Wisconsin Republicans to vote on death penalty, elections

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans gathering for the state convention this weekend will vote on setting the party's priorities for the next year, including resolutions calling for all ballots to be hand-counted on Election Day, imposing the death penalty for people who kill police officers, and opposing vaccine mandates.

The resolutions, brought forward by Republicans across the state for approval at the convention and were made public this week, are advisory only. But they show the priorities of the party that has a solid majority in the Legislature and would be able to enact whatever laws it wishes if Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is defeated in November.

“The resolutions provide the grassroots an opportunity to voice their opinions on the issues of the day,” said the Wisconsin Republican Party's executive director, Mark Jefferson. “These are all issues that our grassroots feel very strong about.”

Many of the resolutions touch on familiar hot-button topics such as opposing universal gun background checks and “red flag” laws that would allow judges to take guns away from people determined to be a threat, calling for the passage of a law to ban abortions, banning the teaching of “critical race theory,” and opposing automatic citizenship for people born in the United States.

Several resolutions oppose mask mandates and other restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. One resolution, which declared that the Republican Party celebrates “the mystery of romance and marriage,” calls for the Legislature to criminalize physical treatments for minors who want to transition their gender. The resolution also calls on the Legislature to allow transgender children who are given such treatments to sue their parents and others for damages up to 10 years after they turn 18.

“It feels like we’re moving in a more and more extreme direction instead of being in touch with the people we’re elected to represent,” said Democratic state Sen. Melissa Agard, of Madison, on Thursday. She cited polls showing widespread support for issues Republicans aren’t voting to back, including the legalization of marijuana, keeping abortion legal and protecting the environment.

On elections, the GOP resolutions call for dissolving the Republican-created Wisconsin Elections Commission and putting the Legislature in charge of running elections. The bipartisan panel oversees elections in the state and Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos opposes doing away with it, but Republican candidates for governor have also called for abolishing it.

Much of the anger from Republicans related to the 2020 election has focused on the commission and advice it gave to local elections officials.

Another resolution calls for having every ballot cast in the state counted by hand. Each ballot would have to be tabulated by three election workers. The resolution also calls for all ballots, including absentee, to be on paper and tabulated on Election Day.

“Unless Cinderella's mice are available, that is a non-reality based request,” said Ann Jacobs, the Democratic chair of the elections commission. The number of people it would take to hand-count 3.3 million ballots “would be extraordinary and extremely prone to error,” she said.

“It's just silliness,” Jacobs said.

All of those changes, like most of the resolutions, would require the Legislature to make legal changes and the governor to sign off on them.

The Legislature this year rejected an effort to allow for the early tabulation of absentee ballots to speed processing of those votes. Early counting has had bipartisan support in the past. Not being able to start counting ballots, particularly in Milwaukee County and other large cities, has led to the release of results late into the night on Election Day, fueling frustrations and conspiracy theories.

The elections commission worked hard to dispel lies about the late reporting of results in some of the state's larger cities, noting that the process was open to the public and the time it took for results to be posted in 2020 showed that elections officials did their jobs.

Multiple audits, reviews and court rulings following Wisconsin's 2020 presidential election confirmed Joe Biden's victory over Donald Trump by nearly 21,000 votes. Audits of machines that count ballots also found no errors that affected the outcome.

Jefferson, the Republican Party head, said the resolutions give voice to frustrations people feel across the state. He said attendance at the convention will be the highest in at least a decade and maybe the highest ever, another sign of energy among Republicans.

Scott Bauer, The Associated Press

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