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GOP leader wants Wisconsin Senate to strike down mask order

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Legislature should act as quickly as this week or next to strike down Gov. Tony Evers’ mask mandate, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said on Monday.

The order from Evers, designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus as cases spike in Wisconsin, took effect on Saturday. Polls have shown broad support for wearing masks, and Evers said last week that it would be “risky business” — politically and for public health — if Republicans overthrew the order.

But the Legislature has the power to call itself into session to do just that.

Fitzgerald said on WISN-AM radio on Monday that he was talking with Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos about overturning the order. Vos also opposes the mandate, but has not said whether the Assembly would come in to vote it down. The Senate and Assembly would have to vote to rescind the order, a move that Evers could not veto.

“Vos and I and our members have to figure out exactly where we’re at on this and if we’re going to do this, we’ve got to do it soon,” Fitzgerald said. “You’re not going to wait around a couple weeks to take action because that makes no sense.”

Vos has not responded to questions about whether Assembly Republicans support striking down the order. Evers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Fitzgerald’s statements.

Health officials worldwide agree that wearing masks is an effective way to slow transmission of COVID-19. Many communities in Wisconsin enacted their own mask requirements before Evers issued the statewide order that is slated to run until Sept. 28. More than 30 states have mask mandates in effect.

Fitzgerald, who is running for Congress and faces a Republican challenger in the Aug. 11 primary, said whether to wear a mask should be an individual’s decision. At some campaign events, no one in the room is wearing a mask, while at others, as many as 50% of the people are masked, he said.

Meanwhile, in the face of warnings about slow mail delivery and record-high requests for absentee ballots, the head of the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday urged voters not to wait to return their ballot for the Aug. 11 statewide primary.

As of Monday, nearly 332,000 completed ballots had been received out of the more than 821,000 sent to voters, the Elections Commission said. That is six-times the number of absentee ballots sent in the 2018 primary and greater than the 645,619 total ballots cast, including in person and absentee, in the 2016 August primary.

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