EXPO WISDOM v. WEC
On Jan. 31, 2023, we filed a complaint in Dane County Circuit Court, on behalf of EXPO Wisconsin and WISDOM, asking the court to hold the gerrymandered state Legislature accountable to the process set out in our statutes for submitting constitutional amendments referenda and advisory referenda to a statewide ballot.
We have seen the gerrymandered Legislature act like Wisconsin’s rules do not apply to them, and this time we are holding them accountable. Two weeks ago, majorities in the state Senate and Assembly rammed through 2 dubious policy ideas that have not had a thorough airing through the legislative process. The urgency and sloppiness employed by the Legislature was solely to get the two proposals on the spring ballot—which may be the most watched election of 2023.
Our claim is simple: the Legislature should have followed the proper procedure clearly set out in the statutes. A straightforward reading of Wis. Stat. § 8.37 clearly shows that for a proposal to get on the ballot, the Legislature must transmit the proposal to the “official or agency responsible for preparing the ballots,” at least 70 days prior to the election. In this instance, the Legislature sent the proposals to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, even though the Commission does not prepare the ballots for our elections. That function is expressly assigned by the statutes to Wisconsin’s 72 county clerks.
We are asking the court to require that the Wisconsin Elections Commission rescind its guidance that the questions be placed on the April 4 ballot and for a declaratory judgment from the court that the Legislature didn’t follow the statutory requirements.
We are filing this complaint on behalf of EXPO and WISDOM. EXPO is working to end mass incarceration and support formerly incarcerated people to full participation in community life. WISDOM is a statewide, non-partisan, non-profit network of 160 religious congregations including 19 religious denominations and over 300 individual members. WISDOM has worked on ending mass incarceration in Wisconsin since its founding in 2000. As part of its commitment to racial and economic justice, WISDOM also advocates for civic engagement in the areas of immigration and immigrant rights, public transportation, environmental justice and racial justice. While this complaint does not address the failed policy ideas contained in the proposals, our clients have a deep interest in the damage these proposals, if made law, would have on our state.
We are grateful to be connected to so many non-profit organizations in Wisconsin doing the hard organizing work that leads to community change. EXPO and WISDOM have longstanding credibility in the justice-reform movement and understand how our court and legal systems have been used to give some communities preference and disadvantage others.
January 31, 2023
Amicus brief filed.
February 20, 2023
Dane County Circuit Court Judge denied our request to keep the questions off the ballot in April.
July 20, 2023
We re-filed our complaint asking for different relief with the same claims.
October 16, 2023
Today the court agreed that our request to hold the gerrymandered right-wing legislature accountable to the people will be heard on its merits. As required by the Wisconsin Constitution, the legislature created a statutory process for submitting constitutional amendments to the people in a statewide referendum. It follows that the legislature must follow the process it designed, else they are violating our constitution and grabbing for itself power beyond that granted by the people. We look forward to presenting our case over the coming months.
Dane County Circuit Court
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