Election official Jim Fortner places a crate of sorted absentee ballots with others from the same ward at the Madison, Wis., City-County Building on Aug. 5, 2020. Madison elections workers alphabetized each returned absentee ballot by hand in preparation for Wisconsin’s partisan primary on Tuesday. Delays and failure to deliver absentee ballots in Wisconsin and other key swing states have sparked concerns about how well the November presidential election will be managed during the pandemic. Credit: Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch
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Post office woes; lead pipe replacement slow; Wisconsin COVID-19 deaths pass 1,000; state’s farmers may seal Trump’s fate; GOP backs Kanye’s bid


Of note: This week we highlight a collaboration with Wisconsin Watch and APM Reports that documents delivery delays and missing ballots plaguing the U.S. Postal Service in Wisconsin and other swing states. In the past two statewide elections, hundreds of absentee ballots have been lost in transit in Wisconsin. And newly released figures show the postal district covering Wisconsin has one of the worst on-time delivery rates in the country. This sub-par performance is raising concerns about the ability of the postal service to properly deliver the tsunami of mail-in ballots expected to be cast in November as millions of voters stay away from the polls during the pandemic. 

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Election official Jim Fortner places a crate of sorted absentee ballots with others from the same ward at the Madison City-County Building. Delays and failure to deliver absentee ballots in Wisconsin and other key swing states have sparked concerns about how well the November presidential election will be managed during the pandemic. Credit: Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

Postal delays, errors in Wisconsin and other swing states loom over election

Wisconsin Watch/APM Reports — August 13, 2020

Based on its own performance measures —  and the loss of hundreds of Wisconsin ballots on their way to voters this summer — the U.S. Postal Service has its work cut out for it before Election Day. Among the 13 postal districts serving key presidential battleground states, four failed to meet any on-time service goals handling first-class mail between April 1 and June 30, and six districts achieved only one.

How Suffering Farmers May Determine Trump’s Fate

The New Yorker — August 10, 2020

Last October, Jerry Volenec, a dairy farmer from southwestern Wisconsin, took the morning off to go to Madison for the World Dairy Expo, an annual cattle-judging contest and trade show. Volenec wanted to hear a town hall discussion led by Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture, to learn how the Administration planned to address the economic crisis gripping Wisconsin’s family dairy farmers. Volenec voted for Trump in 2016, but the message for farmers from Perdue — go big or go out of business — solidified Volenec’s decision not to vote for him again.

The lead service replacement project began four years ago after the city found an unsafe number of lead laterals, or service lines. Credit: (File photo by Jabril Faraj)

Milwaukee significantly behind in project to replace 1,100 lead pipes by end of year

Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service — August 11, 2020

The city is significantly behind in its goal to replace 1,100 lead pipes by the end of the year, exacerbated in part by the ongoing pandemic, Milwaukee officials say. As of Aug. 10, only 333 lines have been replaced, according to data on the Milwaukee Water Works website.

Robert Blackbird died March 19, 2020 in hospice care in Grafton. He was Wisconsin’s first coronavirus death. Credit: (Submitted photo)

As Wisconsin marks 1,000 Covid-19 deaths, a look at some lives we lost

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — August 13, 2020

The devastating impact of COVID-19 has been splayed across maps, compiled into contact tracing charts and predicted with curves that flatten — or don’t. But in the end, it’s always been about people whose lives were cut short, sometimes with shocking suddenness and without their loved ones nearby. On Tuesday, Wisconsin passed 1,000 deaths from COVID-19, and with it, we wanted to pause and reflect on some of the lives and legacies we’ve lost.

Kanye West’s presidential bid bolstered by Republican operatives in at least five states

Washington Post — August 9, 2020

One elector trying to get rapper Kanye West on the presidential ballot in Wisconsin is married to a former chairwoman of a Republican county committee and was photographed with President Donald Trump at his inaugural. In Arkansas, a Republican operative who signed West’s ballot petition was at one point interviewed to be Trump’s campaign manager for his 2016 bid. And West’s ballot petition in Ohio was signed by a lawyer who has previously represented state Republican campaign committees.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (wisconsinwatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.