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A Reckoning for Fake Elector Masterminds in Wisconsin

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A Reckoning for Fake Elector Masterminds in Wisconsin


Kenneth Chesebro speaks to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee during a hearing where Chesebro accepted a plea deal from the Fulton County District Atorney at the Fulton County Courthouse October 20, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Chesebro was facing seven charges related to his alleged role as the legal architect in using Trump electors in Georgia and other key states to undermine the 2020 elections. (Photo by Alyssa Pointer/Getty Images)

WISCONSIN ATTORNEY GENERAL JOSH KAUL was ready for the question: Why was his office only just now getting around to criminally charging three individuals who orchestrated a plan to steal the 2020 election for Donald Trump, more than three years after it happened and months before the former president will face voters as a convicted felon?

“Our focus in any investigation and any prosecution is not on the speed with which something’s done,” he said during a press conference last week on the steps of the Wisconsin State Capitol, hours after the charges were announced. “It’s on doing high-quality investigations, conducting high-quality prosecutions, and getting things right. That’s the approach we have taken. That’s the approach we will continue to take, both in this case and in any other cases that we investigate or prosecute.”

The three men charged in Wisconsin for conspiracy to commit forgery, a felony punishable by up to six years in prison, are former Trump attorneys Jim Troupis and Kenneth Chesebro, and former Trump campaign staffer Mike Roman. Troupis is a former judge appointed to the bench by Republican Governor Scott Walker. Chesebro is a Wisconsin native widely known as the architect of the fake electors scheme. And Roman was Trump’s director of Election Day operations when ballots were cast in 2020.

Kaul noted that none of the three is running for office and all are entitled to the presumption of innocence. He also said, eight times in as many minutes, that the investigation is “ongoing.” He vowed, “We will continue to move forward based on the facts, the law, and the best interest of justice.”

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The fake electors scheme, hatched in Wisconsin, played out in seven states. In two of them, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, the certificates declaring Trump the winner included explicit provisos that made clear they would be valid only if Trump prevailed in subsequent litigation. No charges have been filed or are expected in those two states.

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In the remaining five states—Michigan, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, and Wisconsin—there was no such conditional wording and evidently no conditional intent. Charges against the participants have now been filed in all five of those states. In Georgia, Chesebro pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of conspiracy and was sentenced to five years’ probation. In Arizona, Roman has been charged with nine felonies, along with Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, for their roles in that state’s fake electors scheme. On Friday, both pleaded not guilty; a trial has been set for October 31. Roman is also facing charges in Georgia’s elections interference case, now on hold as the courts review whether District Attorney Fani Willis ought to be allowed to prosecute the case.

Wisconsin is different from these other states in that the only people charged—so far—are the Trump campaign officials who hatched and implemented the fake electors plan, not any of the state’s ten fake electors. In Arizona, Michigan, and Nevada, all but one of the fake electors were charged; in Georgia, three fake electors were charged along with Trump, while others cut immunity deals. 

It appears as though Kaul’s office is not unsympathetic to arguments that Wisconsin’s fake electors were “tricked” into believing that the document they signed would not be used unless a court sided with Trump. Its 47-page criminal complaint quotes media accounts where this is argued, including a 60 Minutes segment that aired in mid-February. It shows Andrew Hitt (referred to in the complaint as “Individual B”), then-chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, saying he was told the certificate would “only count if a court ruled in our favor.”

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Troupis, Chesebro, and Roman recognized no such constraint. As the complaint spells out, they eagerly proceeded with plans to use the certificates to overturn the election result without the concurrence of any court. And, it appears, this determination was cemented after Troupis and Chesebro met with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

ACCORDING TO THE COMPLAINT, the idea of convening groups of fake electors was raised in a memorandum dated November 18, 2020 that Chesebro sent to Troupis, who was working as a lawyer for Trump’s Wisconsin campaign. They then proceeded to enlist others and hammer out the details.

On December 7, 2020, Troupis sent a copy of the memorandum to a Trump campaign consultant referred to in the complaint as “Individual A.” Troupis’s accompanying message stated that this memo was “prepared for me on appointing a second slate of electors in Wisconsin. There is no need for the legislators to act. The second slate just shows up at noon on Monday and votes and then transmits the results. It is up to Pence on Jan 6 to open them.”

The next day, December 8, Chesebro sent Troupis an email with further thoughts about “how leverage might be exerted” during the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021. He added: “Court challenges pending on Jan. 6 really not necessary.” Troupis responded: “This is an excellent summary of the end game. Thank you.”

And on December 9, “Individual A” asked Troupis to prepare a “sample elector ballot” for Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. According to the complaint, “Defendant Troupis forwarded this email to Defendant Chesebro and others.” 

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The fake electors convened, in Wisconsin and these other states, on December 14, 2020. Chesebro attended the Wisconsin meeting in the state capitol. 

Two days later, on December 16, Troupis and Chesebro flew to Washington for a meeting at the White House with then-President Trump. The meeting in the Oval Office had been arranged by Reince Preibus, Trump’s former chief of staff. Prior to this meeting, Troupis sent Chesebro a note: “Ken, Just a reminder: Reince was very explicit in his admonition that nothing about our meeting with the President can be shared with anyone. The political cross-currents are deep and fast and neither you or I have any ability to swim through them. Jim.” 

The New York Times, in its article on the released documents, reported that Chesebro gave an account of this meeting to prosecutors in Michigan who were investigating that state’s fake electors scheme. He recalled telling Trump “we had until January 6 to win.” Chesebro also said that Priebus warned him and Troupis “not to get Mr. Trump’s hopes up about his chances for victory,” as the paper put it, adding, “but Mr. Chesebro acknowledged he had not listened to that advice.”

A source with knowledge of this meeting claimed to the paper it was a mere “photo op” arranged at Troupis’s request. But it appears that Chesebro and Troupis did indeed manage to “get Mr. Trump’s hopes up,” and that paved the way for what followed.

At 1:42 a.m. on December 19, 2020, Trump tweeted his now-infamous call to action: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” A few hours later, Chesebro sent a message to Troupis in response: “Wow. Based on 3 days ago, I think we have a unique understanding of this.”

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FOR YEARS, JEFF MANDELL of the progressive Madison law firm Law Forward has been pushing Kaul and others to take action against the fake electors and the lawyers who organized them. In May 2022, the firm sued Troupis, Chesebro, and ten false electors, accusing them of breaking multiple laws, including creating counterfeit public records and illegally interfering with the election. The lawsuit led to two settlements.

The first, announced in December 2023, was with the ten fake electors; they acknowledged that the certificate was created as “part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 presidential election results.” The second, announced in March, was with Troupis and Chesebro; they paid the law firm an undisclosed sum and released a 1,439-page file of primary documents, but made no admissions of wrongdoing.

In an email, Mandell says that while he has not spoken to anyone at Wisconsin DOJ about this, “it is clear to me from reading the complaint” that the Trump campaign consultant mentioned a half-dozen times as “Individual A” is Boris Epshteyn. Epshteyn has also been identified by the New York Times as “Co-Conspirator 6” in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. Among other things, Co-Conspirator 6 took part in a conference call in which Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani pressed electors in Pennsylvania to take part in the fake electors scheme.

In 2021, Epshteyn was arrested in Arizona after being accused of groping two women at a nightclub. (“I have no idea what’s going on. I have no idea who these women are,” Epshteyn told police. Remind you of anyone?) He ultimately pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

For Mandell, the charges were welcome news.

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“Wisconsin voters have been waiting for accountability for more than three years, seeking to hold responsible for their actions both the fake electors and those who helped them perpetrate this scheme,” he said after the charges were announced. “This coordinated and deliberate effort to subvert democratic votes must not happen again. Today is a good step towards protecting our democracy and ensuring accountability.”

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THE CRIMINAL COMPLAINT filed by Kaul’s office against the three Trump associates includes references to communications that were not included in the document dump secured by Law Forward. Mandell said the settlement included the release of “all text exchanges between Chesebro and Troupis.” A key text message from December 17, the day after the Oval Office meeting with Trump, was sent by Chesebro to Roman and Epshteyn without Troupis being included; hence, it “falls outside of that agreement.” (No wonder it took the Wisconsin DOJ so long to pull its case together.)

That text message from Chesbro reads:

Things might have been different if we’d won Wisconsin, and that had led other courts, and state legislatures, to take a closer look, but now the idea of the President of the Senate [Mike Pence] throwing a wrench into the Electoral Count Act process seems even less plausible than before, for both legal and political reasons.

But I think the Act can be weaponized.

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In response to this missive, Epshteyn asked Chesebro: “What’s the bottom line?” Chesebro answered: “If the Trump campaign were to weaponize the Electoral Count Act in this fashion it could put the Biden camp in a no-win situation.”

The concept of “weaponization,” admitted to as a goal by these pro-Trump plotters, is now being used widely by Trump allies to avoid accountability. Here’s how Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson reacted to news that Kaul had brought charges against the three Trump associates:

It’s hard to imagine that Johnson himself is not worried about facing charges for his role in this scheme. He has publicly claimed he had no idea what was in the envelope from Troupis that he attempted to deliver to Pence. But the documents unearthed by Law Forward tell a different story.

In an email to Chesebro on December 8, 2020, Troupis wrote that he “spoke with Senator Johnson late last night about the Pence angle at the end,” adding, “Just wanted to take his temperature.” And in a text to Chesebro on the morning of January 6, Troupis said he had “been on phone w Mike Roman and Senator Johnson and Johnson’s COS to get an original copy of Wi slate to VP.” Johnson did try to deliver the original copy of the fraudulent certificate, but an aide to Pence rebuffed this attempt.

Chesebro, Troupis, and Roman are due in court on September 19. In the meantime, Troupis continues to serve as an adviser on a state judicial ethics panel, the Wisconsin Judicial Conduct Advisory Committee. It is a position he was reappointed to in 2023, long after his role in the fake electors scheme was known, by what was at the time a majority-conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court.

“Troupis should have stepped down or been removed from his seat overseeing judicial ethics months ago when he admitted to his role in the fake elector plot of 2020,”said Mike Browne, deputy director of A Better Wisconsin Together, an advocacy group that backs Democrats, in a statement last week. “That he now has been formally charged at a felony level for his schemes yet continues to advise on judicial ethics in Wisconsin is wholly unacceptable.”

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Meanwhile, one of Wisconsin’s ten fake electors, Robert Spindell, continues to sit on the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which will decide contested issues in the upcoming election.

As it prepares to host the Republican National Convention next month in Milwaukee, the state of Wisconsin still has a lot of cleaning up to do.

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Wisconsin

Milwaukee's oldest gay bar donates thousands of photos to Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project

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Milwaukee's oldest gay bar donates thousands of photos to Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project


Thousands of photos taken over the last 50 years at Milwaukee’s oldest gay bar are now in the hands of the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project. And while 50 years may not seem like that long ago, photos of people inside gay bars at that time were incredibly rare. 

That’s according to Michail Takach, chair of the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project.

“For most of the 20th Century, gay bars were technically illegal. They operated kind of underground,” he said. “It’s extraordinarily rare for there to be photos inside gay bars before the 90s because people were so uncomfortable with being seen in a gay space.”

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Takach said people feared blackmail or weren’t out in their everyday lives, so to have a collection from that time period is “almost unheard of.”

But the History Project is now processing thousands of photos taken at This Is It! bar, a staple in Milwaukee’s LGBTQ+ community since it was opened in 1968 by June Brehm.

“She was a married woman and a business owner in the Milwaukee suburbs who’d worked in the restaurant industry and had a lot of gay friends,” Takach recalled. “She couldn’t believe what they put up with just to be in a place where they could be themselves.”

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Milwaukee’s oldest gay bar This is It! photographed in the mid 1970s. The bar recently donated thousands of photos to the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project for preservation. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project

When Brehm opened This Is It! she started taking photos of the people at her bar. The images depict everyday life. People posing, laughing and enjoying beers. They span decades — showing changing fashion as regulars age through the years.

Toward the end of June Brehm’s life, her son Joe Brehm took over management of the bar and continued the tradition. Slideshows of the photos from the 90s onward can be seen on monitors in the bar to this day.

June Brehm and her son Joe Brehm.
June Brehm and her son Joe Brehm pose for a photo at This is It! bar in Milwaukee. June Brehm opened the bar in 1968 and began photographing patrons. Thousands of those photos were recently donated to the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project for preservation. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project

This Is It! has since passed out of family ownership and is now owned and operated by George Schneider and Trixie Mattel. Schneider said when he came on board, he found shoe boxes full of old Polaroids and prints from the bar’s earliest days.

While he worked to digitize some of them, he decided the project needed help from the professionals. 

“When I took the business over completely, I felt like I was the custodian of the history,” Schneider said. “It’s very important for me to educate — especially the younger generations that we have coming in — educate them on some of the history of the space itself, the queer community overall.”

A woman poses for a photo during a Halloween party at This is It! bar in Milwaukee.
A woman poses for a photo during a Halloween party at This is It! bar in Milwaukee. Thousands of photos of the city’s first gay bar were recently donated to the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project for preservation. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project

So Takach stepped in. He proposed the History Project scan and archive all of the photos, put them on social media for people to see, while preserving them indefinitely. That work is ongoing.

“When you have a place that’s meant so much, and has been a spiritual center for the community as long as This Is It! has been … that’s really quite a powerful narrative to carry forward and quite a powerful legacy to have in our hands,” he said.

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Some batches of photos have already been posted to the History Project’s Facebook page, and more will be added in the coming weeks and months. 

For now, Schneider is enjoying all of the activity online, as members of the community identify people in the photos and share memories from the bar. 

Two men smile for a photo at This is It! bar in Milwaukee.
Two men smile for a photo at This is It! bar in Milwaukee. Thousands of photos of the city’s first gay bar were recently donated to the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project for preservation. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project

“Watching the feedback and the response on social media … the nostalgia, the memories that it evokes, and IDing people that maybe they haven’t thought of or seen in years, I think that’s the most rewarding next step,” he said.

Takach is just glad to see more people wanting to preserve this kind of history.

“So much of LGBT history was destroyed by people who were just ashamed of it and didn’t know what to do with it and didn’t want anyone to know about it,” he said. “And now we’re kind of seeing the reversal of that. And we’re seeing an evolution of this understanding that this content has value.”

Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project on the road this summer

People across the state can explore those photos and troves of other historical exhibits this summer as the History Project takes to the road.

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The organization will hit 20 communities in their Summer to be Seen tour, showcasing people, organizations and places key to Wisconsin LGBTQ+ history. They’ll also give people the chance to share their own stories — building the project’s archive. 

Two men smile for a photo at This is It! bar in Milwaukee.
Two men smile for a photo at This is It! bar in Milwaukee. Thousands of photos of the city’s first gay bar were recently donated to the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project for preservation. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project

“We’re going to them because the new generations are telling us that they don’t want to have to travel to someone else’s town to have pride festivals,” Takach said. “So this year, we’re going places like Rhinelander and Ashland and Ripon and Platteville and Door County, Wausau — places that are not traditionally seen as gay epicenters — to really extend the value, the reach and the impact of our work.”

Those events run through early October, more details can be found on their website.



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Whitmer and Evers rally around abortion for Biden in Wisconsin ahead of Trump visit – Washington Examiner

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Whitmer and Evers rally around abortion for Biden in Wisconsin ahead of Trump visit – Washington Examiner


Govs. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) and Tony Evers (D-WI) gathered in Madison, Wisconsin, to rally voters for President Joe Biden one day ahead of former President Donald Trump’s visit to the Badger State.

Wisconsin, a swing state, is one of the most coveted for the 2024 election. Democrats are hoping to capitalize on support for abortion rights that has led to victories for Democrats across the country in recent years. The timing of the governors’ meeting may have been purposeful, coming shortly before the second-year anniversary of the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

Speaking about Trump and his impact on the landmark reversal, Whitmer said, “We know that the first term was devastating. The prospect of a second one … just shakes me to my core,” per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “All of these are extended on the same fundamental right and that is substantive due process.”

Whitmer and Evers warned that a Trump victory would result in him signing a national abortion ban.

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“It’s really important to remind people that if Donald Trump gets a second term in the White House, he has already committed to signing a national abortion ban,” Whitmer said. “Biden is the only person on the ballot who would win the White House and will protect these fundamental rights.”

Trump has not committed to signing a national abortion ban, and his resistance to taking a stronger stance against abortion has drawn him flak from some anti-abortion groups. In April, he expressed his position that abortion should be left to the states to decide individually.

“My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land,” Trump said. “In this case, the law of the state.”

At another point, he expressed his belief that a six-week ban on abortion in Florida was a “terrible thing and a terrible mistake.”

Despite this, Democrats have made it a priority to connect Trump to abortion bans, looking to recreate electoral successes in 2022 and 2023 around the issue.

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Trump is set to hold a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, on Tuesday.

Whitmer and Evers’s meeting on Monday took the form of a roundtable discussion, featuring local healthcare professionals and community leaders.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Evers also took aim at Trump’s reported bashing of Milwaukee, where the Republican National Convention will be held this summer, saying it was “a good example” of Trump hiding his views.

“It’s a way to absolutely hide behind positions,” Evers said. Trump’s campaign and other Republicans in the room at the time of Trump’s reported comments strongly pushed back that he ever called Milwaukee a “horrible city,” saying the former president was referring to the problems the city has faced.

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First heatwave of the summer brings high temps to Wisconsin

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First heatwave of the summer brings high temps to Wisconsin


The first heatwave of the summer is rolling through Wisconsin, bringing in high humidity and temperatures in the 90s.

A high pressure system that brought extreme temperatures to the Southwest last week is shifting to the eastern half of the United States. The heatwave is expected to bring high temperatures to millions of Americans from Iowa to Maine.

Portions of Illinois, Iowa and Missouri were under an excessive heat advisory from the National Weather Service that is expected to remain in effect throughout the week.

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In Wisconsin, Madison is expected to have highs around 92 degrees on Monday and 91 degrees on Tuesday, before a high of 84 on Wednesday. Milwaukee is expected to have highs around 92 Monday and Tuesday, with a high of 87 on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, Green Bay is expected to have a high of 89 degrees on Monday, followed by 90 on Tuesday. La Crosse is expected to have a high of 85 degrees on Monday, and 89 on Tuesday.

Those high temperatures will be accompanied by humid conditions, according to Denny VanCleve, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Milwaukee/Sullivan office.

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“With the high humidity, you’ll definitely be sweating a lot out there, so you will want to drink plenty of fluids,” he said.

VanCleve said Wisconsinites should expect warm weather through Tuesday, but a cold front will move through the northwest half of the state on Wednesday.

That cold front should keep temperatures in the northwest part of the state down around the 70s on Wednesday, but Madison is expected to have temperatures in the 80s and Milwaukee still has a chance of hitting 90 degrees, VanCleve said.

VanCleve also said the state has a chance of seeing above normal temperatures for the rest of the summer. 

“It leans a little more on the warmer side, but it doesn’t guarantee that’s going to be the overall trend,” he said. “Right now the outlook needle is leaning a little more towards the higher chance for above normal temperatures versus normal or below normal.”

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Brittany Caple, right, and her 3-year-old son, Abraham, cool off in the pool Monday, June 20, 2022, at Palmer Park in Janesville, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

High temperatures bring health risks

High temperatures bring with them risks to public safety. State officials say summer heat waves are one of the biggest weather-related causes of illness and death. 

An estimated 148 Americans die from extreme heat and humidity each year, according to the state Department of Health Services’ Extreme Heat Toolkit. From 1982 to 2008, 116 Wisconsinites died from heat-related fatalities, the toolkit states.

Wisconsin has had a total of 41 heat-related deaths since 2020, state data shows. Last year, the state saw 10 heat-related deaths and more than 750 state residents visited the emergency room for heat-related illnesses in 2023. In 2022, the state had 14 heat-related deaths and over 700 heat-related emergency room visits.

Staying safe in the heat

Anytime temperatures get above 90 degrees, it’s important to watch for signs of heat exhaustion or other heat-related illnesses, said Andrew Beckett, a spokesperson for Wisconsin Emergency Management. Symptoms to watch for include confusion, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, nausea and vomiting.

“These are all signs that you might have some serious problems, and may need to seek medical attention,” Beckett said.

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Officials recommend staying indoors as much as possible, as well as making sure to drink lots of water. If residents do not have air conditioning at home, they may be able to cool down at a local library, mall or other indoor public spaces. 

Those most at risk for heat-related illness include elderly individuals, young children, pregnant women, people who work outside and people with chronic health conditions.

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David Mercer/AP Photo

“It’s important to recognize that almost everybody’s at risk, so people shouldn’t just take it for granted that they’re not at risk,” said Dr. Sheryl Bedno, the chief medical officer for the state Department of Health Services Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health.

State officials also said it’s critically important to never leave a child or pet unattended inside a parked car. On an 80-degree day, temperatures inside a parked vehicle can climb roughly 20 degrees in 10 minutes under direct sunlight.

“Even if you think you’ve left the air conditioning on, they really should never be unattended inside of a car,” Beckett said. “Because if that air conditioning fails, if they’re not able to take action to save themselves, you could be putting them into a dangerous situation very quickly.”



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