Wisconsin Weekly: Wisconsin plays key role in presidential election — again

State voters brave pandemic; election misinformation, COVID-19 spread; mass mink infection; WI bluff habitat offers climate change clues 

Of note: This week we highlight our all-hands-on-deck coverage of Wisconsin’s momentous election. In addition to reporters on the ground in Madison, Milwaukee and the Fox Valley, Wisconsin Watch monitored social media for misinformation and checked out reports of voting problems sent to ProPublica’s Electionland tip line. We beefed up our small staff with two new reporters, Nora Eckert and Anya van Wagtendonk, and an editor, Sharon McGowan, who will continue to cover the impact and aftermath of Tuesday’s election through the end of the year thanks to funding from the nonprofit Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. 

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Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

University of Wisconsin-Madison freshman Colin Steffl registers to vote in his first-ever election at a polling place in the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union on November 3, 2020.

Braving a pandemic, Wisconsinites vote for president — and the future of the nation

Wisconsin Watch — November 3, 2020 

With nearly 2 million Wisconsin ballots already cast, hundreds of thousands of voters ventured from their homes Tuesday in the midst of a raging pandemic to finalize the state’s judgment on the next president — and help cement the nation’s future for the next four years. In 2016, voters from three states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — handed Republican Donald Trump a narrow victory over Hillary Clinton. 

This time, the pandemic cast a shadow over Tuesday’s voting as state health officials reported a record 5,771 new COVID-19 cases and another 52 deaths, bringing the statewide death toll to 2,102. In other coverage, see our portraits of voters from Election Day.

Eric Kleppe-Montenegro for Wisconsin Watch

Election workers count ballots at the Milwaukee Central Count location after the polls had closed for the evening, on Nov. 3, 2020.

Falsehoods about Wisconsin’s vote count are flying. Here’s the truth.

Wisconsin Watch — November 5, 2020

Wisconsin Watch’s resident misinformation sleuth Howard Hardee reports on false claims — spread widely on social media — that flaws in Wisconsin’s ballot-counting process allowed former Vice President Joe Biden to narrowly defeat President Donald Trump in the race for Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes. Wisconsin did not tally more votes than registered voters in the state, nor did Biden’s gains in the vote tally Wednesday morning suggest fraud, as Trump’s supporters claimed. In related coverage, Hardee teamed up with News 3 Now’s Naomi Kowles to trace how quickly election-related misinformation spreads — and how hard it is to correct it.

Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

Jeanette Kowalik was the health commissioner for the city of Milwaukee until September 2020, when she resigned citing racism and sexism on the job and the exhaustion of fighting misinformation about COVID-19. Kowalik is seen at Juneau Park in Milwaukee on Sept. 18, 2020.

‘Infodemic’ complicates Wisconsin’s public health fight against coronavirus

WisContext/Wisconsin Watch — November 6, 2020

When the coronavirus started spreading around Wisconsin in the spring of 2020, Dr. Chad Tamez hosted Facebook Live sessions to help patients understand the mysterious new pathogen. But the family physician in West Bend stopped the tutorials after a few weeks as the pandemic became increasingly political. Misinformation and conspiracy theories are complicating efforts by health officials to encourage mask wearing, distancing and other actions to quell the pandemic. WisContext also partnered with Wisconsin Watch on this companion story: Wisconsin’s plentiful COVID-19 data fuels insights, confusion as health officials learn on the fly.

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More than 3K mink dead from coronavirus at Taylor County mink farm

WPR — November 5, 2020

Nearly 3,400 mink have died from the coronavirus at a mink farm in Taylor County over the last month, according to the latest numbers from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. On Wednesday, Reuters reported Denmark authorities will cull the nation’s mink population after health officials discovered a mutation of the coronavirus spread from mink to people. Officials say a mutated virus could pose a risk to the effectiveness of a vaccine for humans.

John Hart / Wisconsin State Journal

Towering red cedar trees share a bluff about 400 feet above the Wisconsin River Valley at Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area near Lodi. Scientists believe geologically diverse landscapes like this are critical to preserving life as the climate warms.

Beautiful and resilient: bluff country landscapes key for species survival as planet warms

Wisconsin State Journal — November 2, 2020

The glacier that covered most of Wisconsin — but not the southwest corner — retreated more than 10,000 years ago as global temperatures warmed by about 5 degrees Celsius. But on the shaded slopes of this gorge, conditions remained cool enough for those species to hang on. Scientists think those same geological features that made southwest Wisconsin biologically resilient during the last period of climate change can help preserve biodiversity in the coming decades of unprecedented global warming.

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