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The Wisconsin Grassroots Network's 15th Annual Festival

Since 2010, WGN festivals have provided a place where grassroots groups could network with one another and with citizens looking to get involved. The 15th Annual Festival is Saturday, May 4, 2024, hosted by Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. It will be a landmark for democracy in Wisconsin. It's theme is Our Future, Our Choices: Rural and Urban Together. 

Attendees will choose 3 of 18 breakout sessions related to that theme. There will be guest speakers, a bake sale, lunch, and entertainment. 

As details are finalized, information will be available on WGN's Facebook page: 

as well as WGN's new website:

Save the date!

February 6, 2023

We the Irrelevant celebrated its 7th birthday in December, 2022. I'm pleased to share that, as of today, my website has tallied 506,286 page views and 437,679 unique visitors. Thank you.

Today, I've updated the Media Links page with links to the Twelve Letter Films 2020 documentary, Can You Hear Us Now? and several post-screening panel discussions sponsored by Wisconsin grassroots organizations.

Our Supreme Court primary is February 21. Recent history has, or should have taught us the crucial importance of those who sit on the bench. The primary and the general election on April 4 will determine whether real democracy can survive in Wisconsin. Fair maps, voter protection, and access to abortion are all on the line. It's a line we cannot afford to ignore. Meet the candidates at the PBS Wisconsin link above. Make a plan to vote on February 21.

Feb. 2, 2022

I have suspended the tallying of my Aug. 8, 2021 open records request asking for citizen correspondence related to election fraud in WI. I've tallied results from 16 of the 65 legislators who responded, but after reading through 4,904 emails, I needed to stop. The "big lie" is alive and thriving in WI, and I could no longer subject myself to reading thousands of emails from those who believe it. 91% of those contacts were either in favor of an audit or believed that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

I've been remiss in not publishing data about the Twelve Letter Films documentary, "Can You Hear Us Now?" in which We the Irrelevant is featured. The film explores the 2018 election in WI through the personal stories of four women: two candidates running against incumbents in heavily gerrymandered districts, the director of a voter outreach organization, and me.

Having just discovered the videos produced by the Gravel Institute, I'm happy to recommend "How America's Best State Fell Apart", a brief, clear exposition of the WI that used to be and what it has become.

We the Irrelevant has become collateral damage in my struggle with COVID-imposed isolation. I hope that motivation to continue my efforts will return, but for now I have declared a hiatus.


July 30, 2021: Gerrymandering

Having sent out an open records request at the end of May to the entire WI legislature, I am now tallying responses. This time, I asked for citizen contacts regarding gerrymandering, redistricting, and/or drawing fair maps. To date, contacts opposed to gerrymandering number 794 while contacts in favor of it number 2. You'll find links to the alphabetical listing of legislators as well as their listing by district here.

Dec. 24, 2020: Something to celebrate

December, 2020 marks We the Irrelevant's 5th birthday! I am proud and delighted to announce that during these 5 years, this site has had 277,640 unique visitors and 307,481 page views! Thanks to everyone for honoring my work with your time and interest.

I wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season. May 2021 be a year of recovery and renewal.

With gratitude,

Sheila Plotkin

Oct. 26, 2020: Read 'Em & Weep

Today, I published the 60th COVID-19 data set since I began collecting them on April 7. If you look at only one spreadsheet of the 16 available, make it this one. It shows the counties reporting increases of 3 or more deaths since my last dive. 

Here's the link.

Aug. 29, 2020: DONE!

"How Did They Vote" is now complete. All links to individual legislators past and present are live. You can find everything you need at the "How Did They Vote" tab above.

Aug. 24, 2020: Update

26 senate districts are complete; 7 to go. I've added an alpha list of all legislators under the How Did They Vote? tab. That addition gives you three ways to find the person you want.

If you know the name, use the alpha list. If you know the district, use the numerical list on the How Did They Vote? page. If you don't know either, use the link to on that page.

Aug. 20, 2020: Progress is being made

All of the even-numbered state senate districts now have live links. As of today, 4 odd-numbered districts are also available. Use the How Did They Vote? link above to access the data.

To visualize the impact of 5 years worth of data, I've created They're Not Listening.  The number of contacts in opposition to the queried bills is superimposed on a map of Wisconsin's senate districts along with the percentage the total represents.

With 13 districts remaining to be published, we are already at 349,201 contacts in opposition! Those contacts represent 98% of the total number of contacts legislators received.

Aug. 12, 2020: Get Ready to Vote

I'm delighted to announce a new data project. It ties the results of all of nearly 5 years of open records requests to how the incumbents voted on each issue/bill queried.

Senate districts 2, 4, 6, and 8 are complete. Use the How did they vote? link above to access the new page and active links to each incumbent's records and votes.

I hope this effort will help voters decide on their representation for 2020 and beyond.

May 26, 2020: Research Has Some Answers

Economics researchers from the University of Wisconsin and Ball State conducted a study of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin in the three weeks following GOP-mandated, in-person voting on April 7. You can read selected excerpts from their paper and find a link to the complete paper here. You'll also find a spreadsheet I created that highlights cases and the percent of increase in 15 counties I selected based on the researchers' maps.

May 8, 2020: I wish I knew!

I began collecting and organizing COVID-19 data on April 7, the day of GOP-mandated, in-person voting in Wisconsin. I feared that day might result in more infections and perhaps deaths than otherwise might occur. But, fears are not facts.

Looking at Wisconsin in a vacuum made little sense to me. I chose instead to compare our numbers with those of 5 other states, all of whom had cases numbering between 2,000 and 2,999 on April 7: Nevada, Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina, and Missouri. They became what I now call my 6-state cohort. I also chose to compare Milwaukee County with the county in each state that had the most cases on April 7. 

Later, I began to track the remaining 62 Wisconsin counties, as well as hospitalizations and testing. The last two are relative newcomers. 

The various graphs accessible here reflect confirmed case increases over the past four weeks. What do they tell us? Each of you will make your own judgments about that. Here's mine:

1. Is it too early to tell? I heard an expert interviewed the other night. She explained why it will take so long to see the effects of "opening up". Individuals ignore any symptoms for a while before they convince themselves they should be seen. Then, if they're tested, results can take up to a week. It's not unreasonable for what we see on a given day to be the result of actions taken four or five weeks previously. Viewed from that perspective, Wisconsin may reveal effects from the primary, but interviews and contact tracing have not yet tied cases to voting in any definitive way. We know that 50 or so have tested positive and report that they voted in person. That's all we know.

2. Five states with fewer than 2,000 cases on April 7 have since entered my cohort by virtue of their increases. Three of them, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Mississippi remain within it while Rhode Island and Iowa rose through and beyond it in fairly short order. The relative placement of all 11 states on May 5 is of interest. Arizona's numbers pushed it past Missouri into the top spot. Wisconsin was 4th in ascending order in the cohort on April 7; today, it remains 4th. That suggests to me that there is nothing unusual about the growth in confirmed cases. Rhode Island's race to and through the top of my cohort is an example of that.
3. Five of Wisconsin's 10 most populous counties had visible spikes this past week. Brown County is battling infections stemming from a meat-packing plant, but what is driving the others? More testing? Or GOP-mandated in-person voting? The same questions may be asked about the other 62 counties.. I counted 22 counties with similar spikes. I do not know what is causing them.

This was a worthwhile exercise. I wish that I had found an answer to the question we all had on April 7. That must come from the health and statistics professionals, and I suspect it may be a very long time coming.

Going forward, I will collect and publish only hospitalization and testing data every day. All other data will be updated weekly on Tuesdays. As the pool of data grows and its sources continue to morph, I can no longer sustain the energy required for daily searches.

Stay home, and stay safe.

Sheila Plotkin

April 24, 2020: Some new information

It has been 17 days since I began collecting COVID-19 data for the state of Wisconsin. I was motivated by the GOP-mandated in-person voting for the WI primary on April 7.  Two weeks on, individual counties are experiencing upticks in confirmed cases although an official connection to election day has been made for only 7 cases in Milwaukee. 

It remains to be seen whether two demonstrations opposing Gov. Evers' safer-at-home orders lead to future upticks. One was in Brookfield on April 18 and the other in Madison on April 24. I will continue to collect data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

You can access all of the data via the link above. 

April 13, 2020: This is the week

I've made some changes recently. Raw data and the accompanying graphs for alphabetical groups of WI counties are now on the same page. The links have been revised to include the new pages. I recommend that you begin with the intro page.

If Wisconsin's COVID-19 cases are going to increase because of GOP ordered in-person voting on April 7th, this is probably the week we'll being to see it. I'll point out any changes that suggest a connection.


April 10, 2020: "This is ridiculous!"

I have added a new page. On it, you will find links to a series of spreadsheets that will be updated every day. They contain COVID-19 data from 6 states including Wisconsin, from the county in each of those states with the most cases on April 7th, and from the 10 most populous WI counties. The data comes from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 

I chose to begin this project after Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers ordered the April 7 election postponed, and Wisconsin's Republican legislature sued. The GOP-dominated WI Supreme Court ruled in favor of the GOP legislature, and thousands of Wisconsin voters risked their health and perhaps their lives to vote. 

It matters whether such blatantly partisan actions will have an effect on the number of cases and subsequent deaths in Wisconsin. You can find the data here.

Feb. 16, 2020: Updated media links & more

We the Irrelevant has received more media attention. You can access updated links here.

I'm delighted to report that page views for We the Irrelevant are at 221,000 and counting. Thank you!

WI state senators in even numbered districts are up for re-election in 2020 as are all 99 state representatives. In the months to come, I will publish open records results for all of the 33 senate districts. Each district will have its own link. You'll be able to see how citizens asked legislators to vote and how those legislators actually voted.  As election day approaches, I believe that the data I've collected will contribute to your decision-making process. I hope you'll find it useful.

Feb. 3, 2020: Your Right to Know

I am pleased and proud to share my column published today by the WI Freedom of Information Council. Click here.

I have also updated my list of communities where We the Irrelevant has fans and the map of WI showing where they are.

Jan. 27, 2020: Final tally

With 7 legislators' records outstanding, I've published the latest tally of citizen contacts related to Gov. Evers' call for a special session to consider two gun control bills. You can see the data here.

Dec. 8, 2019: Updated spreadsheet

Click on the link to access the updated information from the special session on gun control open records request.

Nov. 26, 2019: New Page

Today, I've created a four-year summary of We the Irrelevant's data. You can access it here.

Nov. 24, 2019: Gun Control

Today, I've published the first results of my open records request pertaining to the special session on gun control. You can see the data here.

Nov. 18, 2019: Public Education and the Budget

New data is available here showing preliminary results of my May, 2019 open record request to members of the Joint Finance Committee as they considered the Governor's proposed budget. I've also updated the Communities page and the WI map.

Sep. 8, 2019: Updates

Today, I've updated Media Coverage and Communities.

Sep. 3, 2019: Two published articles

I am very pleased to share two articles that were published today. 

The first is this month's Your Right to Know column from the WI Freedom of Information Council. It was written by Jonathan Anderson.


The second appears in the new online news outlet Wisconsin Examiner . It was written by Erik Gunn.


Aug. 30, 2019: Final Lame Duck Spreadsheet

Today, I've published the final spreadsheet showing results from my December, 2018 open records request to the entire WI legislature. I asked for all citizen correspondence related to the lame duck session. The session and proposed legislation were announced late in the day on Friday, Nov. 30. By and large, the bills were aimed at securing GOP power by handcuffing incoming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul. The GOP majority held one public hearing the following Monday, Dec. 3. What followed were marathon, over-night sessions out of which came 3 bills. Former Gov. Scott Walker signed those bills into law on Friday, Dec. 14. I sent my open records requests that weekend, Dec. 15 and 16.

I asked for electronic records only, but 14 GOP representatives chose to print their records. In April, I sued all 14, asking the court to require them to provide electronic records. After the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, Dist. 2, issued their June 6 decision in support of a prior lawsuit wherein a Dane County Circuit Court judge ruled that electronic records must be provided when requested, the 14 decided to settle my suit. Pursuant to that settlement, I received PDFs of their printed sheets in late July. Those records are now a part of the totals. 

I am struck by the enormous outpouring from citizens in response to the lame duck session. I keep asking myself how it's possible that our GOP majority felt free to ignore the 1,374 people who either spoke or registered in opposition at the sole public hearing and the 34,083 contacts they received in opposition between Nov. 30 and Dec. 14? They received only 690 contacts in support of what they were doing.

The democrats also received contacts from citizens. When you add in their 11,705 contacts, of which 99% were opposed, the grand total of contacts received by all legislators on this issue was 46,766! 98% were opposed! A sizeable minority of those were self-declared Republicans, Conservatives, or Independents. 

Under what definition of "representative" do legislators ignore 98% of those who took the trouble to make contact regarding a significant issue?  Why do they feel free to act regardless of such enormous opposition? How have we reached this point in Wisconsin? 

These are questions worth pondering. I hope that the data herein will be widely shared. I hope you'll refer to it when you talk to your neighbors and friends and family. I hope you'll ask your legislators about it when you attend their next town hall. 

Thank you for your interest in We the Irrelevant and open government. You can see the final spreadsheet here.

Aug. 18, 2019: New Lame Duck Data

Today, I've published an interim spreadsheet including some of the records I received when my lawsuit against 14 GOP legislators was recently settled. There is more to come.

August 11, 2019: I sued them, and I won!

Yesterday, I received more than 9,800 PDF pages of data in response to my May 23 query regarding the legislature's December, 2018 lame duck session. I sued14 GOP legislators for this electronic data, and I won. You can learn more about it here.

July 12, 2019:

Data from my May 23, 2019 query to members of the Joint Finance Committee awaits tallying. A busy summer has kept me from completing that task, but it will get done. 

On June 5, 2019, the WI Court of Appeals District 4/2 affirmed the Dane County Circuit Court's ruling that electronic records must be provided when specified by an open records requester. This is a victory for open government!

On July 12, 2019, this opinion piece appeared in the New York Times under the headline "Politicians Don't Actually Care What Voters Want". The research was conducted by Dr. Joshua Kalla of Yale and Dr. Ethan Porter of George Washington University, both Assistant Professors and political scientists. I recommend it.

May 23, 2019: Joint Finance Committee Open Records Request

Today, I sent an open records request to members of the Joint Finance Committee. I asked them to send me all of the correspondence they've received from citizens regarding education funding beginning with the first public budget hearing on April 5, 2019 through and including today May 23, 2019. Results will be posted as they start to come in.

April 24: A Much-Needed Hiatus

Looking back at the lame duck session open records project, I understand why I needed a break from We the Irrelevant. While I was "recovering", new visitors have continued to arrive. They now number more than 145,500! Thanks to everyone to whom open government matters. As the budget process continues in the legislature, I may consider querying the Joint Finance Committee regarding citizen contacts on particular issues such as public education funding, environmental protection, and the legalization of medical marijuana, among others.

March 5, 2019: Spread the word!

I hope you'll agree that people all over Wisconsin need to know about the information We the Irrelevant has gathered here. They need to know that their GOP representatives have ignored them on a regular basis, and that documentation of that fact does exist. 

To that end, I've created a downloadable 4 - UP flyer that We the Irrelevant's fans can print and distribute. Once it's downloaded, the user should set their printer to print on both sides and flip on the short side. This is important to remember, or the backside won't print correctly.

Here's the link to the 4 - UP. The flyer will open on a new page, and you can download it. Thanks for SPREADING THE WORD!

March 4, 2019

Today, I've published what really is the final result of my open records request to the entire WI legislature asking for all of their citizen contacts during the period of the lame duck session. I've also posted 25 more emails from disgruntled, self-identified Republicans, Conservatives, and Independents. 

Feb. 18, 2019

With only one legislator out of 126 not responding, I've published the final spreadsheet of my lame duck open records project. 

After their sudden announcement of a lame duck session, one public hearing, and floor votes all happening within less than a week, the GOP legislative majority and their Democratic colleagues received 43,857 citizen contacts! 43,134 of those contacts were in opposition to the session itself and/or the legislation under consideration. 723 contacts were in favor.

Wisconsin has strayed far from true representative government. These results are the most stunning evidence to date. 

Feb. 12, 2019

Today, I've posted what may be the last data spreadsheet of the lame duck open records project. Two things will trigger an update: two representatives and 4 senators will fulfill my open records request electronically, and/or 14 representatives will submit electronic records in place of the paper ones they printed. In the meantime, I've decided to include the paper records by applying the total percentages to them. Since I know the number of records printed, I've applied 98% in opposition to each legislator's total. 

This project has generated a great deal of attention. Citizens responded immediately to the surprise announcement of a lame duck session, contacting their legislators repeatedly. I wanted to honor their efforts and their commitment to democracy. The data spreadsheet is my way of doing that. Thank you to all who emailed, wrote, and/or called their elected representatives. 

You made contact 42,399 times. 41,683 contacts, or 98%, were opposed to the lame duck session/legislation. 716 were in favor. 

Feb. 2, 2019

The lame duck open records project is coming to a close. 

     1. 104 legislators have responded with electronic records. 
     2. Records of 7 legislators have not yet arrived. 
     3. 6 are no longer in office and neglected to respond to my request before they left. 
     4. 15 GOP legislators have generated paper records I can neither access nor pay for.

The totals to date are revealing.

     1. 104 legislators received an aggregate of 34,572 contacts from citizens.
     2. Of these, 34,012 were opposed to the lame duck legislation. That's 98% of all the relevant contacts received. Only 560 contacts        expressed support.
     3. A significant number of Republicans expressed their disappointment in their elected officials and their party.

Jan. 28, 2019

Most polls tell us that, regardless of political labels, a majority of Americans believe that their government no longer represents them. They believe that the wealthiest campaign donors have replaced them as the only constituency that matters. The driving force behind We the Irrelevant was to document those beliefs. 

The citizen outcry in opposition to the WI GOP majority's lame duck session in December, 2018 is a vivid example. The GOP majority received over 32,000 contacts from citizens in opposition to the proposed bills and to the session itself.  That count continues to rise.

Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) voted against one of the three bills that emerged from that session. But, Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) voted against all three of them. He explained his votes in a newsletter to his constituents. His rationale is one that should be prominently displayed in the office of every official elected by the people. It echoes the declaration Gov. Evers quoted in his inauguration address. "The will of the people is the law of the land." 

From Rep. Novak to his constituents

Jan. 22, 2019: New Lame Duck Session totals

I've been doing a lot of counting with more to come. Legislators received over 31,000 citizen contacts urging them to vote NO on the lame duck bills. Many of these were from Republicans. Along with an updated spreadsheet, I've posted four more letters from disappointed, self-identified Republicans. 

Jan. 11, 2019

New data and additional letters from citizens have just been posted. More than 75% of WI's legislators have responded to the open records requests sent on Dec. 15 & 16, 2018. Most have sent electronic records as I specifically requested. 

To date, 14 GOP Representatives have generated paper records. The size and cost of those printed records has become a serious enough issue that I decided to add them to the spreadsheet. You'll be able to see who generated paper, how much paper and taxpayer money they wasted doing so, and what they expect me to pay them. 

I made it clear in my records request that I could neither read records in the respective Chief Clerk's Office nor could I afford to pay what it would cost to mail them to me. These 14 (and perhaps more) knew my limitations. But, they chose to print their records regardless. It's not the first time, but it is definitely the most egregious. 

Stay tuned.

Dec. 24, 2018: Happy Holidays

I wish you all joyful times with family and friends and a safe, celebratory new year. 

We the Irrelevant's unique visits are nearly at 130,000! Thank you all for your interest in what I've tried to do on behalf of our struggling democracy.

There will be new data published by the time you've eaten the last of your festive leftovers. Meanwhile, enjoy.

With gratitude,

Sheila Plotkin

Dec. 20: First Lame Duck Records Published

Dec. 18, 2018: Results are coming in

I have queried each member of the state legislature asking for records of citizen correspondence related to the lame duck legislation. Some data is available. Here is just the beginning:

December 3 public hearing before the Joint Finance Committee:

             Speakers opposed            337             Speakers in favor           0   

             Registered opposed      1,087             Registered in favor         2

Sen. Shilling (D-LaCrosse)

             Contacts opposed            443             Contacts in favor            8

Totals to date      Opposed       1,867                       In Favor            10

Dec. 15, 2018: Lame Duck Legislation

The Republican majority made their lame duck bills public on Friday, Nov. 30. On Monday, Dec. 3, the Joint Finance Committee held one public hearing on all of the bills. Neither legislative leader appeared to defend the proposed bills. Hundreds of citizens registered and/or testified in opposition to what many viewed as a naked abuse of power weaponized to hamstring the incoming Democratic administration.


Thousands of Wisconsinites wrote to their respective legislators about the lame duck legislation. We the Irrelevant wants to honor their efforts and to expose what I believe will be overwhelming evidence of citizen opposition which their GOP elected officials ignored.


I intend to query all WI state legislators: 99 reps and 33 senators. Results will be tallied and published as they come in.

Dec. 7: Wisconsin's Extraordinary Session

On Dec. 3, I testified before the Joint Finance Committee regarding 7 bills published only late in the afternoon of the previous Friday. I was one of more than 100 speakers. Hundreds more registered their opposition, spreading themselves beyond the hearing room into 3 overflow rooms and outside on the Capitol grounds. 

Here's a link to my testimony:

Gov. Walker has 10 days in which to sign the lame duck bills.

Contact him via his website, and your email will become part of the public record. Here's the link:

Scroll down to the lower right hand corner of the website's home screen. Click on "Get in touch today." It doesn't look like a live link, but it is. Click on "Contact Governor Walker" at the top of the message page. Select "General" from the Issue menu. Type "Extraordinary Session" in the Subject line.

I focused on his legacy, asking him to separate himself from Speaker Vos and Leader Fitzgerald.

Please share this information widely. Thanks.

Nov. 16: Investigative Report on Open Records Exemption

I recommend this piece from Milwaukee's Fox 6 investigative reporter Amanda St. Hilaire. Wisconsin's legislators exempted themselves from the requirement to retain records that they imposed on every other government body. Many have willingly accepted this "invitation to corruption".

Oct. 29: This is Who We Are

I keep hearing people say, "This is not who we are." Mostly, those who say it are privileged white people like me.

I don't presume to speak for anyone other than myself, but if I had to guess, I'd guess that African Americans know better than we do who we are. The same might be true for brown-skinned immigrants, for Muslim Americans, for LGBTQ Americans....the list is long and getting longer.

We were born of white supremacist fathers who built this country on the backs of slaves. Hundreds of thousands died in a war to keep us one nation, but the stain of white supremacy remained. In every generation, it has seeped through the fabric of our civility leaving us to wonder, "Will it ever end?"

I can't answer that question, but I know this: White supremacy is our national chronic disease. Periodic treatments of marginalization can give us only remission. As soon as we feel better about ourselves, we're suddenly awakened by dog whistles that have become trumpets and indulgent laughter that has become the roar of hate. Gun shots ring out, fires blaze, children are ripped from their parents and put into cages, people who are not me are, with good reason, more afraid than ever.

Historically, moral leaders have helped us treat our illness. Many of those leaders died for their efforts. But, we now have leaders across this country who want us at each others' throats.They want some of us triumphant and the rest despairing. They do not want remission. They want disease.

I will not allow it. I will not shut up and go away. I will begin by acknowledging that, yes, this is who we are. But, until my dying day, I will fight to prove that this is not who we must be.

Oct. 26: Democracy Under Attack

I am nearly sick with outrage. 

  1. Republicans in Georgia don't want black Americans to vote. They were tossing absentee ballots until a Federal judge stopped them.
  2. Republicans in North Dakota don't want Native Americans to vote. They are requiring mailing addresses where none exist.
  3. Republicans in Texas don't want black college students to vote. They have changed the rules and moved the polling place.
  4. Republicans in Wisconsin don't want Democrat votes to count. They have blatantly gerrymandered districts to stay in power.
  5. Trump's unrepentant vitriol against anyone who challenges his authority just brought us closer than we've ever come to the mass assassination of political rivals.
  6. Trump, who promulgated the unconscionable policy of ripping children out of their parents' arms, now wants to close our southern border to those seeking asylum while simultaneously cutting aid to their home countries. 
  7. Corruption and self-dealing run rampant in this administration with the example coming right from the top.
  8. Courageous women who love their country are vilified as liars or as confused or as spotlight-seeking. They are dismissed like unruly children disturbing the grown ups at dinner.
  9. Privileged old white men with a solidly-entrenched sense of entitlement look upon citizens seeking redress of their grievances as a mob, as rioters, or simply as repugnant pests.

10. Constitutional checks and balances no longer function. 

I have never been so afraid for my country. If those who oppose the far-from-inclusive list above choose to stay home on Nov. 6, the message to Trump will be clear: "Do what you want. I don't care."

Please don't deliver that message. Vote early if you can, or vote Nov. 6...but VOTE! 


Aug. 7, 2018: We the Irrelevant Makes News!

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WCIJ) cooperates with the U of Wisconsin, providing experiences for journalism students. The Center's project for this school year is entitled UNDEMOCRATIC: SECRECY & POWER VS. THE PEOPLE. For several months, students heard from legislators, academics, and ordinary citizen activists. I spoke to the class about We the Irrelevant in February, 2018. Nicole Ki interviewed me in April, and her piece has just been published here. Edited versions of Nicole's piece have appeared online in the following publications: the CapTimes; the Wisconsin State Journal; the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; the Post Crescent; the Superior Telegram; and the Washington Times. Stay tuned.

July 3: Take a moment

As you celebrate Independence Day, I wish you joy and perhaps a bit of awe. Our country's ideals are worthy of awe as are our struggles to live up to those ideals. Sometimes, we forget what they are. Other times, we change our interpretation of them. Occasionally, we act as though they no longer exist. 

I confess to never having read the complete text of the Declaration of Independence. If you have 5 minutes, here it is. I encourage you to read what Thomas Jefferson wrote. Below I've pasted the paragraph that resonated with me this morning. It reminded me of the nobility, courage, and determination that is our heritage. I wish you inspiration.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

What You'll Find Here

This site houses data compiled from multiple Open Records Requests (ORRs) sent to Wisconsin's state legislators beginning in October, 2015. I asked for citizen correspondence related to issues of public interest. I wanted to know how many contacts were opposed to proposed legislation, and how many were in favor.

My data documents that the Republican legislative majority has ignored contacts from hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites. Most bills I queried passed despite citizen opposition that was often in the thousands.

You can use the site in several ways:

  • You can access all current data, with legislators arranged alphabetically or by Senate and Assembly District, under the What We've Discovered link.
  • You can learn the history of this Open Records Project under the Who We Are  link.

April 11: Records Runaround

The CapTimes just published this enlightening piece about the accessibility (or lack thereof) of public records.

Your Right to Know

April 4: Here's a link to this month's "Your Right to Know" column from the WI Freedom of Information Council. Gag orders, muzzles, and stonewalls cannot, must not be our "new normal". I urge you to read this article and to share it widely.

March 11: Sunshine Week

Today marks the beginning of Sunshine Week when Wisconsin focuses attention on open government.

Here's the link to the WI State Journal's editorial regarding two legislators who have refused to supply electronic records in response to open records requests. One of these cases began with We the Irrelevant

March 9: Thank You!

We the Irrelevant's number of unique visitors has just passed 100,000. Thanks to all of you who care enough about open government to check out what this website has to say. 

Feb. 9: Foxconn & the Great Lakes

The WI DNR has opened the public comment period regarding the diversion of 7 million gallons per day of Lake Michigan water. The water will flow through Racine to Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics company. Of those 7 million gallons, 2,730,000 million will be lost to evaporation or disappear into Foxconn's production process. 

It's hard to get one's mind around a number as large as 2,730,000.

Here are a couple of comparisons: If you began counting from 1 now, it would take you about 6 weeks to get to 2,730,000. In terms of seconds, 2,730,000 of them would equal 4 weeks, 3 days, 14 hours, and 20 minutes.

We the Irrelevant has published data showing that more than 2,000,000 Wisconsin citizens believe that water is a public trust, not to be given away to private interests.

You can send your comments about this massive diversion of public waters to:

Feb. 5: Your Right to Know

Here's the link to the Your Right to Know column in today's WI State Journal. It's written by John Foust, a member of the WI Freedom of Information Council.

Jan. 18, 2018: Who's In Charge?

Below is the link to Wisconsin State Senator Kathleen Vinehout's (D-Alma) recent column. In chilling detail, she lays out the process by which Wisconsin's democracy is slipping away from the control of its citizens. I urge you to read it.

Sen. Vinehout is a candidate for Governor. Her regular columns will give you an insight into her policy principles.

Jan. 11, 2018: The Racist in the Oval Office

The racist in the Oval Office has revealed himself once again. We are fooling ourselves if we think he's hit bottom with this latest insult to the country he pretends to lead and to the world looking on in dismay and disgust. There is no bottom to his hatred of people of color nor any hope of one.

What will we do about it? We will chatter to one another as we often do. We may call our legislators as we should. We might write letters to editors; I recommend it. But, there is more.

  • I suggest we contact the League of Women Voters, and support their registration efforts with our money and our time.
  • I suggest we put signs on our lawns and in our windows that say, "He doesn't speak for me!"
  • I suggest we volunteer as election inspectors in our respective municipalities. The average age of WI election inspectors is 72. Younger people need to step forward.
  • I suggest we contact our local Indivisible group, join them, and work to retrieve our democracy before it disappears under the mountain of muck that the Republicans, for reasons of their own, have no wish to confront.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke


Don't do nothing.