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Election system targeted; higher ed hurdles; COVID death toll; subsidizing danger; rural skepticism around Biden spending   

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Now, back to the news. This week we highlight our coverage of bipartisan pushback against the role of some Wisconsin Republicans in a nationwide push to contest the audited and verified results of Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss, investigate state and local election systems and shift more power over elections to Republican-controlled legislatures. State Sen. Kathleen Bernier, the Republican chair of the Senate elections committee, is joining independent election experts in criticizing a campaign to discredit the bipartisan Elections Commission that Republicans created under former Gov. Scott Walker, Brenda Wintrode and Jim Malewitz report for Wisconsin Watch. Bernier is also calling on former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to finish his partisan review of the election soon — to limit the damage to the Republican Party and Wisconsin’s democracy. 

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State Sen. Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, speaks during a media briefing on growing threats to election professionals in Wisconsin, held at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Dec. 13, 2021. Bernier, the majority caucus vice chair, urged members of her own party to halt their attempts to discredit the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission they created. And she called on former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to finish his partisan review of the election soon, saying the protracted process is harming Republicans. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

‘This is a charade’: GOP senator, voting experts urge Wisconsin Republicans to halt election attacks

Wisconsin Watch — December 13, 2021

The Republican chair of the Wisconsin Senate elections committee on Monday urged members of her own party to halt their attempts to discredit the bipartisan elections system they created and to oust the state’s top official. The moves began after President Joe Biden’s narrow victory over Donald Trump in Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential race. “No one should falsely accuse election officials of cheating,” Sen. Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, said at a state Capitol event organized by the Center for Election Innovation & Research, a nonprofit that works with Republican and Democratic elections officials nationwide. “The misinformation and disinformation that has been perpetuated is very frustrating to me.”

Read more from The Washington Post: ‘A real conflagration’: Wisconsin emerges as front line in war over the 2020 vote

Biden’s rural investments run up against the culture wars in Wisconsin

POLITICO — December 14, 2021

Democrats aim to recapture support in rural areas by touting massive federal investments in everything from broadband to monthly child tax credit payments. But they’re facing skepticism from the people the money is supposed to help. Biden and Democrats sent billions of dollars in federal pandemic aid relief to rural areas, many of which were hit hardest by COVID-19. Billions more in funding is on the way from the bipartisan infrastructure law for new roads, safer drinking water and updated ports to assist farmers in moving their products. But as local voters — who are overwhelmingly white, blue-collar workers — increasingly disagree with Democrats on cultural issues, GOP arguments against government spending are resonating.

Sylvia Wilson, the program director for the nonprofit Teens Grow Greens, is seen at the organization’s greenhouse in Milwaukee on Dec. 14, 2021. Milwaukee Area Technical College partners with Teens Grow Greens to offer college credit to high school students who work with the program. Pat Robinson for Wisconsin Watch

MATC broadens access for Milwaukee students amid historical inequities, dropping enrollment

Wisconsin Watch — December 15, 2021

Milwaukee Area Technical College has in recent years launched an array of initiatives to open the door to adult learners, including free tuition to qualifying students, debt forgiveness and dual-credit programs for high school students which it says have cut costs and accelerated a college education for more than 4,000 students. More than three-quarters of participants in the free tuition and debt forgiveness programs are students of color, MATC said. But former students and others say barriers persist for adult learners transitioning to college. Fewer MATC students complete their programs than at peer institutions across the United States.

Read our full community colleges collaboration: Broken Ladder: Removing barriers for community college students

Unvaccinated 12 times more likely to die from COVID-19 in Wisconsin than vaccinated

Wisconsin State Journal — December 16, 2021

Unvaccinated Wisconsin residents were more than 12 times more likely to die from COVID-19 in November than their fully vaccinated counterparts, according to data released Wednesday by the state Department of Health Services. The likelihood of becoming infected with the coronavirus was three times higher for the unvaccinated in November compared to those who have completed the vaccine series, which was a reduction from October when the unvaccinated were five times more likely to become infected.

Read more from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Vos sees no need for Legislature to take COVID-related action as hospitals face open bed shortage

Barbara Smith is the housing coordinator for Amani United, a community group working to improve housing conditions in the north side neighborhood. Angela Peterson / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

How your tax dollars keep Milwaukee renters in danger from faulty wiring

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — December 16, 2021

In the spring of 2020, city inspectors discovered hazardous wiring in a rental duplex on West Vine Street in Milwaukee and ordered the owner, Absolute Properties, to pull an electrical permit and fix the violations promptly. For more than a year, the company didn’t do as ordered. But it continued to collect taxpayer money for rent. Tax dollars in the form of rent assistance to low-income families regularly flow to landlords who neglect to fix electrical issues, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis found. Samples of data between 2018 and 2020 show that nearly $200,000 in rental assistance went to the owners of at least 62 single- and two-family Milwaukee homes that had unfixed electrical violations. The actual numbers are likely much higher.

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