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The perfect time to start covering an election is less than a month out – right?!

Okay, maybe that’s actually a little stressful, but that was exactly our challenge when we were hired at Wisconsin Watch through Votebeat, a nonprofit newsroom focusing on election integrity and voting access. We hit the ground running in October to understand — and share with readers — everything we could about how this most unique election would be administered.

From examining the life cycle of an absentee ballot to diving into how electors are chosen and if a Legislature can go against the popular vote, we’ve been unpacking the machinery of Wisconsin’s elections. And even though Wisconsin’s 10 electors formally voted this week, our in-depth coverage of this election is far from over.

As I, Nora, reported on Nov. 3, I saw election workers staying late into the night at Milwaukee’s Central Count facility to process the city’s more than 169,000 absentee ballots. It got me wondering: Why is Wisconsin one of half a dozen states that still forbid workers from processing absentee ballots until Election Day? After digging through public hearings, I found that several proposed changes to Wisconsin lawhave languished in the Legislature for years. Many election officials and lawmakers hope in the next election cycle, it’ll be different. 

For me, Anya, in the days immediately following the election, much was made of the role that Black voters played in cities like Milwaukee. But the numbers didn’t tell the whole story, as I learned through my reporting across the city, especially watching the work of Black-led grassroots groups unfold in real time. My story detailed the hurdles, ranging from a pandemic that disproportionately affects communities of color to outright voter suppression tactics, that Black voters leapt in order to cast their ballots.

Working alongside the dedicated editors and reporters at Wisconsin Watch has been a privilege. Although our time with them has been short, working around people so focused on producing thoughtful, fair and accurate coverage has elevated our own work. It will be an experience we’ll carry with us throughout our careers.

We all can do our part to ensure fact-checked, in-depth reporting continues into 2021 and beyond. Will you join us in supporting Wisconsin Watch by giving a one-time gift of $60, $120, $240 or whatever you’re able to give?

NewsMatch and generous donors in the Leadership Circle have established a fund of $75,000 to encourage you to match this amount. Your one-time donation or monthly contribution of $5, $10, $20 or the amount of your choosing will be doubled!

Thank you for your commitment to strengthening democracy by supporting investigative journalism. 

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.

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Nora Eckert / Wisconsin Watch

Nora Eckert joined the Center in October 2020 as a reporter for Wisconsin Watch’s Votebeat project — a pop-up nonprofit newsroom covering local election administration and voting in six states, created by Chalkbeat. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and undergraduate degree from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis. She previously worked with NPR, The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal. She’s reported on national investigations into jail suicides, how climate change disproportionately affects the urban poor, the spread of coronavirus in nursing homes and the race for artificial blood. While reporting in Washington, she covered the impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump and funeral of Rep. Elijah Cummings. Before diving into the journalism world, she worked as a marketing and communications specialist at a Minnesota biotech company.

Anya Van Wagtendonk / Wisconsin Watch

Anya van Wagtendonk joined the Center in 2020 as a reporter with Wisconsin Watch’s Votebeat collaboration — a pop-up nonprofit newsroom covering local election administration and voting in six states, created by Chalkbeat. Most recently, she covered local business and government in west Michigan at the Muskegon Chronicle and MLive. She is a former politics reporter and producer at the PBS NewsHour and regular politics and policy contributor at Vox.com, and has also worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer. A proud graduate of the the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in political reporting and documentary filmmaking, her freelance work has appeared in POLITICO Magazine, the Washington Post, Village Voice and elsewhere, and has been supported with grants from the Solutions Journalism Network, the New York National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and ACES: The Society for Editing.