Series

With the passage of Act 23 in 2011, Wisconsin joined a nationwide push by Republican-controlled state governments to require voters show photo ID at the polls in order to cast a ballot. Supporters of the law say it serves a protection against voter impersonation at any frequency, but have offered little specific evidence of this type of fraud being a problem. Multiple lawsuits at the state and federal level have challenged the law on constitutional grounds, with opponents saying it is an attempt to discourage voting among African Americans, college students and the elderly. The status of these court challenges has led to years of uncertainty over when the law would actually be in effect, how it would be enforced, and how the state would help voters who didn't already have photo ID comply.More
The Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha received approval in 2016 to draw drinking water from Lake Michigan after a years-long bid to replace its radium-tainted groundwater supply. Waukesha became the first community not located within the Great Lakes Basin to gain access to this water source. The decision marked an historic test of the binational Great Lakes Compact between the U.S. and Canada governing use of the five lakes. As Waukesha prepares to start accessing the water by the early 2020s, controversies continue over how it will affect state and regional waterways and the precedent it sets in Great Lakes water policy.More
Most Wisconsinites live in urban and suburban communities, but the state’s landscape is dominated by rural areas where farmland and forest predominate. But what makes a given place rural? What about small towns or exurbs or "up north" tourist destinations? And when is a place even considered small in the first place? Defining the continuum between rural and urban areas is complex and can be a contentious matter. It is also continuously in flux as people grow older, have children and move between places in pursuit of different opportunities. The demographics of rural Wisconsin are changing rapidly, with populations aging and overall numbers decreasing in many areas. These shifts have profound implications for the state as a whole, and will shape its economy, politics and culture.More
A growing nuisance to gardeners, farmers, landscapers and homeowners across the Midwest, Japanese beetles devour ornamental plants like birches, crabapples and roses, and likewise feast on crop plants like apples, pears, beans, corn and many other fruit and vegetable species. Although this invasive species of insect was identified across many parts of in Wisconsin through the 1990s, it was first detected in the state in the 1960s. While certain methods of managing this troublesome beetle can yield some success, warmer winter conditions could mean larger populations in the future.More
ShotSpotter screen view
As the population and computing power grow, the complex systems that support everyday life have the capacity to generate detailed data that can provide crucial insights into health, education, the economy and much more. But those systems can still fall short in gathering useful or relevant information. In some cases, information is spread among disparate entities. In others, it simply has not been analyzed. When data is limited, these gaps can reveal blind spots among and challenges to policies and institutions.More