Friday, November 13, 2020

Over Past 75 Days, Wisconsin's Rate of COVID Deaths is 31% Higher than the Nation's

WHEN IT COMES TO CORONAVIRUS in the state of Wisconsin, we are failing. Hard.

We're even doing worse, comparably speaking, to the rest of the nation as a whole when you look at the past 75 days.


On August 31, Wisconsin had approximately 75,000 cases of coronavirus, and counted 1,122 deaths at that time from the pandemic. On November 12, those numbers increased to around 293,000 total cases diagnosed, and 2,515 deaths counted.


In the U.S. overall, there were around 6.27 million cases of coronavirus on August 31; on November 12, the U.S. counted 10.88 million. When it came to deaths, the country saw around 188,000 counted from COVID-19 on August 31. This week, the number is up to 248,000.


The U.S. obviously has a higher number of deaths and cases of coronavirus. But if you grew the population of Wisconsin to be proportionally equal to the nation, it would show we're actually doing worse during this time period


In fact, if you took the change in new diagnoses discovered in Wisconsin from August 31 to November 12 (about 218,000 new cases found during that time in the state) and extrapolated it to compare to the U.S., the Badger State's increase in new cases diagnosed would be 167 percent higher than the nation's rate of change.


The rate of deaths recorded from coronavirus is worse in Wisconsin, too, with the state seeing a 31.3 percent higher rate of deaths from the virus since the end of August than the nation, when adjusted for population.



We can defeat this virus, but it requires every Wisconsinite to take it seriously. Unfortunately, far too many in this state don't think the rules apply to them. They're not wearing masks, they're not socially distancing, and they're scoffing off the destruction of this pandemic as a made-up thing.


All the while, many are complicit in the spreading of COVID-19, even if they themselves never show symptoms. That's just the nature of this virus. It requires more care, more empathy, and unfortunately, not enough are showing either of those two traits.


In the state that I grew up in, we looked after our neighbors, both the literal ones next door and the figurative ones many counties away. But for some reason, this issue became a political hot-button topic — and as conservatives have refused to acknowledge the reality of this situation (whether out of spite of Gov. Tony Evers or in support of President Donald Trump), it has exposed that their values are far different from what this state has espoused in the past. 


To sum it up, they're letting their neighbors die to "own the libs." 


How reckless. How abhorrent. How...anti-Wisconsin.


Mask up when you're out. Stay at home when you can. 


Save our state.


Featured image credit: The National Guard/Flickr


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Denying the Will of Wisconsin Voters is Nothing New for GOP Rep. Sanfelippo

REPUBLICAN ASSEMBLYMAN JOE SANFELIPPO made headlines this week after his comments set off concerns that he and other legislative Republicans in the state might try to overturn the will of Wisconsin voters.

President Donald Trump lost the state in the 2020 election last week to now-President-elect Joe Biden. Republicans across the country are considerably upset about this — so much so that they appear willing to defy our nation's norms, as Trump has done, and refuse to accept Biden as the next president.


Sanfelippo looks to be a lawmaker willing to take this defiance to the extremes. Discussing the matter on Monday, he made the wild suggestion that, if voting irregularities could be found, the state's electors in the Electoral College ought to be allowed to vote against how Wisconsinites voted in the presidential election.


"If an investigation shows these actions affected the outcome of the election, we need to either declare this past election null and void and hold a new election or require our Electoral College Delegates to correct the injustice with their votes," the Republican lawmaker said.



No such evidence of malfeasance exists in the state (nor across the nation, for that matter). But what's troubling is that Sanfelippo believes that there is...and that may mean he could push for disregarding the will of the voters, whether extensive fraud exists for real or not.


Via Wisconsin Examiner:


[Sanfelippo] claimed — without providing evidence —  that there was insufficient voter purging by the Wisconsin Elections Commission and that clerks in Dane and Milwaukee counties "colluded" to keep unverified names on voter lists and began voting too early. Those allegations were "just the beginning" Sanfelippo said.


[...]


There have been no reports of “irregularities” in Wisconsin’s presidential election Elections Commission’s administrator Meagan Wolfe has repeatedly told reporters. After Election Day she said during a press conference, “I think that it’s insulting to our local election officials to say that yesterday’s election was anything but an incredible success that was the result of years of preparation and meticulously carefully following the law.”


Comments like Sanfelippo's should have every Wisconsin voter worried. 


Imagine a scenario like this: an "investigation" into the elections finds no fraud, or maybe a few small instances of individuals voting in questionable ways. But Republicans, hellbent on disrupting the will of the people, decide to act anyway, giving electors in the Electoral College permission — or perhaps, instruction — to vote for Trump if they want.


It sounds outlandish and impossible to happen. But given this legislature's shenanigans in tearing apart Gov. Tony Evers's powers as governor in the last minutes before he assumed office, nothing would surprise me these days regarding the morals of the current incarnation of the state's Republican Party.


Interestingly, Sanfelippo is not unfamiliar with trying to thwart the will of the people or undermining the democratic process in Wisconsin. In 2015, he proposed a change to the state constitution, in order to remove the right of voters to elect the head of the Department of Public Instruction — which at the time, was Evers himself, who was the only Democratic official (besides Sec. of State Doug La Follette) in state executive branch government.


From Political Heat, September 2015:


Sanfelippo seems concerned about just who is in charge of the DPI, citing that all-to-common (but rarely delved into) talking point Republicans love the most -- special interests (PDF).


“The students of our state should not be held hostage just because special interest groups can get someone without the proper qualifications to win a popularity contest every four years,” Sanfelippo said in a recent press release. “Our children and teachers deserve much better.”


Sanfelippo's worries were hypocritical, I pointed out then, as other statewide offices (conveniently held by Republicans) didn't seem to bother him...


Why doesn’t he seem concerned about the office of Attorney General, which has no requirements or qualifications either? Or for that matter, where is Sanfelippo's call to have special interests stay out of the election for governor itself?


"It seems pretty clear, even if they’re not saying it out loud, that Republicans are pushing this idea to change the DPI on a partisan basis rather than a necessary one," I concluded.


Five years on, and it's clear that very little has changed for Sanfelippo. He still appears willing to disrupt the will of Wisconsin voters. He and the rest of his party should be ashamed.


Featured image credit: Vijay Kumar Koulampet/Wikimedia

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The "Camp-Out" Theory on Ending the Electoral College Is Just Plain Wrong. Here's the Truth...

WITH THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION having now been decided, it's time to once again say, with complete conviction and truth, that the Electoral College simply has to come to an end, once and for all.

The idea is simple enough: end the Electoral College, and let every vote across the country count equally, no matter what state you live in.

There's no reason why we shouldn't do this. The Electoral College has, on many occasions, thwarted the will of the American people to pick their commander-in-chief by allowing votes in some states to "weigh" more than votes in others. It did so in 2000 and in 2016, and in spite of Joe Biden's win this year, it came dangerously close to doing it again in 2020.


But some have argued that the Electoral College makes less-populous states more relevant — or that candidates for office won't travel to those areas if they can "camp out" in high-population areas to win an election.



There's no evidence to support this idea. Indeed, most, if not all, of the "small" states are ignored even with the Electoral College in place. Swing states that candidates travel to are those that have strategic value, not because the system encourages travel to lesser-populated areas.


The argument itself is laughable when you consider that the 500 most populated cities in the United States only account for a third of the U.S. population. California, New York, Florida, and Texas, the three most-populated states in the country, are similarly only about a third of the nation's totals. 


It would be incredibly difficult to win the election in a popular vote model with only a third of the electorate.


The worries from critics are misplaced. Indeed, if we got rid of the Electoral College and put in its place a popular vote system where instant voter runoff would ensure a candidate had to receive 50 percent + 1 votes to win, we would actually see MORE states get paid attention to than what we currently do under the Electoral College.


To reach that 50 percent + 1 number, a candidate would have to successfully court, at A MINIMUM, residents in the 38 most-populated metropolitan areas of the U.S., representing voters of 31 states plus D.C. That's a large chunk of the geographical area in this country.


For comparison, under the current system in 2020, 19 out of every 20 places traveled to by the presidential or vice presidential candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties was to just 12 states. And lest you think that COVID-19 had something to do with that, the same number of states was traveled to in 2016, too.


In other words, to court the bare minimum needed to win an election, a candidate in a popular vote model for president that requires a 50 percent threshold would have to travel to nearly three times more states to win — and that presumes a single candidate would win 100 percent of the votes in those areas.


That last point will never happen...which means that candidates will likely have to court voters from even MORE areas in order to win.


What about rural voters? Even though pro-Electoral College apologists say they will be ignored, the voting bloc that rural residents represent — a little more than 1-in-5 Americans live in rural areas — is too big to ignore. 


No popular vote win since 1972 has ever reached 20 percent difference between the winning and losing candidates. It would simply be foolish to try to win an election by completely ignoring 20 percent of the United States.


---


It's far past time we get rid of the Electoral College. The incoming Biden-Harris administration ought to make that a priority — and the debate on the issue should happen right away. 


However, that debate has to be an honest one. Defenders of the Electoral College will make claims that keeping it in place makes the electoral map larger. In fact, as I've noted above, it shrinks the map significantly. A popular vote, with instant voter runoff, actually makes more of the country relevant. Most states are ignored as it is under the current system, and a popular vote system for picking the president would actually fix that problem.


One person. One vote. And more of the country's interests represented. There's really no point in keeping the Electoral College around any longer.


Featured image via Public Domain (edits added)