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Tuesday, November 2, 2021
A former Lutheran Church found new life as the Martel Town Hall. •  Reader photo by Sarah Nigbor
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Gov. Tony Evers speaks Tuesday morning in Eau Claire to tout the non-gerrymandered political maps drawn by the People's Maps Commission, the group Evers formed to draw fair maps for this year's redistricting process. (Photo by Julian Emerson)

People's Maps Commission Introduces Final Maps Proposal as Evers Pushes for Hearing

  • The People's Maps Commission (PMC)—the nonpartisan group tasked with drawing fair electoral maps for this year’s redistricting—finished revising its proposed maps for the state Senate, Assembly, and US Congress. On Tuesday, Gov. Tony Evers introduced legislation to implement the maps and called for them to receive a hearing in the Republican-led Legislature. 
  • “For years, the people of this state have asked their elected officials for nonpartisan redistricting. For years, the people of this state have demanded better and fairer maps. And for years, the people of this state have gone ignored,” Evers said in a press release. “The gerrymandered maps Republicans passed a decade ago have enabled members of this Legislature to comfortably ignore the people who elected them. The fact that Wisconsinites have asked for nonpartisan redistricting for years and their elected officials wouldn’t listen—and still aren’t—is the case in point for fair maps.”  
  • The final maps are based on the PMC’s revised Map 2 for both the Assembly and state Senate. They were given an A grade by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, particularly for competitiveness, because they do not give either party an unfair advantage. The Assembly and state Senate maps put forward by legislative Republicans received Fs in competitiveness for giving Republicans a significant advantage.
  • Last week, more than 150 people spoke for almost 10 hours on the maps put forward by legislative Republicans before a joint Assembly and Senate committee. Other than Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), none of the commenters spoke in favor of the Legislature’s proposed maps. Evers said he will call a special session if Republicans don't give the PMC maps a hearing.
—Reported by Christina Lieffring

Where's the Beef? State Starts Grant Program to Solve Meat Shortage Exposed by COVID-19.

  • A shortage of available meat processing plants in Wisconsin that was exposed during the coronavirus pandemic continues, but efforts are underway to address the situation, Randy Romanski, secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), told UpNorthNews. Four large companies produce about 85% of the nation’s beef supply, leading to product availability issues due to pandemic-related shutdowns that provided a boost for smaller producers.
  • DATCP recently announced $200,000 in annual grants for meat processors to help them expand and update their operations. That figure is far less than the $1 million Gov. Tony Evers proposed before the Republican-led Legislature reduced it as part of the 2021-23 state budget process, “but it’s a start,” Romanski said. 
  • In addition, Romanski said, the state is hiring four additional meat inspectors—who ensure that processed meat meets safety guidelines—a number that could grow. He said he is working with lawmakers to secure tuition assistance for people seeking meat processor certification.
  • “We are still having those conversations, still trying to make something happen on this front,” Romanski said.
—Reported by Julian Emerson
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(Graphic by Morgaine Ford-Workman)

Meagan Wolfe on Monday responded to legislative Republicans who said she, the nonpartisan administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), should resign following claims that the WEC violated state law when it allowed nursing home residents to fill out absentee ballots without the aid of election workers. 


Election workers are typically supposed to help nursing home residents fill out absentee ballots, but the six-member commission made the decision to allow nursing home residents to do the work themselves during the height of the pandemic—a time when most care facilities were not allowing visitors.  


Criticism by Republicans, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), came after Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling claimed WEC committed election fraud because his department had found instances where workers at a Racine County nursing home had helped some residents fill out their ballots. That practice is not illegal, and Wolfe and five WEC members have refuted claims that they violated the law. 

State Lawmaker Was Investigated for Felony Child Abuse, Said the Bible Told Him to Strike Child, Report Says

  • Green Bay police in 2013 concluded now-state Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) committed felony child abuse—and he told investigators the Bible instructed him to strike his child—but the district attorney took an unusual step and declined to file charges, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported Tuesday.
  • Police began investigating Sortwell—who was not yet a state lawmaker, but had already been involved in local politics—after a family member noticed five 4-inch long bruises on Sortwell's child and took the child to a hospital, according to documents reviewed by the Press-Gazette. 
  • Sortwell reportedly told police he and his wife hit the child twice with an object when the child was "being defiant." Despite this, the Brown County District Attorney's Office declined to file charges, even though the Press-Gazette found the office prosecuted eight other child abuse cases, including at least one with less-severe injuries to the child, around the same time.
  • In a statement, Sortwell claimed the family member who reported the alleged abuse was "disgruntled" and said the district attorney "rightfully decided to drop the matter."
Reported by Jonathon Sadowski

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