2023 was one of the most challenging years in recent memory, as we saw repeated attacks on marginalized communities in Wisconsin and across the country targeting trans youth, reproductive rights, communities of color, students’ right to learn, free speech, and privacy.
Despite these difficult times, we at the ACLU of Wisconsin took these attacks on our rights seriously, taking every opportunity to fight back. We learned that when we collaborate, working hand in hand with our allies in the community, we can achieve great things.
Here are some of the highlights of 2023:
Voters protected reproductive freedom
Ahead of the 2023 Wisconsin Supreme Court Election – billed as the most important race of the year – the ACLU of Wisconsin embarked on an ambitious effort to educate voters about the impact of the state supreme court and to equip them with all the knowledge, resources and tools they needed to cast an informed ballot.
We engaged voters using various tactics, including an extensive radio advertising campaign that reached hundreds of thousands of people, direct mail, door-to-door canvassing, and community outreach.
Our staff tirelessly worked all cycle to make sure every eligible voter made their vote. The people of Wisconsin responded in force, turning out in record numbers and delivering a powerful message that they wanted their reproductive freedom back.
We expanded early voting in Milwaukee
As we approach another crucial election cycle in 2024, we have been busy doing everything possible to ensure voting is as easy, accessible, and secure as possible.
We identified a severe lack of funding for election administration in Milwaukee and a need for more voting options, and we successfully advocated for more significant investment in the Milwaukee Election Commission and secured three additional early voting sites to be available for voters in 2024.
We also partnered with many local voting rights organizations to ensure voters in the Midtown area still have a place to vote early following the closure of the polling location in the Midtown Shopping Center – where nearly 30% of all early votes in Milwaukee were cast in the 2020 and 2022 elections. Thanks to our coalition's determination and collaborative efforts, the City of Milwaukee has committed to opening an alternative site at 6001 W. Capitol Drive in Milwaukee.
We fought for trans youth and equal education
The attacks against the LGBTQ+ community in Wisconsin are horrifying, and we’ll fight them every step of the way. In June, we secured a major court victory and successfully defended the Madison Metropolitan School District against a lawsuit that sought to require school faculty to out trans and gender-expansive students to their parents, even when the student did not want their gender identity disclosed out of fear for their safety, concerns about privacy, or the many other reasons a person may not feel ready to share that information.
Outside the courtroom, we’ve been on the streets and in the statehouse helping defeat cruel legislation targeting trans youth. We’ve rallied supporters, testified in front of the legislature, and activated thousands of Wisconsinites who oppose this anti-trans campaign and will fight for trans youth and LGBTQ+ people for as long as it takes. We’ve also been pushing back against classroom censorship and book bans that chill free speech and silence the voices of LGBTQ+ people and people of color.
We worked against racially unjust policing and mass incarceration
Mass incarceration and bloated budgets for ineffective, increasingly militarized policing continue to hurt Wisconsin communities – especially communities of color. In 2023, we worked to hold police accountable, reduce our prison population and defend the rights and dignity of those in custody, educate citizens on how to protect themselves and their rights when encountering police, and advocated for investments to combat poverty, increase affordable housing, expand access to education and family-sustaining jobs, and other evidence-based policies that are proven to make us safer.
We’ve continued our litigation efforts to close Copper Lake and Lincoln Hills youth prisons and to combat racist, unconstitutional practices by the Milwaukee Police Department, contested inhumane prison conditions and lockdowns while helping to make phone calls free at the Milwaukee County Jail, and launched an expansive campaign to teach Milwaukee residents – with a focus on Black youth – how to use their rights in police interactions, among other projects.
Your continued support helps us make this work possible. We thank our volunteers, supporters, donors, and members, and we appreciate your help for a successful 2023. We hope you’ll keep fighting with us in 2024, where so much is at stake.