Series

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
It's an unsavory truth in American democracy that politicians, to some extent, do get to choose their voters. The party in power often tries to draw state legislative and U.S. House of Representatives district maps to its own advantage, and courts have been reluctant to stop it unless there's strong evidence of racial discrimination. The Republican wave of election victories in 2010, and the increasing sophistication of redistricting software set the stage for an aggressive new batch of legislative maps in Wisconsin and other states. Multiple federal lawsuits challenging this redistricting followed. One court challenge arising from Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford, set out to prove that partisan gerrymandering could violate voters' rights even if it wasn't racially discriminatory. The case reached the U. S. Supreme Court, and the resulting decision could trigger a seismic change in how political parties consolidate electoral power.More
Growing vegetables, herbs, flowers and other plants in containers can be fun and rewarding, and may help save money at the grocery store. From getting an early start on the growing season by germinating seeds indoors to brightening the holidays, container gardening can help people with limited outdoor space turn patios into patches of green space and provide a touch of summer indoors during Wisconsin’s long colder months. Whatever planters might look like, the correct combination of soil, light and water will help gardeners get the best results from their efforts.More
When a member of the Wisconsin Legislature vacates the office before their term ends, the governor has the power to call a special election to fill that seat. Data shows that governors over the past five decades have generally acted promptly to fill vacancies. That pattern continued well into Gov. Scott Walker's administration until the final days of 2017, when he declined to call special elections for two open seats and leave them open until the November 2018 election to let voters choose new officeholders. A WisContext investigation of state elections records showed that a vacancy of such length was unprecedented in modern Wisconsin history.More
Gooseneck pipes
Drinking water quality varies across in Wisconsin. In communities with public utilities, drinking water is subject to disparate levels of treatment depending on local needs and budget concerns. Nearly one million households get their water from private wells, which depend on property owners for monitoring and treatment. Across the state, many natural processes and human activities can introduce pathogens and chemical contaminants into water supplies. Wherever their drinking water comes from, Wisconsinites can use various resources to better understand and improve its quality.More