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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

Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

Political Crumbs

Six for Thirteen

Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


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