Wisconsin Weekly: Families grieve as politics paralyze Wisconsin’s pandemic response

COVID deaths mount; economic angst; ballot cures; voting drop boxes; falsehoods at rallies

Of note: This week we highlight our latest coverage of the biggest storylines unfolding in Wisconsin: The state’s rising death toll, economic hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic and the looming Nov. 3 presidential election. 

Reporter Bram Sable-Smith examines how Republican resistance to Democratic Gov. Evers’ pandemic response has sent mixed messages to residents at a time when collective action is needed to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

And in the latest installment of our Outbreak Wisconsin collaboration with WPR, Bridgit Bowden reports on rising anxieties within Wisconsin’s bar and restaurant industry as cold weather promises to eliminate sales from residents who will avoid eating and drinking indoors — where the virus is more likely to spread. 

Meanwhile, Nora Eckert finds that municipalities around Wisconsin have installed more than 500 drop boxes to help ensure that absentee ballots reach clerks’ offices by the end of voting on Tuesday. And in a separate story, Eckert offers additional news they can use: how voters can fix mistakes on their mailed-in ballots. 

Access to some stories listed in the Wisconsin Weekly roundup may be limited to subscribers of the news organizations that produced them. We urge our readers to consider supporting these important news outlets by subscribing. 

Want even more news about how the pandemic is reshaping the state? Subscribe to our Wisconsin COVID-19 Update.

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Angela Major / WPR

Harper Marten is seen at her home in Wauwatosa, Wis., on Oct. 26. In July, Marten’s father Warren Shore died in a nursing home after contracting COVID-19. Shore also had Alzheimer’s disease, but Marten did not expect to lose him so suddenly. Experts know how to limit the spread of COVID-19: Wear a mask. Keep a distance. Wash your hands. But GOP resistance and legal wrangling have sent mixed messages to the public as Wisconsin’s COVID-19 death toll accelerated during the fall of 2020.

How politics paralyzed Wisconsin’s pandemic response — and left families to grieve their losses

Wisconsin Watch/WPR — October 28, 2020

Courts and the Republican-controlled Legislature limited the powers of the Democratic governor. Partisan messaging led many residents to spurn masks and distancing. It didn’t have to be this way, but Wisconsinites are living and dying with the consequences.

Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

Amy Moreland stands outside the One Barrel Brewing Company bar, where she works as a bartender. Moreland was out of work for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Winter is coming, and a lot of doors are going to be shut’: Restaurant and bar workers in peril as weather grows cold and COVID-19 keeps spreading

Wisconsin Watch/WPR — October 27, 2020 

COVID-19 is walloping the service industry, forcing some bars and restaurants to permanently close their doors while others shut down for winter. Before the pandemic hit, Amy Moreland worked as a bartender and events coordinator in Madison, in many cases serving gatherings of 50 or more people. “Well, that’s canceled forever, or the foreseeable future,” she joked anxiously in an audio diary.

Read and listen more from the Outbreak Wisconsin series.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Joanne Ruechel, town clerk of Rib Mountain, Wis., sent out 1,348 absentee ballots ahead of the Aug. 11, 2020 partisan primary, and included a sample ballot with instructions on how to fill it out, to try to prevent the errors she saw during the April 7, 2020 primary. She made these instructions by hand, as they were not provided by the county or state for the election. Photographed Aug. 11, 2020.

How Wisconsin voters can ‘cure’ the hundreds of ballots already rejected

Wisconsin Watch — October 27, 2020

When Melissa Lemke got a call that her absentee ballot had been rejected, she was convinced there had been some mistake. As an alderwoman in Racine, she knew how important it was to carefully fill out her ballot and envelope, and she’d done so successfully in past elections.

Read more from the Narrow Margin project here.

Jim Malewitz / Wisconsin Watch

An absentee ballot drop box is shown on Williamson Street in Madison, Wis. on Oct. 17, 2020. Madison is among hundreds of Wisconsin communities that have installed drop boxes to ensure absentee ballots arrive on time for Tuesday’s election.

Ballot drop boxes offer ‘a safe place’ for voting in Wisconsin’s election

Wisconsin Watch  — October 29, 2020

Among the changes making voting safer during the COVID-19 pandemic: absentee ballot drop boxes installed by local clerks around the state.

Rallies are the core of Trump’s campaign, and a font of lies and misinformation

The New York Times — October 26, 2020

As President Donald Trump battles for a second term with polls that show him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, rallies like one in Wisconsin have become the backbone of his re-election campaign and a font of virtually non-stop misinformation. The president has boasted to reporters that he may hold as many as five rallies each day as he races toward the finish line on Nov. 3.

Read or listen more on Wisconsin Watch: Pre-bunking falsehoods: How Wisconsin voters can avoid falling for election misinformation

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