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Public defender pay low, file-sharing software poses election danger, rural drinking water polluted, Michigan redistricting measure OK’d, and Chinese engineers headed to Wisconsin?

Of note: This week we highlight a story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the consequences of Wisconsin’s lowest-in-the-nation pay for public defenders. Many attorneys refuse to take these cases, which pay $40 an hour, resulting in a severe shortage of defense lawyers for poor defendants who qualify for free, government-paid criminal defense. A Sawyer County judge orders the State Public Defender’s office to either provide more attorneys or drive up to Hayward to explain why defendants in his courtroom cannot get lawyers. “If people want to be known as the individuals who have allowed rural Wisconsin finally to go over the edge to where drug dealers run freely, well so be it,” Judge John Yakel said.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by Dee and Andy Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Dee is the managing editor and Andy is the executive director.

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‘I’m going to stand up’: Northern Wisconsin judge demands answers from state on public defender crisis

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — November 1, 2018

The Wisconsin’s State Public Defender’s office can only accommodate the cases of about 60 percent of indigent defendants, so SPD pays private attorneys to take the additional cases. But because they pay the lowest rate of any state in the nation, SPD struggles to attract attorneys, especially for rural clients, leaving many defendants waiting months for an attorney or even going to trial unrepresented. In other states that have ignored such problems, say advocates, class action lawsuits have ensued.

File-sharing software on state election servers could expose them to intruders

ProPublica — November 3, 2018

In the latest on vulnerabilities in Wisconsin’s election system, ProPublica reports that election computer servers in Wisconsin and Kentucky were vulnerable to hacking because they used a service called FTP, which “provides public access to files — sometimes anonymously and without encryption.” Following ProPublica’s inquiries, Wisconsin chose to stop using FTP but Kentucky claimed the reporters didn’t understand its security approach and continued the service. Previously from WCIJ: How hackers could attack Wisconsin’s voting systems and what state officials are doing about it

Rural America’s own private Flint: Polluted water too dangerous to drink

The New York Times — November 3, 2018

The New York Times puts Wisconsin’s contaminated water into national spotlight with this story on how politics and manure, among other things, are threatening the water supply. Environmental advocates point the finger at Republicans, whose cuts to budgets and regulations have crippled the government’s ability to protect against pollution, including from industrial-scale farms. For full coverage of Wisconsin’s drinking water woes, see WCIJ’s national award-winning Failure at the Faucet series.

Report says Foxconn thinking about using Chinese workers in Wisconsin; company denies it

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — November 6, 2018

The Wall Street Journal reported on Election Day that Foxconn is planning to bring employees from China to work at its Mount Pleasant facility. Foxconn denies the claim, saying it plans to hire Wisconsin residents and, if needed, recruit from other U.S. locations. But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the company has applied for 11 H-1B work visas for foreign workers and that it appears their contract with the state would allow them to earn tax credits for each such employee.

One woman’s Facebook post leads to Michigan vote against gerrymandering

Bridge Magazine — November 7, 2018

Michigan, like 36 other states, let the party in power draw the voting districts — until one woman used a Facebook post to catalyze a grassroots movement to stop gerrymandering. Her group, Voters Not Politicians, collected 400,000 signatures to place a measure on ballots statewide, an unprecedented feat for an all-volunteer effort. The measure passed, transferring Michigan’s redistricting power to a 13-person citizens commission. Previously from WCIJ: Public, politicians pushing Wisconsin to enact nonpartisan redistricting to strengthen democracy

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