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In Tornado Watch, WI GOP Sends 'Emergency Alert' On Court Election

As southern Wisconsin braced for a tornado watch Friday, conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly and the Republican Party of Wisconsin issued an emergency alert warning voters not to elect liberal Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz on Tuesday, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The text message included a video that used alert tones and a scratchy radio voice found on official emergency alerts aired on television and radio. The screen read, "*** Emergency Alert System ***" and "Wisconsin Voter Alert" on the backdrop of bars that sometimes appear on screen when TV programming is interrupted. After three beeps, a voice says, "This is a State of Wisconsin voter alert. Attention citizens: our Second Amendment rights are under attack by Judge Janet Protasiewicz."

The video would likely violate federal law if broadcast on television. What was less clear is whether it’s allowed to be transmitted via text message. According to the Federal Communications Commission rules, people and groups are barred from using emergency alert system codes or signals in "advertisements, promotional announcements, or other programming," if the sounds are being used not in connection with an actual emergency, an emergency system test, or a public service announcement authorized to use such sounds.

The use of sounds intended to "mimic" "or are substantially similar" to the alert sounds so that an average listener could reasonably mistake the sounds for an actual emergency alert are also prohibited. “For the Republican Party of Wisconsin to send this fake emergency alert on behalf of Dan Kelly at a time when many Wisconsinites are under the first Tornado Watch of the season is abhorrent, dangerous, and profoundly irresponsible,” said Democratic Party of Wisconsin Executive Director Devin Remiker. Republican Party of Wisconsin director Mark Jefferson said Democrats "fake outrage ... is not going to paper over Janet Protaseiwicz’s abysmal soft on crime record."


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