Grassroots Organizations Activate Their Communities in Advance of Wisconsin Supreme Court Election

We are almost to election day for the Wisconsin Supreme Court race. Tomorrow, April 4, voters will decide who will fill the seventh supreme court seat vacated by conservative Justice Patience Roggensack. Because it currently stands 4-3 conservatives to progressives, whoever is elected will determine the court’s ideological leaning.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has been a battleground for political polarization in recent years. This year alone it has issued multiple controversial rulings that have impacted voting rights, election integrity, and the power of the state’s governor including upholding what has been called the most aggressive partisan gerrymander of state legislative districts in the country, prohibiting the use of most drop boxes for voters returning absentee ballots, and blocking Governor Tony Evers from making appointments to state agencies. The court also very nearly voted in favor of former president Trump’s 2020 lawsuit to overturn his election loss in Wisconsin. Whoever is voted in as the new justice could potentially impact voting and election integrity not only in Wisconsin, but in the 2024 presidential election as well.

Abortion is another stand-out issue in this race. The current conservative majority on the court has shown a willingness to restrict access to abortion in the past. With Attorney General Josh Kaul suing to throw out Wisconsin’s standing abortion ban – a case that’s expected to reach the supreme court – abortion access in Wisconsin will lay firmly in the hands of the winner of tomorrow’s election.

Grassroots organizers in Wisconsin know that this election will have a significant impact on the daily lives of Wisconsinites. They have been organizing for months to engage and empower their communities. Three of WDN’s grantees, BLOCK, Freedom, Inc., and LIT EF are leading the charge.

Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC)

Photo: Black Leaders Organizing for Communities

Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) is a community organization based in Milwaukee. It was founded by a group of Black community organizers who were frustrated with the lack of political representation and meaningful change in their communities. BLOC’s founders recognized that many Black residents in Milwaukee faced significant barriers to accessing political power, including voter suppression, systemic racism, and economic inequality.

In order to address these issues, BLOC works to engage and mobilize Black residents in Milwaukee through voter education, registration, and turnout efforts. They also provide training and support to community leaders and organizers, and work to build coalitions with other progressive organizations and grassroots movements.

BLOC’s efforts have already had a significant impact on Milwaukee’s political landscape. In the 2020 presidential election, the organization helped to mobilize thousands of Black voters in the city, contributing to record turnout.

They have been actively organizing and mobilizing voters ahead of the Wisconsin Supreme Court election. They launched a voter education and mobilization campaign focused on Black and Brown communities in Milwaukee including phone banking, canvassing, and text messaging to encourage voters to turn out for the election and vote – not only for the supreme court, but also for school board, city council, and local judicial races that are on the down-ballot and will also have an impact on their daily life. 

Their work is ensuring that Black and Brown communities in Milwaukee have a voice in this critical election.

Freedom, Inc. (FI)

Photo: Freedom, Inc. organizers

Freedom, Inc. (FI) is a Black and Southeast Asian non-profit that works with low to no-income communities of color. They focus on a range of issues that impact communities of color, including police brutality, mass incarceration, poverty, and economic inequality. They are also dedicated to empowering and uplifting the voices of those who have been marginalized and excluded from traditional power structures.

FI has a unique approach to community organizing in which they emphasize the importance of healing and self-determination. They view community organizing as a way to not only address social and political issues but also to support the healing and well-being of individuals and communities.

As an organization by and for Black and Southeast Asian women and girls, and queer, trans, and intersex folks, FI’s community members will be disproportionately affected by the outcome of this election. FI is working around the clock on their Election Day phone banking program, virtual election education events, and coordinating rides to the polls. They have also been teaching members how to host gatherings of friends and family to discuss the real-life implications of this election and how they can participate to make their voices heard. 

Leaders Igniting Transformation Education Fund (LIT EF)

Graphic: Leaders Igniting Transformation Education Fund

Leaders Igniting Transformation Education Fund (LIT EF), whose c4 organization Leaders Igniting Transformation is a grantee of our sister organization WDN Action, is organizing a political and cultural bloc of young people to define the future of their communities through public policy and cultural change. They organize young people to build independent political power for social, racial, and economic justice on campuses, in high schools, and in communities of color across Wisconsin. Their complete engagement accelerates leadership development, growth in organizational capacity, public narrative development, and political education. 

This strategy has allowed them to accomplish big things in a short period of time including running the seventh largest Snapchat political ad campaign in the country targeting young voters and students on college campuses statewide during the 2022 election cycle.

LIT EF is propelling critical work in advance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court election. In a state where margins in statewide elections are historically razor thin, one of the greatest resources for new voters in Wisconsin is the youth vote. LIT EF has been engaging students on college campuses to encourage them to engage civically. Over 300,000 college students reside in the state and their efforts have the potential for huge impact on election day.  

Funding for Change

BLOC, FI, and LIT EF are year-round organizations with deep roots in the communities they serve. They are building hubs of power among Black, Brown, youth, queer, trans, and intersex communities to ensure the people who are so often left out of the system have the knowledge, means, and force to make their voices heard. WDN has been funding BLOC, FI, and LIT EF for years and is incredibly proud to do so.

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