seen in the neighborhood. Questions about whether or not they all had to submit DNA tests or if they had legal representation during the questioning is still unclear. Despite the 200 or so tips received by the police regarding the Bassett-area murder, police aren’t reporting any substantial leads and remain focused on area panhandlers.

Action alert from the national ACLU:
On Friday night, in a national television interview, President Bush directly admitted what we have suspected all along: The White House was deeply and intimately involved in decisions about the CIA’s use of torture.

For the first time, George W. Bush acknowledged that he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details of the CIA’s use of torture. “I’m aware that our national security team met on this issue and I approved,” he said. He also defended the use of waterboarding — simulated drowning where the victim feels like they are about to die.

Congress should long ago have gotten to the bottom of which top officials approved, condoned and authorized U.S. involvement in torture. But, now that the President has admitted to a policy of top-down torture, the ACLU is calling on Congress to demand an independent prosecutor to investigate possible violations of the War Crimes Act, the federal Anti-Torture Act and federal assault laws.

Tell your members of Congress: Don’t look the other way on torture.

These latest revelations confirm our worst fears about subversion of the Constitution and betrayals of the rule of law by top government officials. Recent reports indicate that members of the Bush administration including Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and George Tenet met regularly and approved the CIA’s use of “combined” “enhanced” interrogation techniques, even pushing the limits of the now infamous 2002 Justice Department “Yoo torture memo.”

That long-secret memorandum became public recently as a direct result of ACLU lawsuits aimed at getting out the truth. And the truth is, the indefensible legal opinions put forward in the torture memo tried to give the President a virtual blank check to ignore the rule of law and to violate human rights standards.

Don’t tolerate torture. Demand accountability for torture now!

We have to do everything possible to reject the Bush administration’s top-down torture policies. That’s why the ACLU is stepping up pressure on Congress to use its constitutional powers to prevent illegal conduct.

It’s also why the ACLU has taken the extraordinary step of offering our assistance to Guantanamo detainees being prosecuted under the unconstitutional military commissions process. It is more important than ever that the U.S. government, when seeking justice against those it suspects of harming us, adhere to due process and the rule of law.

Take action: Tell Congress to demand answers!

If President Bush’s admission finally gets Congress to challenge the Bush administration’s torture policies head-on, we can begin restoring the values and due process that the Bush administration has severely undermined in the name of national security.

But, it won’t happen without an unyielding public outcry. Please do your part. Demand that your members of Congress reject torture by holding to account those responsible for approving and implementing these un-American policies.

Caroline Fredrickson, Director
ACLU Washington Legislative Office

Homeless round-up, failed anti-immigration laws, turkey tasering and more

11 Apr

Anti-poverty activists and clergy held a press conference today to articulate their concerns with what Community Action Coalition Executive Director Greta Hansen described as “economic profiling” of homeless people downtown. In the wake of two unsolved murders, it was reported that police rounded up around two dozen homeless men, those with probation violations or who committed (alleged) minor crimes, for DNA testing. None of the men have been identified as a murder suspect.

Community response to homelessness has been evolving since a spike in downtown crime and complaints from residents near the Brittingham Park neighborhood last summer. Since then, Madison leaders, residents, service providers and law enforcement have been discussing ways to remedy complaints. Some of the suggestions include putting surveillance cameras at Brittingham Park. However this Channel 3000 interview documents some folks, including law enforcement, who think that surveillance cameras recently installed on State Street aren’t working. Madison residents must ask, is it worth another $10,000 to pursue a surveillance strategy that might not be effective?

Alternatives have been suggested however. Area conservative blogger David Blaska recently proposed that the homeless be required to be identified by photo and social security number before being allowed to stay in a shelter or be tagged (like livestock) or identified by DNA. He also suggested that a defense fund be set aside for the “inevitable nuisance lawsuit filed by the ACLU.” Anyone who disagrees with Blaska’s comments and who feel that Constitutional rights are for everybody are welcome to make tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin litigation program.

Blaska went on to criticize the ACLU of Wisconsin for suggesting that students assert their rights to have their parents or an advocate present when being accused of a crime at school. But a recent video from the New York ACLU shows youth’s first-hand reports on a real-life, yet worst case scenario school-to-prison pipeline in which the NYC schools are being overpoliced. Perhaps Blaska would prefer to live in a police state than get panhandled on the street?

An article on failed immigration crackdown laws across the country details both the frustration state legislators have with the failure of the federal government to come up with a workable solution as well as the radical measures legislators have proposed, some of which would possibly be unconstitutional if implemented. Here is Wisconsin, a proposal to prohibit local governments to declare themselves sanctuary cities didn’t see light in the Senate. The 2008 elections may end the stalemate for better or worse.

News of the weird?
Turkey Tasering
Mating season comes with aggressive male turkeys. After complaints of turkey attacks, including problems with impeding postal carriers on their mail routes, it has been suggested that police taser the foul fowl. I wonder what Ben Franklin would say about cruel and unusual punishment of what could have been our national bird?

Customs ID Catastrophe
A case of mistaken identity leads to the detention of a Milwaukee woman at the Mitchell International Airport. Even though she insisted that she wasn’t the woman who was wanted for bounced checks, their shared name was flagged in a US Customs database. Proving again that databases and human error remain concerns in our increasingly electronic society.

Cross-dressing Kids
In more Milwaukee news, a Milwaukee-based radio network called Voice of Christian Youth America criticized an elementary school “wacky” dress-up day, accusing the district of promoting alternative lifestyles. The news prompted angry calls from across Wisconsin to the school and the Reedsburg School District suggesting, no doubt, that the spirit week is a part of the gay agenda.

Community Events:
Saturday, April 19 – Knowing Our Rights workshop on rights in the immigrant community, sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, Latino Law Students Association and the Grassroots Leadership College with a theater presentation by Dignidad sin Fronteras (Dignity without Borders). Topics include rights at home, at work, on the street, in protest, in detention and more. At Grace Episcopal Church, 116 W. Washington Ave. (near the capitol) from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For more information contact Megan at (608) 446-3313. Another workshop will also be held on Saturday, April 19 in the Bayview Community Center 601 Bayview at 11:00 a.m. organized by the UTI. For more information, call 1-866-4760-UTI (884).

Homeless versus parking, red light cameras, pre-Roe laws and more

7 Mar

News roundup for today…

When local attorney and downtown property owner Fred Mohs reconsidered his parking garage contract with a downtown Madison church, the church’s homeless shelter program became a bargaining point. The church voted unanimously to give up the parking contract and continue offering shelter. The WSJ article give the background and the A Cap Times article features an active forum debate.

The Sheriff’s statements about cooperating with ICE in reporting when undocumented immigrants are in custody is being reviewed. The State Journal also featured a page full of letters to the editor on immigration, probably in response to the article on the public hearing last week. One even asks why it is a problem for non-citizens to be denied a fair trial. Due process and equal protection is a Constitutional guarantee for all people in the United State, not just citizens. That’s Bill of Rights and human rights basics.

Racial Justice
Assembly approves bill to end the requirement of denying students’ the option to transfer schools if the transfer request would create a racial imbalance. The bill would replace race with socioeconomics. But in the history of race and segregation in our country, are socioeconomics enough?

Reproductive Rights
Rep. Jim Ott defends himself from a Planned Parenthood radio attack ad. Planned Parenthood is going after Ott and opponents of the Women’s Health and Safety act (AB 749/SB 398) which would repeal the pre-Roe v. Wade criminal abortion statute that is still on the Wisconsin books. Anti-choice activists insist that Planned Parenthood is misrepresenting the pre-Roe law, but you can read the statute and its amendments for yourself. Section 940.04 on page 2 is the original law penalizing women who have an abortion. Page 5 shows statutes that exempt women from the original penalties, but could also be overturned if anti-choice extremists gain even more legislative control.

Surprisingly enough, few readers brought up objections to surveillance in their letters to the editor in response to a column objecting to a proposed Assembly bill that would allow for the installation of “red light cameras” on Wisconsin roads.