Rhonda Staats is one of about 100,000 voters in Wisconsin who are visually impaired or blind. When it came time to vote in November, Staats had two choices: potentially expose herself to COVID by casting a ballot in person or risk having her vote changed without her knowledge. She is photographed outside her La Crosse, Wis., home on Jan. 8, 2021. Diane Knothe for Wisconsin Watch
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Voting barriers; first-hand account of Capitol siege; Enbridge defies Michigan order; nuns’ deaths sparks call for change; woes remain with WI unemployment system


Of note: This week we highlight the story by Wisconsin Watch’s Nora Eckert that documents Wisconsin’s poor standing when it comes to providing accessible voting for people with disabilities. Eckert found that Wisconsinites with disabilities have among the lowest turnout rates in the nation, despite the state’s distinction of having one of the highest overall voter participation rates in the United States. 

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Rhonda Staats is one of about 100,000 voters in Wisconsin who are visually impaired or blind. When it came time to vote in November, Staats had two choices: potentially expose herself to COVID by casting a ballot in person or risk having her vote changed without her knowledge. She is photographed outside her La Crosse, Wis., home on Jan. 8, 2021. Diane Knothe for Wisconsin Watch

‘We’re not going to be quiet’: Disability community in Wisconsin demands better access to voting

Wisconsin Watch — January 12, 2021

Rhonda Staats had two choices during the November election: cast a ballot in person and potentially expose herself to COVID-19, or vote absentee and risk having her vote changed without her knowledge. Staats is one of about 100,000 voters in the state who are blind or visually impaired. These voters must travel to their polling place to use an accessible voting machine — hoping one is available, operating and staff know how to use it — or have someone fill in their ballot for them. Voting in Wisconsin as a blind person, she said, “is a constant struggle.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher: To keep safe during Capitol attack, we barricaded my office door

Green Bay Press-Gazette — January 14, 2021

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Republican from Green Bay, tells of arming himself with a ceremonial sword as rioters burst into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to halt certifying Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election. “We covered up my nameplate marking our office door, took down the Wisconsin flag in order to use its pole as another weapon, and barricaded the doors with desks. We left a window open as a decoy,” he wrote. Despite that harrowing experience, Gallgher voted against impeaching President Donald Trump for allegedly inciting the insurrection — a bid that ultimately passed, drawing “yes” votes from 10 GOP House members.

Enbridge rejects Michigan’s demand to shut down oil pipeline

Associated Press — January 12, 2021

Enbridge has said it would defy Michigan’s demand to shut down an oil pipeline that runs through a channel linking two of the Great Lakes, contending that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s decision was based on bad information and political posturing. The Democratic governor in November moved to revoke a 1953 state easement that allowed part of the Canadian company’s Line 5 to be placed along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The pipeline also runs through northern Wisconsin.

After 9 sisters died from COVID-19 last month, officials are pushing the state to send the vaccine to the Notre Dame of Elm Grove facility

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — January 13, 2021

Nearly 10% of the sisters at the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Elm Grove have died from COVID-19. And a majority of those remaining are at high risk to contract the coronavirus. However, when the sisters at the facility will receive their doses of the COVID-10 vaccine remains unknown. Since the facility is not licensed as a skilled nursing facility, the nearly 90 sisters still living there might have to wait several more weeks. 

Wisconsin unemployment problems persist despite tech giant support

TMJ4 News — January 12, 2021

The state unemployment agency signed a $1.1 million contract with Google Cloud systems last year to help clear a backlog of unpaid claims, but unemployment problems remain steady. The Department of Workforce Development declared it cleared the backlog of claims created by the pandemic late last year, with the help of Google’s Analytics. Despite claims of a cleared backlog, TMJ4 News continues to hear from people who were denied and stuck in the appeals process, as well as a number of those who were told to pay back a portion or all of their benefits.

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.