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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

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Political Crumbs

Evolving?

When Scott Walker "punted" back in February after being asked if he was comfortable with the idea of evolution he added, "That's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other." However, it may very well be a question that is asked at one of the upcoming GOP debates this year. In South Carolina during the first GOP debate in 2012, FOX News' Juan Williams asked Tim Pawlenty, "Do you equate the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution as the basis for what should be taught for our nation's schools?" Pawlenty replied, "There should be room in the curriculum for study of intelligent design" but that it was up to the local school districts if it should be in a science class or comparative theory class. At the fourth Republican debate held in California, Jon Huntsman addressed the GOP becoming "anti-science" thusly: "Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy."


73 Months and Counting

January's preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Minnesota's unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was once again lower than Wisconsin's 5.0 percent. That marks the 73rd consecutive month in which Minnesota has boasted a lower jobless rate than its neighbor to the east dating back to January 2009 including each of the last 67 months by at least one point. The Gopher State has now edged Wisconsin in the employment border battle for 204 of the last 216 months dating back to February 1997. Wisconsin only managed a lower unemployment rate than Minnesota for the 12 months of 2008 during this 18-year span.


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