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Will Wisconsin End Unprecedented 153-Year Ban on Death Penalty?

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Wisconsin is one of 13 states plus the District of Columbia that does not currently offer the death penalty as a sentencing option in its criminal courts. The death penalty was abolished in the Badger State in 1853—nearly 120 years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled state death penalty statutes to be in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments due to the arbitrary and capricious administration of state law (Furman v. Georgia, 1972).

Wisconsin's 153-year ban is the longest of all states without the death penalty, and the last (and only) execution in Wisconsin was in 1851.

But in May 2006 the republican-controlled Wisconsin State Senate and State Assembly each approved a death penalty referendum (18-15 and 47-45 respectively) that will appear on November's ballot. The referendum is worded narrowly as follows:

"Should the death penalty be enacted in the state of Wisconsin for cases involving a person who is convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, if the conviction is supported by DNA evidence?"

Democratic Governor Jim Doyle does not support the death penalty. But, despite the state's long history without capital punishment, recent polling shows support for the referendum among likely voters at 55% with opposition just shy of 40% (WISC-TV poll, August 2006).

A clear reversal of the nation's longest death penalty ban by voters in November would serve as further evidence that left-leaning states frequently back many right-leaning public policies (e.g. definition of marriage, immigration).

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Remains of the Data

Gender Equality in the US House: A State-by State Quarter-Century Report Card (1989-2014)

A study of 5,325 congressional elections finds the number of female U.S. Representatives has more than tripled over the last 25 years, but the rate at which women are elected to the chamber still varies greatly between the states.

Political Crumbs

Small Club in St. Paul

Mark Dayton is one of just three Minnesotans ever elected to three different statewide offices. Dayton, of course, had previously served as State Auditor (1991-1995) and U.S. Senator (2001-2007) before winning the governorship in 2010. At that time, he joined Republicans Edward Thye and J.A.A. Burnquist on this very short list. Burnquist was elected lieutenant governor in 1914 but then became governor after the death of Democrat Winfield Hammond in 1915. He then won the gubernatorial elections of 1916 and 1918 and eight terms as attorney general two decades later (1939-1955). Thye was similarly first elected lieutenant governor of the Gopher State and became governor after the resignation of fellow GOPer Harold Stasson in 1943. Thye won one additional full term as governor in 1944 and then two terms to the U.S. Senate (1947-1959). Twenty Minnesotans have been elected to two different statewide offices.


Respect Your Elders?

With retirement announcements this year by veteran U.S. Representatives such as 30-term Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, 20-term Democrat George Miller of California, and 18-term Republican Tom Petri of Wisconsin, it is no surprise that retirees from the 113th Congress are one of the most experienced cohorts in recent decades. Overall, these 24 exiting members of the House have served an average of 11.0 terms - the second longest tenure among retirees across the last 18 cycles since 1980. Only the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2006 had more experience, averaging 11.9 terms. (In that cycle, 10 of the 11 retiring members served at least 10 terms, with GOPer Bill Jenkins of Tennessee the lone exception at just five). Even without the aforementioned Dingell, the average length of service in the chamber of the remaining 23 retirees in 2014 is 10.2 terms - which would still be the third highest since 1980 behind the 2006 and 2012 (10.5 terms) cycles.


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