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Virus outbreak makes early voting critical

The time to vote is NOW.

Nobody knows how bad the coronavirus outbreak will be when it hits but if the “experts” are right, the explosion in U.S. cases is imminent. They point out how quickly Italy went from having an isolated outbreak in a “red zone” in the northern part of the country to the situation today where the entire country is under quarantine and lockdown and the number of cases is so high that doctors can’t see patients and people are being turned away from the hospitals.

In our country, where many people race to the doctor when they have the sniffles and others use the emergency room as their family doctor, it is easy to see how the hospital system will get overwhelmed. Already, some hospitals are moving to restrict admissions to keep beds available for the expected onslaught of virus patients.

Because of this, the only thing many people will be able to do is keep themselves locked up in their homes. Will it really be this bad? I certainly don’t know but it sure seems like the country is preparing for a panic. Between toilet paper bingeing, closing bars and restaurants and canceling virtually every public event that exists, we are preparing for the aftermath of nuclear war. This may well be an overreaction, but maybe it’s just prudent.

Here are some numbers to chew on. If the virus keeps doubling the number of cases every three days (which is what is happening now), we will have 100 million Americans infected by May. That’s one-third of the country. If that seems implausible, consider the numbers for the 2009-10 outbreak of H1N1 (swine flu). The Centers for Disease Control estimates 59 million Americans got that one. So the worst case estimates for coronavirus may not be excessively exaggerated.

Or maybe they are. Virtually all reports indicate that for the vast majority of people, the virus’ symptoms are rather mild. While people with immune system issues and other vulnerable people (like those over 80) could have this virus be their knockout punch, for most people it won’t be all that different from getting the kind of flu that rolls through every year. We may be panicking over what is a rather normal occurrence. Most people I’ve talked to don’t even remember the swine flu outbreak even though 1 in 6 Americans got it.

But whether this is a devastating outbreak that hits 100 million people, or it’s just another flu, the fact of the matter is we are reacting differently to it. Every day the media points out breathlessly the number of new cases. The toilet paper freak-out is real. Everything is being canceled. We are treating this as the end of the world, regardless of whether it is or not.

All of that brings us back to the first sentence of this column. The time to vote is RIGHT NOW. The Wisconsin spring election is April 7 which, based on the projections of the experts, is right in the middle of the virus blasting this country. Voting will be the last thing on people’s minds and many may be under quarantine. Standing in line for an hour with crowds of people will be the last thing anybody wants to do.

The good news is you don’t have to do that. In almost all municipalities in the state, early voting is underway right now. It’s very simple. You go to your city hall or village hall (or whatever site is being used), you fill out your ballot and you’re done. The virus will only stop from voting those who don’t vote now. If we can plan enough to buy 873 rolls of Charmin, we can certainly take five minutes to vote.

With that in mind, there are three elections worth highlighting.

STATE SUPREME COURT. Incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly is a brilliant constitutional scholar who is well-liked by people of all political persuasions and a justice who has vowed to rule on cases on the basis of how the Constitution is written, not social justice warrior sensibilities. His opponent is an extremist Madison nut. Really. Even by the standards of lenient Dane County, Jill Karofsky is an astonishingly soft judge. Her record is easy to Google and is filled with soft sentences for people who attack cops, rapists, child molesters and just about every other type of predator.

Karofsky’s leniency isn’t by chance. In her public statements she has argued Wisconsin has way too many people locked up in prison. She has vowed to fight for “social justice.” That’s the phrase championed by radicals who don’t share Wisconsin values. Not only is Karofsky personally dangerous, if she wins, the court’s conservative majority shrinks to 4-3 and the next vacancy caused by the departure of one of the conservatives is filled by a Tony Evers appointment that flips the court to liberal control. The stakes in Kelly vs. Karofsky couldn’t be higher.

STATE APPEALS COURT. In the court district that includes most of the region outside Milwaukee County, Lisa Neubauer, the candidate who disgraced herself with a race last year premised on religious bigotry, is being challenged by an excellent conservative judge, Waukesha County’s Paul Bugenhagen Jr. Neubauer campaigned for the state Supreme Court last year and outed herself as a Karofsky- style radical when she attacked opponent Brian Hagedorn for his Christian beliefs. The appeals court district she serves in is the most conservative area in Wisconsin and her beliefs are out of line with the public she serves.

WAUKESHA COUNTY JUDGE. There is one open and contested seat in Waukesha County Circuit Court. Many of the judges in Waukesha County have demonstrated they are far to the left of the conservative voters who prefer a law-and-order judge. They can get the real deal in Jack Melvin, a respected attorney with deep conservative credentials. Melvin’s opponent, Sarah Ponath, has an endorsement list long on liberals and short on conservatives and led by Waukesha County’s softest judge, Ralph Ramirez.

(Mark Belling is the host of a daily WISN radio talk show.)

If we can plan enough to buy 873 rolls of Charmin, we can certainly take five minutes to vote.



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