On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
58°
Sunny
H 62° L 48°
  • cloudy-day
    58°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 62° L 48°
  • clear-day
    62°
    Afternoon
    Sunny. H 62° L 48°
  • clear-night
    56°
    Evening
    Clear. H 66° L 46°
Listen
Pause
Error

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

National Govt & Politics
Wisconsin appeals court puts voter rolls purge on hold
Close

Wisconsin appeals court puts voter rolls purge on hold

Wisconsin appeals court puts voter rolls purge on hold
Photo Credit: Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP
Gregory Lewis, the leader of Souls to the Polls led a protest outside the Ozaukee County Courthouse in Port Washington, Wis., Monday, January 13, 2020, where Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy held state election officials in contempt of court for not following his order to remove thousands of people from the voters rolls. Before the courtroom session Gregory Lewis, the leader of Souls to the Polls led a protest outside the courthouse and spoke to media gathered. Protestors had tape over their mouths symbolizing their voices being silenced. (Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

Wisconsin appeals court puts voter rolls purge on hold

A Wisconsin appeals court on Tuesday put on hold an order to immediately remove up to 209,000 names from the state's voter registration rolls, handing Democrats who had fought the move a victory in the battleground state.

The appeals court sided with the bipartisan state elections commission in putting the brakes on removing any voters while the court fight continues. It also put on hold a ruling from Monday in which a judge found the commission and its three Democratic members in contempt for not proceeding with removing the voters.

The orders effectively hit the pause button on the fast-moving case and means there will be no immediate change to the state's voter registration rolls. There are a number of elections coming soon, including a February primary for a state Supreme Court seat, a primary in the special election to fill the 7th Congressional District seat and races for a host of local offices. Wisconsin's presidential primary is April 7.

The issue is unlikely to be resolved in court before the presidential election. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin also filed a federal lawsuit to stop deactivation of the targeted voters. The league describes itself as non-partisan, but it has been on the same side as Democrats on voter access issues.

A conservative law firm that brought the case — the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty — had wanted the purge to happen immediately, even though the elections commission raised concerns about the accuracy of data used to identify voters who would have their registrations deactivated.

The law firm's president, Rick Esenberg, didn't directly address the court's order in a statement.

“What is true yesterday is true today," he said. "The Wisconsin Elections Commission isn’t following state law and we look forward to making that case in the Court of Appeals.”

The case is being closely watched, as Wisconsin is among a group of swing states being targeted by both Democrats and President Donald Trump this year. Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes, putting even more of a focus on every voter in the state.

Trump was back in the state on Tuesday night for a rally in Milwaukee, kicking off what is expected to be an intense fight to win Wisconsin.

The voter purge lawsuit argued that the state elections commission broke the law when it did not remove voters from the rolls who did not respond within 30 days to a mailing in October indicating they may have moved.

The commission wanted to wait until after the November 2020 presidential election before removing anyone because of inaccuracies found while previously attempting to identify voters who may have moved. Even if a voter has their registration deactivated, they can register again later or on Election Day when they show up at the polls, assuming they have the required documentation.

Republican commissioners at the Tuesday meeting voted to send another mailer to the targeted voters in May, telling them they would have their registrations deactivated if they didn't respond within 30 days. It failed on a deadlocked 3-3 vote, with all Democrats against.

“It's terrible and terribly disgusting the other commissioners won't do anything to clean up this list," said Republican commissioner Bob Spindell.

But Democratic member Mark Thomsen said no voter should be targeted for removal until next year, as the commission originally planned.

”We're making a mockery of ourselves," he said of the commission's renewed discussion of removing voters.

Because voters who moved were concentrated in more Democratic parts of the state, liberals argued that the lawsuit was meant to lower turnout on their side. Republicans countered that it was about reducing the likelihood of voter fraud and making sure that people who have moved are not able to vote from their previous addresses.

A judge last month sided with conservatives and ordered the removal of the voters. When the bipartisan elections commission deadlocked on proceeding with the purge, the judge on Monday found it and its three Democratic commissioners in contempt, and again ordered the voters' names removed.

Hours later, a divided Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to take the case. That shifted the fight back to the appeals court, which sided with the elections commission on Tuesday and put the judge's original ruling on hold.

A three-judge panel in the 4th District of the appeals court — Michael Fitzpatrick, JoAnne Kloppenburg and Jennifer Nashold — issued the ruling. They said they would have a follow-up order later that explains their reasoning, but that they wanted to act quickly given the contempt order and the commission's meeting.

Nashold was elected to the court last year after running unopposed. Fitzpatrick also ran unopposed and was first elected in 2017. Kloppenburg has been on the appeals court since 2012 and also ran unsuccessfully twice for the state Supreme Court with Democratic support.

___

Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

Read More

The Latest News Headlines

  • Most of us take for granted that we can go to a grocery store and buy fresh fruits and vegetables. But many Jacksonville families struggle finding fresh food. Hope Cercy has lived on the Northside for the past nine years.  She said finding fresh healthy food in her community can be a challenge.  'A lot of people do have trouble and they have to travel from here to Orange Park or even off of there at Collins Road just to go to a Walmart to get fresh groceries and that’s pretty sad for people who have kids,' Cercy said.  Neighbors who live on Edgewood Road say there are not a lot of places they can get fresh fruits and vegetables.  They have the Harvey’s Supermarket, a Save-a-Lot down the street and a Family Dollar store nearby.  On Monday, city leaders talked about bringing a new open-air market to the Northside called Oasis.  It’s modeled after Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Market in one of its historic African-American neighborhoods.  “They have a small business coming together and incubators, they have fresh fruits and vegetables, they have a meat shop,” Jacksonville City Council member Samuel Newby said.  Newby told Action News Jax in the next few weeks he’ll visit Georgia to see how it works and if it’s something they can bring back to north Jacksonville.  “It would be privately owned, independent nonprofit to bring pride back on the Northside and maybe we can expand to other areas,” Newby said.  Cercy said she would be excited for to see Oasis on the Northside, as it could help a lot of her neighbors.  'It will give a lot of people a lot of people a lot more options instead of just Harvey's and maybe those stores have a lot more,' she said.  The city is looking at different ways to alleviate food deserts especially in districts 7, 8, 9, and 10, where there is a big need for more grocery stores.  Over the weekend Action News Jax showed you the partnership between the city and JTA’s “door-to-store program.”  Families living in food desert areas can get a free ride to seven grocery stores on the Northside. It rolls out later this week.  The next subcommittee meeting on food deserts will meet on Feb. 10.
  • Monday, a special committee discussed the risks of sea level rise in the River City with recommendations from an engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers. It was the special committee on resiliency’s first meeting. The committee was created to help assess our cities environmental health, they can propose policy and action plan recommendations to the mayor and city council.  Glen Landers said in a presentation sea levels could rise between one and four feet, much of the impact along the coast, Mayport and St. Johns River.  Landers referenced hospitals near the St. Johns River, that businesses in that area could be at risk.  Another concern is about septic tanks in the community -- a foot or more of sea level rise could cause septic tanks to malfunction.  Earlier this month a Princeton professor of geosciences and international affairs mentioned Jacksonville as a low-lying city facing the threat of sea level rise.  Landers advice to Jacksonville is to understand the risk and understand what lower level areas of Jacksonville might need higher sea walls and address those areas before it’s too late.
  • An Arizona woman whose 8-month-old daughter was killed and partially eaten by the family dog last year has been sentenced to probation in the case. Breanna Henson, 31, of Tuscon, was sentenced Monday to a year of probation for endangerment, according to KOLD in Tuscon. She pleaded guilty to the charge in December. Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details of a child’s death.  Henson was arrested Jan. 24, 2019, after her daughter, Patricia Henson, was found dead inside their home near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Patricia had puncture wounds and scratches on her body consistent with injuries inflicted by the German shepherd mix. Henson, who was intoxicated when police arrived at the home, told police she awoke to find her daughter dead. She was initially charged with child abuse, KOLD reported. The dog believed to be involved in Patricia’s death was later euthanized, according to KVOA in Tuscon. The autopsy report, which was obtained by KOLD, paints a gruesome portrait of what happened to the girl. Patricia, who weighed 18 pounds when she was killed, had catastrophic injuries to her head, including gashes that left her brain exposed. A large portion of her brain was missing, as were pieces of her skull and part of her face. “A separate plastic bag contains the intact left eye and skeletal fragments,” the autopsy report stated. The baby had gashes, bruises, puncture wounds and abrasions, as well as internal bleeding. She suffered severe injuries to her torso, including damage to her heart, lungs and liver, and her abdominal cavity was filled with blood. A detective brought the pathologist three plastic containers of stomach contents from the dog believed to have killed Patricia. “Examination of these contents revealed human infant teeth and skeletal fragments,” the autopsy report stated. KOLD reported last month that neither Tuscon police officials nor the autopsy report said definitively if Patricia was alive during the dog attack. The manner of her death was listed in the report as “undetermined.”
  • A Georgia death row inmate who was issued a stay of execution in 2017 based on a trial juror’s racist beliefs, including questioning if “black people even have souls,” has died. Keith “Bo” Tharpe, 61, died Friday of natural causes, according to The Associated Press. Georgia Department of Corrections officials confirmed Tharpe’s death in an email to the AP on Sunday. Tharpe’s legal team at the Georgia Resource Center, which offers free legal help to death row inmates, said his death was likely due to complications of cancer, CNN reported. Despite his 2017 stay, Tharpe had been awaiting possible execution after the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2019 declined to take up his case. “The courts’ failure to confront the racism tainting Mr. Tharpe’s death sentence remains a stain on the judicial system and calls for increased efforts to eradicate the poison of racism in our criminal courts,” one of Tharpe’s attorneys, Marcia Widder, said in a statement obtained by CNN on Saturday. Tharpe had been on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison since 1991, when he was convicted of murdering his sister-in-law, Jacquelyn Freeman, in Jones County. He was found guilty of malice murder and two counts of kidnapping with bodily injury in the Sept. 25, 1990, crime, which stemmed from his wife leaving him the month before. “Following various threats of violence made by the defendant to and about his wife and her family, a peace warrant was taken out against him, and the defendant was ordered not to have any contact with his wife or her family,” a 2017 news release from the Georgia Attorney General’s Office said. “Notwithstanding this order, Tharpe called his wife on Sept. 24, 1990 and argued with her, saying if she wanted to ‘play dirty,’ he would show her ‘what dirty was.’” The next morning, Tharpe’s wife and sister-in-law were driving to work when Tharpe used his vehicle to block theirs. “He got out of his vehicle, armed with a shotgun and apparently under the influence of drugs, and ordered them out of their vehicle. He then took his sister-in-law to the rear of his vehicle, where he shot her,” the news release said. “He rolled her into a ditch, reloaded, and shot her again, killing her.” Tharpe then drove away with his wife. After unsuccessfully trying to rent a motel room, Tharpe parked by the side of the road and raped his wife. Afterward, he drove to Macon, where he ordered his wife to withdraw cash from her credit union, Instead, she called the police and Tharpe was arrested. In his appeals over the following decade, Tharpe’s attorneys argued multiple issues should keep him out of the death chamber. They claimed their client’s IQ of 74 indicated he was not able to fully understand the charges against him. They also argued that he had received “horrifyingly uninformed and unconcerned legal representation” at his trial. In 1998, seven years after his conviction, Tharpe’s attorneys interviewed a white juror, Barney Gattie, of Gray, who told them that, “after studying the Bible, (he) “wondered if black people even have souls.” Gattie, who signed off on an affidavit filed by Tharpe’s lawyers, “stated that there are two kinds of black people in the world -- ‘regular black folks’ and ‘n-words.’” “Mr. Gattie noted that he understood that some people do not like the word “n-word” but that is just what they are, and he ‘tells it like he sees it,’” according to court records. Gattie admitted knowing Freeman, the murder victim, and said she came from one of the “good black families” in Gray. “If they had been the type Tharpe is, then picking between life and death for Tharpe wouldn’t have mattered so much. My feeling is, what would be the difference?” Gattie said. Court records indicate that Gattie went on to say that Tharpe, “who wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category in (Gattie’s) book, should get the electric chair for what he did.” He also told the attorneys that “(s)ome of the jurors voted for death because they felt Tharpe should be an example to other blacks who kill blacks, but that wasn’t (his) reason.” Tharpe’s attorneys used the affidavit to appeal his case and the Supreme Court granted a temporary stay of execution Sept. 26, 2017, the night Tharpe was scheduled to die. “Gattie’s remarkable affidavit -- which he never retracted -- presents a strong factual basis for the argument that Tharpe’s race affected Gattie’s vote for a death verdict,” a January 2018 Supreme Court decision read. The court sent the case back to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for consideration of whether Tharpe should be allowed to appeal his sentence. The appeals court in August 2018 ruled that he should not, denying the appeal, in part, because it relied on the decision in a later case that could not be applied retroactively. The Supreme Court in March declined to hear Tharpe’s appeal of that decision. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a statement, however, that she was “profoundly troubled by the underlying facts of this case.” “To this day, Tharpe’s racial-bias claim has never been adjudicated on its merits,” Sotomayor wrote. She wrote that, while she agreed with the court’s denial of Tharpe’s petition, she felt the justices “should not look away from the magnitude of the potential injustice that procedural barriers are shielding from judicial review.” “Tharpe has uncovered truly striking evidence of juror bias,” Sotomayor wrote. “(Gattie’s) racist sentiments, expressed by a juror entrusted with a vote over Tharpe’s fate, suggest an appalling risk that racial bias swayed Tharpe’s sentencing. The danger of race determining any criminal punishment is intolerable and endangers public confidence in the law. That risk is especially grave here, where it may have yielded a punishment that is unique in its ‘complete finality.’” Sotomayor wrote that, while it is tempting to excuse the bias in Tharpe’s case as an “outlier,” racial bias is “a familiar and recurring evil.” “That evil often presents itself far more subtly than it has here,” she wrote. “Yet Gattie’s sentiments -- and the fact that they went unexposed for so long, evading review on the merits -- amount to an arresting demonstration that racism can and does seep into the jury system.” Tharpe’s attorneys told CNN he had spent the last few years of his life “strengthening his bonds with family and friends and deepening his Christian faith.” When facing execution in 2017, he apologized to Freeman’s family for her brutal slaying, according to the AP. Tharpe recorded the apology in a holding cell hours before his scheduled execution. The AP obtained a transcript of his statement via an open records request. “You know because, uh, you know, me taking the life of her was very wrong and uh, I sincerely wish y’all would be able to be forgiving one day,” the transcript read. “You know and uh, like I say, I’ma say it again, I’m very sorry. And, uh, and, God bless y’all. That’s all I can say.”
  • Downtown St. Augustine is buzzing with families any time of year. Kathy and Dan Gysbers came all the way from Missouri. “It's supposed to be the oldest city in the U.S. That’s what all the literature says so we wanted to see it,” Kathy Gysbers said.  New research for the St. Johns County’s Tourist Development Council shows families are coming from all over the U.S. to see the Ancient City.  And from July to September, 13 percent of visitors were international -- a big takeaway for the council.  “That’s exciting because it wasn’t so many years ago where that figure was closer to 2 percent,” Richard Goldman with the visitor’s bureau said. “The international visitor tends to stay longer and because they are staying longer, they spend more money and of course that’s our job is to drive economic development.”  Families said the number one reason they visited was a special event, followed by the beach and historical sites.  “The fort. We’re from Puerto Rico so we wanted to see the difference,” Dalisha Melendez said.  The average income of visitors is also growing. It was $93,000 for day and overnight visitors in the quarterly report, up from $70,000 several years ago, Goldman said.  The research shows the average group spent $484 a day while on vacation, and a total $2,759 on the trip.  The one concern families shared -- parking. One in three visitors said more public parking would make St. Johns County a better place to visit.  Goldman said the city is offering incentives to developers to add new spots so visitors like the Gysbers can focus on enjoying the city.  “We’ll go drink from the fountain of youth before we go home, go home younger than we were,” Gysbers said.  You can see the full quarterly report here.

The Latest News Videos