Tag Archives: federal

Court blocks Wisconsin redistrict plan, orders new maps

A three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin on Jan. 27 permanently blocked the state’s redistricting plan, which unconstitutionally denies voters the ability to elect lawmakers.

“Yet again, the federal courts have ruled clearly: Wisconsin’s district maps are an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, they violate the rights of millions of Wisconsin citizens, and it’s time to move ahead and draw new maps,” said Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Elections Project, which helped organize the lawsuit. “This is a victory for democracy and we look forward to a process to draw these maps that engage the community and invite public participation.”

This ruling by the court ensures that new district maps will be in place for the next state legislative elections, according to a news release.

The case is Whitford v. Gill

And the state is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lead plaintiff is Bill Whitford, who said, “Now, we will be keeping a watchful eye on the state Legislature as they draw the new maps and I ask them,  for the sake of our democracy, to put partisan politics aside and the interests of all voters first.”

Whitford and 11 Democrats are plaintiffs in the case being handled by the Campaign Legal Center and co-counsel Douglas M. Poland of Rathje & Woodward, LLC, Peter G. Earle, Michele L. Odorizzi of Mayer Brown and Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos of University of Chicago Law School.

Gerry Heber, director of voting rights and redistricting for CLC, stated, “This is truly another monumental victory for the plaintiffs in this case and for all Wisconsin Voters. Today, the court made a clear statement that holding yet another unconstitutional election under Act 43 would cause significant harm to the voters.”

Heber said the Legislature has continuously “demonstrated a disregard for the rights of the voters and an inability to craft a fair, legal redistricting plan” but a new plan would put voters, not partisan politics, first.

Poland said the court gave the state a Nov. 1 deadline for new maps.

He said, “The Legislature has plenty of time to hold hearings with broad participation from Wisconsin citizen. There is no excuse for limiting participation by all interested parties to draw a fair map in an open and transparent process. The time for cloaking the process in secrecy has ended. The plaintiffs, their lawyers, and all of Wisconsin, are watching.”

 

For the record …

State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison: “The cornerstone of democracy is that the people should get to pick their legislators, not that legislators get to pick their voters. Today’s court ruling is a victory for Wisconsinites and democracy in our state, which has been under near-constant attack for the last six years. Voting should be fair, easy, and accessible, and today’s ruling only reinforces what Democrats have been saying for years.”

Shielded Native American sites thrust into debate over dams

A little-known federal program that avoids publicizing its accomplishments to protect from looters the thousands of Native American sites it’s tasked with managing has been caught up in a big net.

The Federal Columbia River System Cultural Resources Program tracks some 4,000 historical sites that also include homesteads and missions in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Now it’s contributing information as authorities prepare a court-ordered environmental impact statement concerning struggling salmon and the operation of 14 federal dams in the Columbia River Basin.

A federal judge urged officials to consider breaching four of those dams on the Snake River.

“Because of the scale of the EIS, there’s no practical way for us, even if we wanted to, to provide a map of each and every site that we consider,” said Sean Hess, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Pacific Northwest Region archaeologist. “There are some important sites out there that we don’t talk about a lot because of concerns about what would happen because of vandalism.”

Fish survival, hydropower, irrigation and navigation get the most attention and will be components in the environmental review due out in 2021. But at more than a dozen public meetings in the four states to collect feedback, the cultural resources program has equal billing. Comments are being accepted through Jan. 17.

The review process is being conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, an umbrella law that covers the well-known Endangered Species Act. Thirteen species of salmon and steelhead on the Columbia and Snake rivers have been listed as federally protected species over the past 25 years.

But NEPA also requires equal weight be given to other laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act, which is where the cultural resources program comes in. Among the 4,000 sites are fishing and hunting processing areas, ancestral village areas and tribal corridors.

“People were very mobile, prehistorically,” said Kristen Martine, Cultural Recourse Program manager for the Bonneville Power Administration.

Some of the most notable sites with human activity date back thousands of years and are underwater behind dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Celilo Falls, a dipnet fishery for thousands of years, is behind The Dalles Dam on the Columbia River. Marmes Rockshelter was occupied 10,000 years ago but now is underwater behind Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake River.

“If we’re breaching dams, it would definitely change how we manage resources,” said Gail Celmer, an archaeologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon ordered the environmental review in May after finding that a massive habitat restoration effort to offset the damage that dams in the Columbia River Basin pose to Northwest salmon runs was failing.

Salmon and steelhead runs are a fraction of what they were before modern settlement. Of the salmon and steelhead that now return to spawn each year, experts say, about 70 to 90 percent originate in hatcheries.

Those opposed to breaching the Snake River dams to restore salmon runs say the dams are an important part of the regional economy, providing irrigation, hydropower and shipping benefits.

Meanwhile, several tribes said they are better able to take part in the review process than they once were.

“Tribes have not had much opportunity to participate in these things because they didn’t have professional staff or trained people,” said Guy Moura of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state, noting the tribe employed four people in its cultural resources program in 1992 but now has 38. “With growth in size, there also came the evolution of what was being done.”

The tribe at one time had a large fishery at Kettle Falls, on the upper part of the Columbia River, but it was inundated in the 1940s behind Grand Coulee Dam. Dams farther downstream on the Columbia prevent salmon from reaching the area.

Also among the 4,000 historical sites is Bonneville Dam, one of 14 dams involved in the environmental impact statement. Bonneville Dam is the lowest dam in the system at about 145 miles from the mouth of the Columbia River. It started operating in the 1930s and became a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters celebrate, remain at camp

Thousands of protesters in North Dakota celebrated after the federal government ruled against a controversial pipeline project but were mindful the fight is not over, as the company building the line said it had no plans for re-routing the pipe.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Sunday it rejected an application to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to tunnel under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

The decision came after months of protests from Native Americans and activists, who argued that the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline would damage sacred lands and could contaminate the tribe’s water source.
Energy Transfer Partners, in a joint statement with its partner, Sunoco Logistics Partners, said late on Sunday they do not intend to reroute the line, calling the Obama administration’s decision a “political action.” They said they still expect the project to be completed, noting that the Army Corps said they had followed all required legal procedures in the permitting process.

The mood among protesters has been upbeat since the rejection was announced at the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Activists were seen hugging and letting out war cries in response to the news.

With the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump supportive of the project, activists were concerned a reversal could be coming.

“This is a temporary celebration. I think this is just a rest,” said Charlotte Bad Cob, 30, from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. “With a new government it could turn and we could be at it again.”

The pipeline is complete except for a 1-mile (1.61 km)segment to run under Lake Oahe. That stretch required an easement from federal authorities.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it will analyze possible alternate routes, although any other route also is likely to cross the Missouri River.

The protest camp’s numbers have swelled in recent days, as hundreds of U.S. veterans have flocked to North Dakota in support of the protesters.

Some of those in a long line of traffic along Highway 1806 heading into the camp hollered and honked their horns after the news was announced.

Craig Edward Morning, 30, a carpenter from Stony Point, New York, said he will leave when the tribe says he should and the company agrees to stop building the line.

“They retreat first,” he said. “They’re the ones that aren’t welcome.”

FIGHT MAY BE A ‘LONG HAUL’

Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II, in a statement, said he hoped ETP, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and Trump would respect the decision.
“When it comes to infrastructure development in Indian Country and with respect to treaty lands, we must strive to work together to reach decisions that reflect the multifaceted considerations of tribes,” he said.

Trump could direct authorities to approve the line, even if before he takes over from Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20 federal authorities will be studying alternative routes. North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer, a Republican, who has advised Trump on energy policy, said the decision ignores the rule of law.

Tom Goldtooth, a Lakota from Minnesota, and a co-founder of Indigenous Environmental Network, said he expects Trump to try to reverse the decision.

“I think we’re going to be in this for the long haul. That’s what my fear is,” he said.

In November, ETP moved equipment to the edge of the Missouri River to prepare for drilling, and later asked a federal court to disregard the Army Corps, and declare that the company could finish the line. That ruling is still pending.

Several veterans who recently arrived in camp told Reuters they thought Sunday’s decision, which came just as Oceti Sakowin has seen an influx of service members, was a tactic to convince protesters to leave.

Those spoken to after the decision said they had no plans to leave because they anticipate heated opposition from ETP and the incoming administration.

“That drill is still on the drill pad. Until that’s gone, this is not over,” said Matthew Crane, 32, from Buffalo, New York, who arrived with a contingent of veterans last week.

On the Web

Stand with Standing Rock.

US court blocks overtime expansion pay rule for 4 million

A federal court this week blocked the start of a rule that would have made an estimated 4 million more American workers eligible for overtime pay heading into the holiday season, dealing a major blow to the Obama administration’s effort to beef up labor laws it said weren’t keeping pace with the times.

The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas granted the nationwide preliminary injunction, saying the Department of Labor’s rule exceeds the authority the agency was delegated by Congress. Overtime changes set to take effect Dec. 1 are now unlikely be in play before vast power shifts to a Donald Trump administration, which has spoken out against Obama-backed government regulation and generally aligns with the business groups that stridently opposed the overtime rule.

“Businesses and state and local governments across the country can breathe a sigh of relief now that this rule has been halted,” said Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who led the coalition of 21 states and governors fighting the rule and has been a frequent critic of what he characterized as Obama administration overreach. “Today’s preliminary injunction reinforces the importance of the rule of law and constitutional government.”

The regulation sought to shrink the so-called “white collar exemption” that allows employers to skip overtime pay for salaried administrative or professional workers who make more than about $23,660 per year. Critics say it’s wrong that some retail and restaurant chains pay low-level managers as little as $25,000 a year and no overtime — even if they work 60 hours a week.

Under the rule, those workers would have been eligible for overtime pay as long as they made less than about $47,500 a year, and the threshold would readjust every three years to reflect changes in average wages.

The Department of Labor said the changes would restore teeth to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which it called “the crown jewel of worker protections in the United States.” Inflation weakened the act: overtime protections applied to 62 percent of U.S. full-time salaried workers in 1975 but just 7 percent today.

The agency said it’s now considering all its legal options.

“We strongly disagree with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work for millions of hardworking Americans,” the labor department said in a statement. “The department’s overtime rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rulemaking process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule.”

Opponents fought hard against the rule, saying it would increase compliance costs for employers who would have to track hours more meticulously and would force companies to cut employees’ base pay to compensate for overtime costs that kick in more frequently.

“This overtime rule is totally disconnected from reality,” said Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. “The one-size-fits-all doubling of the salary threshold demonstrated ignorance regarding the vast differences in the cost-of-living across America.”

The court agreed with plaintiffs that the rule could cause irreparable harm if it wasn’t stopped before it was scheduled to take effect next week.

The Department of Labor could appeal the ruling, which might end up at a Supreme Court that includes some Trump appointees.

But the injunction takes political pressure off the incoming administration at an opportune time, according to labor law professor Ruben Garcia of UNLV’s Boyd School of Law. With no new overtime changes kicking in Dec. 1, Trump can accept the status quo and won’t have to risk angering workers by walking back overtime benefits shortly after employees start receiving them.

His administration could choose to make its own rule changes through the lengthy administrative process. Or Congress could amend labor laws.

The impending rule wasn’t front and center in the presidential campaign, but Trump did tell the news site Circa in August that he would love to see a delay or carve-out for small businesses in the overtime regulation. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan was more vocal against it, saying it would be an “absolute disaster” for the economy and was being rushed through by Obama to boost his political legacy.

 

San Francisco mayor vows to remain sanctuary city

A large crowd cheered earlier this week as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee vowed that the city will remain a sanctuary for immigrants, gays and lesbians and religious minorities despite the election of a president who strikes fear into many of those communities.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to cancel federal funding for sanctuary cities such as San Francisco that decline to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. He also said he plans to deport millions of criminals who are living in the country illegally.

“We will always be San Francisco,” said Lee from the rotunda of city hall as dozens of people roared with approval at an event that featured the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and a host of public elected officials.

“I know that there are a lot of people who are angry and frustrated and fearful, but our city’s never been about that. We have been, and always have been, a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love.”

San Francisco receives roughly $480 million directly from the federal government and more than $900 million from the state, much of it pass-through federal money, city Controller Ben Rosenfield said.

The largest share goes toward health care, but federal dollars also fund public assistance and infrastructure, he said. The city’s budget is $9.6 billion.

It’s uncertain how the city would recoup that money should Trump make good on his promise to cut off sanctuary cities.

Also reacting to Trump’s statements on deportations, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said his officers will stay out of immigration issues as they have for decades. “I don’t intend on doing anything different,” Beck told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

“We are not going to engage in law enforcement activities solely based on somebody’s immigration status. We are not going to work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation efforts. That is not our job, nor will I make it our job,” Beck said.

Trump excoriated San Francisco last year when 32-year-old Kate Steinle was shot and killed by a Mexican native who said he had found a gun and it accidentally fired.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez had a federal detainer on him, but he was released from San Francisco’s jail after the district attorney declined to prosecute a decades-old marijuana sales charge. The sheriff at the time freed Lopez-Sanchez in keeping with city laws not to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

San Francisco’s sanctuary policy, which was tweaked and re-affirmed earlier this year, bars city employees from cooperating with federal immigration officials in deportation efforts except in rare situations. The law dates to 1989.

The current sheriff, Vicki Hennessy, also supports sanctuary policy as a public safety tool. Sanctuary advocates say people who live in the country illegally are more likely to report crimes to local police if they know they won’t be deported.

She said Monday that she’s concerned but taking a wait-and-see approach to a Trump presidency

“I’m following Hillary Clinton’s advice in her concession speech, which was to give the new president a chance to lead, and hopefully he’ll lead with compassion and understanding, as well as making sure our cities are safe for everybody,” Hennessy said.

Justice Department to monitor polls in Milwaukee

The Justice Department announced that its Civil Rights Division will deploy more than 500 personnel to 67 jurisdictions, including Milwaukee, on Election Day.

Although state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, Justice’s Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot on Election Day.

Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the department has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters.

“The bedrock of our democracy is the right to vote, and the Department of Justice works tirelessly to uphold that right not only on Election Day, but every day,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a statement.  “We enforce federal statutes related to voting through a range of activities — including filing our own litigation when the facts warrant, submitting statements of interest in private lawsuits to help explain our understanding of these laws, and providing guidance to election officials and the general public about what these laws mean and what they require.

“On Election Day itself, lawyers in the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section will staff a hotline starting in the early hours of the morning, and just as we have sent election monitors in prior elections, we will continue to have a robust election monitors program in place on election day.  As always, our personnel will perform these duties impartially, with one goal in mind: to see to it that every eligible voter can participate in our elections to the full extent that federal law provides.  The department is deeply committed to the fair and unbiased application of our voting rights laws and we will work tirelessly to ensure that every eligible person that wants to do so is able to cast a ballot.”

Leading up to and throughout Election Day, Civil Rights Division staff members will be available by telephone to receive complaints related to possible violations of the federal voting rights laws (Toll free at 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767 or TTY 202-305-0082).

In addition, individuals may also report such complaints by fax to 202-307-3961, by email to   and by a complaint form on the department’s website: www.justice.gov/crt/votercomplaint.

Allegations of election fraud are handled by the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country and the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

Complaints may be directed to any of the local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the local FBI offices or the Public Integrity Section at 202-514-1412.

Complaints related to disruption at a polling place should be reported immediately to local election officials (including officials in the polling place).

Complaints related to violence, threats of violence or intimidation at a polling place should be reported immediately to local police authorities by calling 911.

They should also be reported to the department after local authorities have been contacted.

On Election Day, the Civil Rights Division will monitor the election on the ground in 67 jurisdictions for compliance with the federal voting rights laws:

  • Bethel Census Area, Alaska;
  • Dillingham Census Area, Alaska;
  • Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska;
  • Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, Alaska;
  • Maricopa County, Arizona;
  • Navajo County, Arizona;
  • Alameda County, California;
  • Napa County, California;
  • Siskiyou County, California;
  • East Hartford, Connecticut;
  • Farmington, Connecticut;
  • Hartford, Connecticut;
  • Middletown, Connecticut;
  • New Britain, Connecticut;
  • Newington, Connecticut;
  • West Hartford, Connecticut;
  • Hillsborough County, Florida;
  • Lee County, Florida;
  • Miami-Dade County, Florida;
  • Orange County, Florida;
  • Palm Beach County, Florida;
  • Fulton County, Georgia;
  • Gwinnett County, Georgia;
  • Hancock County, Georgia;
  • Chicago, Illinois;
  • Cook County, Illinois;
  • Finney County, Kansas;
  • Orleans Parish, Louisiana;
  • Quincy, Massachusetts;
  • Dearborn Heights, Michigan;
  • Detroit, Michigan;
  • Hamtramck, Michigan;
  • St. Louis, Missouri;
  • Douglas County, Nebraska;
  • Mineral County, Nevada;
  • Washoe County, Nevada;
  • Middlesex County, New Jersey;
  • Cibola County, New Mexico;
  • Kings County, New York;
  • Orange County, New York;
  • Queens County, New York;
  • Cumberland County, North Carolina;
  • Forsyth County, North Carolina;
  • Mecklenburg County, North Carolina;
  • Robeson County, North Carolina;
  • Wake County, North Carolina;
  • Benson County, North Dakota;
  • Rolette County, North Dakota;
  • Cuyahoga County, Ohio;
  • Franklin County, Ohio;
  • Hamilton County, Ohio;
  • Allegheny County, Pennsylvania;
  • Lehigh County, Pennsylvania;
  • Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania;
  • Pawtucket, Rhode Island;
  • Providence, Rhode Island;
  • Bennett County, South Dakota;
  • Jackson County, South Dakota;
  • Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota;
  • Shelby County, Tennessee;
  • Dallas County, Texas;
  • Harris County, Texas;
  • Waller County, Texas;
  • San Juan County, Utah;
  • Fairfax County, Virginia;
  • Prince William County, Virginia, and
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The department will gather information on:

• whether voters are subject to different voting qualifications or procedures on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group;

• whether jurisdictions are complying with the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act; whether jurisdictions permit voters to receive assistance by a person of his or her choice if the voter is blind, has a disability or is unable to read or write;

• whether jurisdictions provide polling locations and voting systems allowing voters with disabilities to cast a private and independent ballot;

• whether jurisdictions comply with the voter registration list requirements of the National Voter Registration Act;

• whether jurisdictions comply with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Vote Act.

Last month, the Justice Department announced efforts to ensure that all qualified voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots and have their votes counted free of discrimination, intimidation or fraud in the election process.

Earlier this fall, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore, Mark Pocan and Ron Kind sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for monitoring of the election in Wisconsin.

Moore and Pocan issued statement on Nov. 7:

“I take great comfort in knowing that personnel from the U.S. Justice Department will be on the ground in Milwaukee during this historic election,” said Moore. “Too many Wisconsinites, especially those in communities of color, face a host of unnecessary obstacles in their efforts exercise their constitutional right to vote. This is simply unacceptable. My colleagues and I in Wisconsin’s Democratic congressional delegation would like to thank the DOJ for ensuring that all voters, regardless of party affiliation or political ideology, have the right to take part in our democracy, free of discrimination or intimidation.”

Pocan said, “The decision by the Department of Justice, while welcome, is a bittersweet victory for those of us who want to ensure voting rights are upheld. Although the DOJ’s efforts to enforce federal voting-rights laws is essential to fending off the worst aspects of this relentless attack on the right to vote, my colleagues and I will fight to end the suppression and intimidation that have become normalized in this election. The bedrock of democracy is the robust participation of all of us in the political process—this has always been a core Wisconsin value. We cannot and will not tolerate the continued threat of disenfranchisement against hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites.”

Democrats urge DOJ to assist in overseeing Wisconsin elections

Dear Attorney General Lynch: As you are aware, Wisconsin, which we represent, is among 14 states that have adopted new voter restrictions in advance of the November 8 election.

The state’s 2011 voter identification law, one of the strictest in the country, has been repeatedly challenged in federal court due to its discriminatory effects on vulnerable populations’ voting rights.  Due to the law’s contentious nature and poor implementation, coupled with a political environment that is becoming increasingly intimidating, we are requesting the Department of Justice’s assistance in overseeing the state’s monitoring of the election, including by providing poll-monitoring services in Wisconsin.

In 2014, a U.S. district court noted that more than 300,000 Wisconsinites lacked the newly requisite form of identification, and that this population disproportionately included persons of color. Judge Lynn Adelman further observed that state officials “could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past,” casting serious doubt on the official rationale for the policy.

A second federal court determined earlier this summer that even the “safety net” built into the law to help voters who have trouble obtaining ID was a “wretched failure” that “disenfranchised citizens” who are “overwhelmingly African American and Latino.”

Deeming the provision unconstitutional, Judge James Peterson mandated changes in practice and public education to ensure that that process better serves all Wisconsinites with documentation challenges in obtaining identification so they can vote. Concurring with Judge Adelman, Judge Peterson also expressed “misgivings about whether the law actually promotes confidence and integrity,” and observed that prior to 2011, “Wisconsin had an exemplary election system that produced high levels of voter participation without significant irregularities.”

Unfortunately, since that court order in late July, we have continued to see how Wisconsin’s voter ID law puts the franchise of many Wisconsinites, particularly people of color, in real jeopardy. Over the last month, press reports have revealed that on numerous occasions, Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicle employees provided erroneous and incomplete information to potential voters who are unable to obtain IDs due to a lack of required documentation (like a birth certificate), despite their eligibility for alternative credentials.

These revelations led Judge Peterson to remark on October 12, “I’m very disappointed to see that the state really did nothing in response to my order,” noting that voters are “at the mercy of the DMV, and its staff wasn’t trained well enough to guide people through it.” We are deeply troubled by the prospect of such misinformation contributing to voter disenfranchisement in this election. While further scrutiny by the federal court has prompted state officials to institute additional training and public education efforts at the DMV, there is entirely too much at stake in the limited time left before the election to let this continue without additional oversight.

In addition to misinformation, we are also concerned about potential voter intimidation at the polling places, particularly in light of recent, high-profile rhetoric that alleges “election rigging.” National figures have suggested that there is widespread voter fraud in our country and have encouraged private citizens to monitor the voting behaviors of certain communities for potential misconduct.

Given the flawed efforts thus far by state officials to properly implement this law, with proof of demonstrably false information having been disseminated to voters just days before the election, we fear that irreparable harm may result—particularly to voters of color, who disproportionately bear the brunt of these policies and any Election Day intimidation efforts.

We ask the Department to provide any resources or assistance it can in order to help our state navigate these unsettling circumstances.  For example, the Department has historically provided poll monitors on Election Day to help ensure that all eligible voters will be permitted to register and exercise their fundamental right to participate in our democracy. We therefore urge the Department of Justice to utilize any available election monitoring resources to ensure voters in Wisconsin are able to safely access the polls.

The right to elect our public representatives is unrivaled in its importance to a fully functioning democracy.  With few days remaining until the election, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to limit the amount of harm caused to our state’s voters.

Thank you for your consideration of this request and for the Department of Justice’s ongoing efforts to ensure the fairness of all elections in our country.

Records show Trump released tax returns when he stood to gain

Donald Trump won’t publicly release his income tax returns but records reveal the New York businessman turned them over when it suited his needs.

The Associated Press is reporting that Trump provided his returns when he stood to make a profit, needed a loan or when dealing with legal matters.

The news service reports that Pennsylvania gaming regulators were given at least five years’ worth and eight boxes full of Trump’s tax documents.

Also, Nevada, Michigan, Missouri, Indiana and other state gaming officials had access to multiple years of Trump’s returns.

And large banks that lent Trump money over the years have obtained Trump’s returns.

In all cases reviewed by The Associated Press, each person, organization, company or government office that has seen Trump’s tax returns is barred from discussing their full contents by professional or legal restrictions.

So the public still knows little about Trump’s more recent finances.

At a press event today in Waukesha, Wisconsin Democrats plan to call on Trump to release his tax returns.

An announcement from Hillary Clinton’s campaign said the event at noon at the Waukesha DNC headquarters would involve Democratic supporters, including state Rep. Mandela Barnes.

In the debate earlier this week, Clinton questioned whether Trump’s tax returns might reveal that he has paid little or no taxes. Trump said he was “smart” for not paying federal income taxes in some years.

Documents first reported on by Politico show Trump didn’t pay any federal income tax during at least two years in the early 1990s because he lost more money than he earned.

Other documents show he didn’t pay any federal income taxes in 1978, 1979 and 1984.

Trump has repeatedly refused to release his tax returns citing an IRS audit, but the IRS and tax experts have said an audit doesn’t bar Trump from making the documents public.

Since 1976, every major party nominee has released the returns and Clinton has publicly released nearly 40 years’ worth.

Trump’s tax returns would reveal his charitable contributions. The AP has reported that there is little record of substantial personal philanthropy from Trump.

The returns would also reveal how much Trump earned from his assets, helping someone work back to an approximation of his net worth to compare to his own estimation.

Pipeline fight hangs over White House tribal summit

The Obama administration will soon ask federal agencies to require that treaty rights be considered in decision-making on natural resource projects, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said on Monday, hoping to avoid future conflicts with Native-American tribes such as the current one over the Dakota Access pipeline.

Jewell announced a forthcoming memorandum from President Barack Obama at a Tribal Nations Conference — the eighth and final one he will attend — that began on Monday. Leaders of more than 560 Native American tribes are discussing the environment among other issues as one of the largest Native-American protests in decades continues in North Dakota.

“Your voices are important,” Jewell said in her opening remarks to the tribal leaders’ summit, which included many youth groups. “The president gets this.”

The Interior secretary acknowledged the demonstrations by thousands of Native Americans and environmentalists against the $3.7 billion oil pipeline they say threatens the water supply and sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux. She praised the “the unprecedented solidarity” through weeks of “prayerful and peaceful assembly to make your voices heard.”

She also recognized to wide applause the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Dave Archambault, who has been the face of the demonstrations.

“What we have today is an opportunity to ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to live up to those principles of the nation-to-nation relationship,” she said.

The Justice and Interior Departments on Monday announced settlements with 17 tribes that had sued the U.S. government for allegedly mismanaging monetary assets and natural resources that the government held in trust for the tribes.

The “vast majority” of all such disputes have been settled, according to the government, which has paid $1.9 billion to resolve the cases that go back to April 2012.

Obama will address the summit Monday afternoon, though it was not clear if he would discuss the 1,100-mile (1,886-km) Dakota Access pipeline, being developed by Energy Transfer Partners.

He has not publicly commented on the pipeline since the Justice Department, Interior Department and the U.S. Army made a surprise move on Sept. 9 to temporarily block its construction.

At that time, the administration called for “a serious discussion” about how tribes are consulted by the government on decisions over major infrastructure projects.

The uproar over the Dakota Access pipeline has sparked a resurgence in Native-American activism.

The Army, Interior and Justice will hold hearings on the shortcomings of the present process on Oct. 11 and formal discussions with tribes in six U.S. regions from Oct. 25 through Nov. 21.

The deadline for written comments will be Nov. 30, the agencies announced.

On Thursday, Archambault told a House of Representatives panel there was no “meaningful consultation” before permits were issued to bring the pipeline through his tribe’s territory.

Archambault is scheduled to speak on Monday evening at a rally of pipeline opponents.

Sioux tribe sues after work for Dakota Access Pipeline destroys sacred sites

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed an emergency motion on Sept. 4 for a temporary restraining order to prevent further destruction of the tribe’s sacred sites by Dakota Access Pipeline.

On Saturday, Dakota Access Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners brazenly used bulldozers to destroy our burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts,” tribal chairman David Archambault II said. “They did this on a holiday weekend, one day after we filed court papers identifying these sacred sites. The desecration of these ancient places has already caused the Standing Rock Sioux irreparable harm. We’re asking the court to halt this path of destruction.”

After the initial destruction Sept. 3, Dakota Access Pipeline returned to the area and dug up additional grounds in the pre-dawn hours Sept. 4, Archambault said.

The motion seeks to prevent additional construction work on an area 2 miles west of North Dakota Highway 1806, and within 20 miles of Lake Oahe until a judge rules on the tribe’s previous motion to stop construction.

That motion is based on the Standing Rock Sioux’s assertion that it was not properly consulted before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fast-tracked approval of the pipeline project.

A decision on the case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is expected by Sept. 9.

“Destroying the tribe’s sacred places over a holiday weekend, while the judge is considering whether to block the pipeline, shows a flagrant disregard for the legal process,” said Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux. “The Tribe has been seeking to vindicate its rights peacefully through the courts. But Dakota Access Pipeline used evidence submitted to the court as their roadmap for what to bulldoze. That’s just wrong.”

Thousands of people from more than 200 Native Tribes have joined the Standing Rock Sioux’s efforts to protect their lands, waters and sacred sites from harm during construction of the 1,200-mile pipeline.

If built, the line would carry a half-million barrels of crude oil across the tribe’s treaty lands each day.