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Wisconsin’s cash bail system keeps the poor in jail while the rich go free

In Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and across the country, poor defendants can spend days, weeks, and even years behind bars awaiting trial, an approach that judges increasingly find as unconstitutional. On a summer night in 2017, a police officer conducting a drunken-driving sweep in northeast Wisconsin tried to pull over an SUV after a check showed the owner had a revoked driver’s license. The driver fled. As the officer gave chase, siren blaring, the vehicle blew through multiple stop signs in a residential area. The officer stopped the pursuit for public safety reasons. When police found the vehicle parked later,...

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Photo Essay: Documenting the days that saw the death of democracy in Wisconsin

From December 3 through the early morning of December 5, 2018, members of the press, the public, and legislators bustled through the halls of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison as the Senate and Assembly held an extraordinary session to push through a series of fast-tracked bills before Governor Scott Walker leaves office in January. The bills represent sweeping efforts to shift power to the Legislature from the executive branch, limit early voting and enact major changes to road spending, agency oversight and public benefits. Critics say they were clearly aimed at stripping power from incoming Gov. Tony Evers...

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How Wisconsin lawmakers use a secretive process to hide their actions from public view

Anonymous budget amendments and ‘Body Snatcher’ bills give power to special interests and change the scope of legislation with no chance for public input. It was 10:30 p.m. on June 3, 2011, the last day of deliberations on Wisconsin’s state budget. Members of the Joint Finance Committee, some with deep circles under their eyes after days of fighting over budget items, perked up when two Republicans, Sen. Glenn Grothman and Rep. Robin Vos, unveiled a surprise: a massive tax cut worth hundreds of millions of dollars for manufacturers and agricultural businesses. The official estimate projected that when fully phased...

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Lower turnout in Wisconsin elections linked to Voter ID

Research into Voter ID laws nationwide shows that their effect caused a lower turnout in Wisconsin and other states, affecting students, people of color, and elderly, making it much harder for disadvantaged demographic groups to vote. With all of her necessary documentation, University of Wisconsin-Madison student Brooke Evans arrived at her polling place on November 8, 2016, for the presidential election. For her, voting that day meant not only casting a ballot for the first female presidential candidate with a real shot of winning, but having a voice in a society in which homeless people such as herself were...

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Stolen Votes: Understanding the real cybersecurity threats to Wisconsin elections

Cybersecurity experts warn that private vendors, modems, and removable memory devices make the state’s decentralized voting system vulnerable to attack. A private vendor inadvertently introduces malware into voting machines he is servicing. A hacker hijacks the cellular modem used to transmit unofficial Election Day results. An email address is compromised, giving bad actors the same access to voting software as a local elections official. These are some of the potential vulnerabilities of Wisconsin’s election system described by cybersecurity experts. State officials insist they are on top of the problem and that Wisconsin’s elections infrastructure is secure because, among other...

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Dark money influenced Wisconsin legislation that blocked lawsuits by lead-poisoned children

One advocate calls Wisconsin the ‘darkest of dark money states’ as millions in secret spending flows into races for governor, Legislature, and State Supreme Court. At age 2, Yasmine Clark was lead-poisoned so severely that she had to be hospitalized for emergency chelation treatment to cleanse her blood of life-threatening levels of the heavy metal. At age 5, Yasmine was again diagnosed with lead poisoning. She suffered significant brain damage. Her IQ declined. She developed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. So, in 2006, at age 5, Yasmine became a plaintiff in a Milwaukee County lawsuit filed against multiple paint companies,...

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