Madison mayor pushes for voting rights legislation, calls out Wisconsin Republicans
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway (Erik Gunn | Wisconsin Examiner)

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, criticized the “unreasonable and ridiculous” attacks on American democracy from Republicans in the state Legislature as she called for federal action on voting rights during a virtual event hosted by the Center for American Progress, a nonprofit, progressive policy institute based in Washington, DC.

Rhodes-Conway appeared at the event with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and hosted by Patrick Gaspard, CEO for the Center for American Progress Action Fund to advocate for the passage of bills that would counteract attacks on elections from Republicans in Wisconsin, Texas and across the country arising from conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election.

“This is such a critical time in our country,” Rhodes-Conway said. “And it really is incumbent on all of us to understand what’s going on and to protect our democracy against the attacks that are coming towards it. Here in Madison, Wis., it has been incessant. We’ve certainly been fighting voter suppression and attacks on democracy for years. But in the past year, it has reached a new level, I think, that is unprecedented. And the attacks have gotten more personal. And they have gotten more just completely unreasonable and ridiculous.”

Madison has been a punching bag for Wisconsin Republicans for years, but as state legislators continue to dig through the 2020 election through partisan reviews and lawsuits, Rhodes-Conway and the city, along with the leaders of other liberal-leaning cities, have been targets of harassment.

Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who is leading a partisan review of the 2020 election that has been criticized as unprofessional and dangerous, threatened to jail Rhodes-Conway and Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich over a dispute about how the cities would respond to subpoenas.

Madison, along with four of the state’s largest cities, has been attacked for accepting grant money from a group connected to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to help pay for the costs associated with running an election during a pandemic.

At the Friday event, Rhodes-Conway said it’s been exhausting to deal with Republican attacks on elections.

“It’s frankly exhausting,” she said. “And to be fighting so hard to make sure that every eligible voter can vote in a way that is safe and secure and fair and easy. And then to turn around and be attacked, personally, professionally to have our clerks attacked at the level of what we’re dealing with is just unprecedented. We’ve had reams of open record requests, our clerks have been harassed, and in numerous ways. We’ve had many complaints, we’ve had lawsuits. And then now we have this ridiculous, and I have to use air quotes, “investigation” that’s being run by Attorney Gableman at the behest of Rep. [Robin] Vos.”

“But unfortunately, we’re still fighting over the 2020 election here in Wisconsin, and I am being personally attacked and threatened with jail time, for doing everything I could to make sure that people could vote safely and fairly,” she continued.

Vos, the Assembly speaker, has directed Gableman’s investigation and has helped spread election conspiracies.

Among the federal reforms Rhodes-Conway called for was an end to partisan gerrymandering. For the past ten years, Wisconsin has had one of the strongest partisan gerrymanders in the country which has cemented a near veto-proof Republican majority in a state that is evenly divided between Republican and Democratic voters in statewide elections.

The maps that will guide the next ten years of Wisconsin elections are currently in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court as part of a lawsuit, but Rhodes-Conway said if there were a new federal law prohibiting partisan maps, the government would work better for people across the state.

“Ending gerrymandering would transform politics, certainly in Wisconsin, but I think across the country,” she said. “In Wisconsin, in particular, it would end the dominance of anti-city politicians in our statehouse. And that would be just transformational for the city of Madison. You know, right now, the majority in the Wisconsin state house, frankly, hates the city of Madison, and looks for every excuse to punish us. And I tie that directly back to gerrymandering.”

Proposed voting rights legislation is currently stalled in the U.S. Senate because it does not have enough votes to clear the 60-vote threshold required to end a filibuster. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have so far refused requests from President Joe Biden and other Democratic senators to do away with the filibuster rule.

Rhodes-Conway said she believes the actions of both Manchin, Sinema and the 50 Republicans in the Senate are “repugnant.”

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