An influential conservative media outlet in Wisconsin is alleging that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is unconstitutionally keeping its reporters in the dark about the governor's public appearances and barring them from events open to other media.
The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, which operates an overtly rightward-leaning news service that covers state government and politics, filed a lawsuit in federal court this week to gain access.
The case is notable in part because it counters a stereotyped narrative — that fights for open government and public access are generally waged by liberal media outlets against conservative government officials.
The suit alleges the news service is being treated differently from other press outlets in Madison because of its political views, in violation of the Constitution's protection of freedom of speech and guarantee of equal protection. It says the governor's staff has refused MacIver's requests to receive media advisories and barred its reporters from a widely attended press briefing in February when Evers detailed his first budget proposal after taking office.
"Our administration provides many opportunities for both reporters and the public to attend open events with the governor," his spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said in a statement. "Gov. Evers is committed to openness and transparency in state government, and he believes strongly that a fair and unbiased press corps is essential to our democracy."
The editors of Wisconsin's Progressive magazine told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they weren't aware of any similar exclusion by the previous governor, Republican Scott Walker.
Molineaux and Nevins are co-founders of the Bridge Alliance, a coalition of 100 democracy strengthening organizations. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)
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The Federal Voting Assistance Program assists military members who need to vote via absentee ballot. A spokeswoman for the Defense Department said there would be "minimal disruptions" if the United States pulls out of the international postage agency.
Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration's trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections.
The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years.
Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don't cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service.
With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting.