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Author: WisconsinWatch.org

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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How bad bills become law: Fast tracking makes state legislative process less participatory

The length of time bills were deliberated dropped significantly soon after Governor Scott Walker and Republican legislators took control in 2011, diminishing the public’s opportunities to influence lawmaking, records and interviews show. An analysis of all bills enacted into state law over the past two decades shows an overall decline in deliberation time — with the most dramatic drop happening just after Walker took office. In Walker’s first two years in office, average deliberation time was 119 days, compared to a 20-year average of 164 days. During that 2011-12 session, one out of every four bills, including some of...

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Democracy in Decline: Wisconsin residents feel discontent with state and federal government

Seven years ago, at age 73, Sheila Plotkin stepped onto the glossy tiles of the Wisconsin State Capitol with a protest sign in hand and her husband by her side. She saw a sea of law enforcement. Due to increased security, police officers escorted the couple and other members of the public to the Senate. There, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald was signing a contempt order for 14 Democratic senators who fled the state to avoid voting for the controversial budget repair bill — later called Act 10 — that all but ended collective bargaining rights for public sector employees...

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