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Capital City Sunday: COVID-19 impact on 2020, DNC outlook and the coronavirus response

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Months before the general election there have already been a handful of challenges to Wisconsin election laws.

Voting rights groups and Democrats are seeking to ease voting regulations, while Republicans and conservatives are on defense trying to preserve them.

This week on Capital City Sunday, Ben Wikler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and Andrew Hitt, chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin debate expanding vote by mail as interest surged as the pandemic wears on.  

Hitt says the state doesn’t need to change election laws, referencing the victories in lawsuits ruled on hours before the April, 7 primary.

“We fought so hard in the April 7 election to preserve our laws, and we prevailed on all those cases and once again the State Supreme reiterated we shouldn’t change laws in the runup to the election,” said Hitt.

Just last month, after three years of deliberations, a federal appeals court ruled in Republicans' favor when they imposed restrictions affecting voter IDs, early voting and several election policies.

But Democrats are not giving up just yet. They continue to advocate for expanding vote by mail options to make it easier for people to cast a ballot to avoid "choosing between their health and the right to vote."

“I deeply wish both parties could come together to make it easier for people to safely and securely vote, rather than having a polarized political world where Democrats are fighting for the right for everyone to vote and Republicans are fighting against those rights,” said Wikler.

Republicans and President Trump have insisted, without evidence, that expanding absentee ballots and sending them to every voter would lead to fraud.

Regarding police brutality, Hitt believes reforming police culture is necessary, but doesn’t support stipping funds away from departments. 

“If there are bad cops out there, we should get rid of them, but what we can’t do is defund the police and get rid of police departments,” said Hitt.

When asked if the Wikler supports defunding the police, he said police officers are being asked to do too much.

“Everyone agrees there are too many things police officers are being asked to do right now that don’t make sense, for examping responding to mental health calls,” said Wikler. 

DNC OUTLOOK, UW POLICY ON INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

The look and feel of the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee will undoubtedly be different than expected. After DNC officials announced most of the event will be held virtually, Sen. Tammy Baldwin said she’s hoping to attend in person.

“I hope to be able to safely participate in some of the in-person events,” she said.

When asked if Milwaukee should get another shot at hosting the 2024 convention she said it’s possible. 

“I’m sure there will be interest in making another pitch but we still have our sights set on what will be happening in Wisconsin in August and doing the best we can in very arduous circumstances,” said Baldwin.

Baldwin is also one of several potential running mates for the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and has said she would accept his nomination. She believes she’s a good pick because of her background winning elections in a battleground state that Trump narrowly won in 2016.

The Democratic senator also called a new federal guideline that could deport thousands of international students from the UW-Madison campus “appalling.”

“This is frankly dangerous and unconscionable,” she said. 

Right now, the UW System and other colleges in Wisconsin are planning both online and in person courses for the fall semester. But as the number of coronavirus cases surge across the state, uncertainty looms.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN RESPONDS TO COVID-19

As the number of coronavirus cases tops 3 million, the president insists the nation is in a “good place.”

His comments come after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top leader on the coronavirus task force, said on Monday the pandemic is “not good.”

When asked why Trump disputes that, Tim Murtaugh, director of communication for the Trump campaign, referenced a drop in the mortality rate and how the economy is slowly recovering from a tidal wave of layoffs.

“The president is a very optimistic man by nature and will get through this but he (Fauci) also knows we have to get back open again and get the economy moving,” said Murtaugh.

As the pandemic continues, more Republicans are supportive of the idea of wearing masks. Murtaugh said Trump doesn’t have any problems wearing one even though he’s never been publicly seen having one on. 

“The president believes people should wear one if they feel comfortable wearing one and the people around him every day are tested so there really isn’t a need for him to wear one,” he said.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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