Wisconsin state Rep. Ron Tusler, R-Harrison, left, and Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, right, look on as Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, asks questions via Zoom during a Dec. 11, 2020 joint meeting of the state's Senate and Assembly elections committees at the State Capitol. Democrats called the hearing a “sham.” Republicans in several swing states have called similar hearings aimed at overturning the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election won by Joe Biden. Credit: Will Cioci for Wisconsin Watch

Vote fraud or ‘sham’ hearing; MKE election chief profiled; COVID-19 claims beloved coach; Capitol Christmas tree kerfuffle; scissors out in barbershop quartet flap


Of note: This week we draw your attention to two election-related stories from Wisconsin Watch. Reporter Anya van Wagtendonk covered a Republican-led joint legislative hearing late last week aimed at collecting evidence of fraud and irregularities in the Nov. 3 election. Democrats walked out of the daylong session, calling it a “sham.” Reporter Nora Eckert also profiled Claire Woodall-Vogg, who runs the state’s largest election operation. Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, weathered unfounded allegations of fraud and mismanagement to earn the praise of peers and superiors for running the city’s most transparent election.

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Wisconsin state Rep. Ron Tusler, R-Harrison, left, and Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, right, look on as Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, asks questions via Zoom during a Dec. 11, 2020 joint meeting of the state’s Senate and Assembly elections committees at the State Capitol. Democrats called the hearing a “sham.” Republicans in several swing states have called similar hearings aimed at overturning the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election won by Joe Biden. Credit: Will Cioci for Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin GOP lawmakers call for tighter voting rules; Dems call election hearing a ‘sham’

Wisconsin Watch — December 11, 2020

During an eight-hour hearing, Wisconsin Republicans called for changes to election law following the Nov. 3 election and broadly alleged fraud and misconduct but offered little proof. It was the latest in a series of hearings held by GOP lawmakers in swing states aimed at challenging President-elect Joe Biden’s win over President Donald Trump. A partial recount called by Trump’s campaign in heavily Democratic Milwaukee and Dane counties affirmed Biden’s 20,600-vote victory in Wisconsin.

In related coverage, Wisconsin Watch profiled the head of the state’s largest election operation:A pandemic. False fraud claims. A misplaced flash drive. How Milwaukee elections chief led high-pressure vote count.

COVID-19 vaccine updates: First doses administered Wednesday at Milwaukee VA Medical Center and Ascension Franklin

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — December 16, 2020

So historic was the occasion that when the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Wisconsin on Tuesday, USA TODAY Network decided to document its rollout across the state. One of the first people to be vaccinated in Milwaukee: Dr. Anne Johnson of Aurora Sinai Medical Center’s emergency room.

This lakefront mansion in Kenosha was “Harmony Hall,” home of the Barbershop Harmony Society from 1957 until 2003. Credit: Google Maps

Wisconsin is home to a barbershop quartet society that rakes in millions each year. A new lawsuit alleges mismanagement of funds

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — December 15, 2020

Barbershop quartets sing traditional songs in four-part harmony, always a cappella, often dressed up in straw hats, funny vests and bow ties. Efforts to preserve and promote the uniquely American form of music have been thrown way off-key by a major legal and financial dispute with its largest organization, the Society to Preserve and Encourage Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, better known as the Barbershop Harmony Society, and its fundraising arm, Harmony Foundation International, both Wisconsin-based nonprofits.

Christmas tree kerfuffle tests rules on free expression at Capitol

Wisconsin State Journal — December 17, 2020

A pair of Republican lawmakers’ decision to put up a Christmas tree is reviving the debate over what forms of free speech are allowed in the state Capitol and how far leaders of either political party can go to limit them. Reps. Paul Tittl, of Manitowoc, and Shae Sortwell, of Two Rivers, have twice put up an artificial tree in the Capitol rotunda where, in non-pandemic years, a towering live Christmas tree has for decades been installed at around this time of year. Twice the tree has been removed by Capitol Police.

Duane Bark was the Markesan Schools Superintendent. He died in October after contracting the coronavirus. Credit: Angela Major / WPR

Duane Bark — beloved educator and football coach who painted daughter’s nails, dies of COVID-19 at 61

WPR/Wisconsin Watch — December 17, 2020

Duane Bark was nearly late for his wedding. He went golfing with the minister that morning, and they left the course later than intended. When Pam, the bride-to-be, showed up at the church carrying her dress, the door was locked because the minister had the key. “I’ll never forget when I was beating at the door. They were whisking around to open the church up so I could get in,” Pam Bark remembered with a chuckle. Those were among many laughs over the next 38 years. Duane Bark was among the more than 4,000 Wisconsinites who have died of COVID-19. Hear Bark’s story and the story of others lost this year on WPR.

Wisconsin Watch

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