'Here & Now' Highlights: Cavalier Johnson, Robert Donovan, Robert Yablon, Jerry Deschane, Jonathan Pylypiv

Here's what guests on the April 1, 2022 episode had to say about running for mayor of Milwaukee, how the Wisconsin Supreme Court may rule on redistricting, why election clerks are seeking community support and organizing to raise donations for Ukraine.

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

April 4, 2022

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Here and Now still of Frederica Freyberg and Robert Yablon

Frederica Freyberg and Robert Yablon (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

Acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and former city council alder Robert Donovan participated in a Milwaukee PBS forum and offered their best pitches to voters before the city’s mayoral election. University of Wisconsin Law School professor Robert Yablon unpacked the Voting Rights Act and how the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Wisconsin Supreme Court to approach its redistricting rulings. The League of Wisconsin Municipalities released a political ad featuring local clerks — Jerry Deschane, the group’s executive director, said it’s seeking to remind voters election workers are their neighbors and friends. Jonathan Pylypiv left Ukraine as a child and started an organization in Green Bay called Wisconsin Ukrainians, which is raising funds and awareness as the war rages on.


Cavalier Johnson and Robert Donovan
Candidates for mayor of Milwaukee

  • During a March 30 forum on Milwaukee PBS, the two candidates for mayor of Milwaukee took questions on a spike in violence in the city and their plans to minimize crime.
  • Donovan: “I will say this. I think perhaps some of it is due to covid or this whole period of the last two years. We have seen chaos rain in Milwaukee, and I simply do not believe that there is any hope of restoring order and stability to our streets and neighborhoods without providing the Milwaukee Police Department with the appropriate level of manpower. … In addition, we need to ensure that our district attorneys and our judges are holding our criminals accountable for their crimes. It seems to me every time we hear of some horrendous crime being committed, it’s perpetrated by an individual. A record a mile long should not have even been out on the street in the first place. So those are critical components to begin the process of restoring order to our community.
  • Johnson: “Covid certainly has played a role in the uptick in crime and violence that we’ve seen in large cities across the country. Milwaukee is no exception, and we need to have holistic public safety in order to address the problems that we have on the streets of Milwaukee. … So, holistic public safety means having the adequate number of police officers, and it’s something that I want to see and something that I’ve been fighting for. It also means working to have mental health services that are available to folks in our community. It also looks to make sure we have earlier interventions in the lives of young people. … We’ve had conversations with the district attorney, with the chief judge for Milwaukee County, that has had the state come in to make an investment of tens of millions of dollars in our public safety apparatus here in Milwaukee.”


Robert Yablon
Professor, University of Wisconsin Law School

  • Yablon suspected the Wisconsin Supreme Court would act quickly on determining the state’s legislative redistricting maps after they were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. A 4-3 majority on the state high court had adopted maps submitted by Gov. Tony Evers as comporting with its “least change” requirement, but the nation’s high court offered questions over how the maps considered the federal Voting RIghts Act. Which of the maps at issue, those put forth by the Republican legislators or the governor’s, best ensure that Black voters in the Milwaukee area have the political power to elect candidates of their choice?
  • Yablon: “This is a really complicated area of the law. The Supreme Court justices themselves sometimes lament how complicated and confusing it can be. One thing with the Voting Rights Act is not about purely creating districts that just have a numerical majority of a minority population, because sometimes that won’t be enough for them to elect their preferred candidate, given voting patterns and so on. So if you’re doing a functional analysis, what you might see is just having a majority-minority district may be inadequate. In other cases, what you might find is that you don’t actually need to create a majority-minority district at all because maybe there will be crossover votes from other communities that will be adequate to allow that minority community to elect its preferred representative. So it requires a very detailed functional analysis. And, you know, one of the complaints from the U.S. Supreme Court was that the Wisconsin Supreme Court just didn’t delve deeply enough into that kind of functional inquiry.”


Jerry Deschane
Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities

  • Local government associations in Wisconsin partnered to create a television ad promoting the dedication of election clerks following two years of distrust in the electoral process by unfounded allegations of widespread fraud. What’s the purpose of this messaging campaign?
  • Deschane: “We wanted to start from the reminder of hey, folks, you can trust elections, primarily because you know who is running them. For the most part, these are people that you recognize, you have seen in the grocery store. So we wanted to start with that message that hey, look, you know these people, you know you can trust these people. They are your neighbors. The second reason, to be perfectly selfish about it, is clerks are under a lot of pressure, and in this job market there are a lot of things they could do that don’t come with the same pressures as this, so we wanted to give them an attaboy, and say look, we know you are doing a good job, keep it up.”
  • Having enough local clerks to administer elections at the local level requires considerable recruitment and training given the over 1,800 municipalities here are in the state.
  • Deschane: “Every one of them has to have an election clerk who is trained and certified. What is happening is the great retirement. Clerks are walking. I can’t quantify it for you with statistics but anecdotally, we are getting more than a few clerks saying I just don’t need these headaches. There will be new people coming in — that’s great — but we are losing a lot of institutional knowledge, and that’s a concern, too.”


Jonathan Pylypiv
Founder, Wisconsin Ukrainians Inc.

  • Local efforts to help in a crisis half a world away continue — as Wisconsinites find ways to support Ukraine. One such effort is led by Wisconsin Ukrainians Inc., a group out of Green Bay that is raising funds and building awareness.
  • Pylypiv: “This is all very raw when you hear of some of these cities now that are being liberated and the war crimes and atrocities being done by the Russian invaders. It’s just not only heartbreaking, but also just enraging because Ukrainian people want to be in peace. …. It motivates us also to do whatever we can in Wisconsin and really all over the country to galvanize the support locally within our communities to help bring positive change of support, but also helping tell the story so people hear the Ukrainian voice and a direct connection to what is happening in Ukraine.”


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