On September 12, 2016, Susan Crawford prevailed in a public records dispute in the Dane County Circuit Court on behalf of Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI). The circuit court ruled that James Scott, Chairman of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, violated the public records law by refusing to release to MTI a record of the public school employees who had voted as of the midpoint of the union’s annual recertification election in 2015. The court found that Chairman Scott’s rationale for withholding the records due to the potential for “voter coercion” was pretextual, and did not overcome the strong presumption in favor of openness recognized under Wisconsin law. The decision was an important win for open government and public sector labor unions. Under 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, public sector unions must be recertified annually by a vote of at least 51% of all employees in the bargaining unit, not just the employees who cast a ballot. Employees who do not cast a ballot before the close of the election are treated the same as if they voted against the union. Receiving the voter lists during the election thus will help unions to focus their get-out-the-vote efforts on employees who have not yet cast a ballot. Given that the recertification elections are now conducted electronically, receiving timely voter lists is the only means for unions to monitor voter turnout. An appeal is expected.
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Crawford Prevails in Public Records Dispute in Dane County Circuit Court
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