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Author: Wisconsin Watch

Generation Vote: Participation trend uncertain for Wisconsin youth in political process

NextGen believes its multi-million dollar effort helped increase turnout among voters ages 18-35, but experts say that cannot be tied to one group or strategy. Borna Riazi, 19, said his parents and teachers “never really” pushed him to vote. Riazi did not see voting as something that had a direct impact on his life. Plus, he described himself as “too lazy.” “I wish you could just show up to a place and just vote,” Riazi said. “Like, no pre-registration, no nothing.” But being a student on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus before the 2018 midterm elections put voting directly...

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Data-driven justice: Algorithms are little better than Magic 8-Ball in determining risk assessment

Some Wisconsin counties use risk assessment tools to predict who will skip out on court or commit new crimes but critics say there are better ways to cut incarceration. Eddie Armstrong had been sitting in the Dane County Jail for nearly two weeks when a judge set him free to await trial. His release was based in part on computer-generated scores that rated Armstrong’s likelihood to return to court as fair and predicted he had a good chance of not committing a new crime. Locked away from his fiancé and three children, Armstrong said, he was “going crazy.” “I...

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Massive solar proposal divides Wisconsin farmers and clean energy advocates

One of the largest solar projects on cropland in the U.S. is pitting renewable energy boosters against each other, and farmers against farmers. Bob Bishop is a 61-year-old farmer living in dairy country in southwestern Wisconsin. Today he is helping his two sons pull a downed tree off of a fence line, stepping through piles of cow manure and corn stalks as he drags the branches into the big claw of a skid loader. Soon, the family will stop raising dairy cows because the industry is in trouble. In 2018, Wisconsin lost 638 dairy farms because of falling milk...

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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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