Lincoln Co. voters latest to ask for nonpartisan district line drawing; Tiffany believes maps are fairSubmitted: 11/09/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Lincoln Co. voters latest to ask for nonpartisan district line drawing; Tiffany believes maps are fair
MERRILL - In Tuesday's elections, 54 percent of people in Wisconsin voted for Democrats to represent them in the State Assembly.

But Republicans will hold nearly two-thirds of the seats in the chamber.

Those numbers were tallied by Wisconsin Voices. It's one of the groups blaming unfair district maps for the imbalance.

"Wisconsin happens to be a very gerrymandered state," said Merrill's Hans Breitenmoser Jr. "That's not exactly representative democracy."

Breitenmoser is a Lincoln County Board Supervisor. He pushed to get an advisory referendum on Tuesday's ballot in the county. Sixty-five percent of voters said the process for drawing district maps is unfair.

Republicans in power drew the district maps in 2011. Critics say those lines gave them an unfair advantage in elections.

"[People] don't trust political parties to do the right thing, and so, let's take the power away from those parties," Breitenmoser said.

Breitenmoser supports a nonpartisan method for drawing district lines, like the method Iowa has.

People in other parts of the state seem to agree. Lincoln County is the sixth in the state to pass an advisory referendum asking for nonpartisan redistricting. Forty-one of the state's 72 county boards have passed such a resolution.

"With this referendum, people are really getting behind the idea that we can do better," said Erin Grunze, the executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. "The process that we have now isn't working on behalf of voters. It's working for politicians. That's not the way democracy is supposed to work."

The League of Women Voters is working with Citizen Action of Wisconsin and the Fair Elections Project to push for nonpartisan maps.

"Whatever your political persuasions are, Wisconsinites want a fair fight, want a fair contest between the candidates," Grunze said.

Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst), who represents Lincoln County, said Friday he thinks Wisconsin's maps are fair. Tiffany has been elected twice under the current maps.

The Wisconsin Constitution directs the legislature to draw district boundaries.

"I take that very seriously. That's a constitutional duty that I'm sworn to uphold. So I think it's important that we do it as a legislature," Tiffany said. "You have a person, Hans Breitenmoser from Lincoln County, who spearheaded this effort. He does not like the results that have been coming forth in elections in Wisconsin."

If Republican lawmakers are still in power, they will draw new district lines again in 2021. But new Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will have veto power. If the two sides can't agree, district lines will likely be decided by a judge.

Breitenmoser is likely to continue to push for maps drawn separate from party affiliation.

"It's obvious. It's common sense. It's as it should be. People understand that they don't want political party bosses making their decisions and making their choices for them," Breitenmoser said. "They want to be able to make these decisions themselves."

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RHINELANDER - A Rhinelander man could face prison time after police arrested him in an online underage sex sting.  Oneida County prosecutors charged Adam Van Roy with three felonies on Monday.

A Wisconsin Department of Justice Special Agent working with the Oneida County Sheriff's Office posed as a 19-year-old woman named 'Julia G' on several social media applications March 13-15.  Van Roy, 36, started talking with 'Julia' during that time.  

'Julia' soon told Van Roy she was actually only 15 years old.

The agent's notes show Van Roy asked 'Julia' for pictures, including nude images, and asked her "what do you like in the bedroom?"

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VILLAGE OF HEWITT - Monday around 7 A.M. Wood County police responded to a man who was run over by a dump truck in the Village of Hewitt.

When the police arrived they were informed by emergency responders that the man's injuries were fatal.

The victim of the accident was 77-years-old.

Police have ruled the death as an accident, and it was determined that the subjects involved were performing maintenance on the dump truck when the accident happened.

The Wood County Sheriff's Department, Hewitt EMS, Marshfield Ambulance, and the Wood County Coroner's Office all responded to the accident.

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CRANDON - Recently, flooding closed roads and frustrated communities from Rhinelander to Plover. A bad combination of rain and melting snow led to days of flood warnings. As those warnings go away, a related risk could do a lot more than frustrate you - it could make you sick. Flooding can cause contamination in wells, but the Northwoods is lucky to have a world-class water testing facility.

RT Krueger's Northern Lake Service in Crandon has about 50 specialized machines that test drinking water for half of the municipalities in Wisconsin. Krueger tests Rhinelander's water three times a week. Every year 65,000 water samples flow in and out of this lab.

"The safe drinking water testing for the city of Madison is being performed up in little tiny Crandon," said Krueger.

Many people have their own wells, which are not tested regularly like municipal water. If your well is submerged due to flooding, filtered groundwater mixes with potentially harmful surface water.

"You're introducing the bacteria and all the compounds and organisms that are normally above the water that you're drawing," said Krueger.

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(Suspects identified clockwise, beginning with upper-left: Robert Daniels, Andrew Phillips, Richard Harris, Geraldine Dubray, Allyssa Wamego, Tammy Mann)

A report of a noisy house party and fight near Crandon led to six drug-related arrests earlier this month.  Officers eventually found heroin, cocaine, and guns along with other drug items inside, but getting there took some extra work.

According to a release from the Forest County Sheriff's Office, police responded to a home at 7840 Love Knot Lane in the Town of Lincoln, which is east of Crandon, on March 7 around 7:15 p.m.

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MILWAUKEE - Officials say a man shot by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee police on campus is hospitalized in stable condition.

University Police Chief Joe LeMire said at a news conference Tuesday two officers found the man, armed with a gun, sleeping on a bench in the Fine Arts Complex building around 7 a.m., an altercation occurred and he was shot. The police officers were treated for minor injuries.

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What We're Working OnSubmitted: 03/19/2019

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

We talk to a snowplow driver in Lincoln County who says he was attacked with a baseball bat after accidently knocking down a mailbox.

We'll take you to the ribbon cutting for a new utility garage in Stevens Point and show you some sustainable design features that are part of the facility including the largest solar array in Central Wisconsin.

And we'll speak with a water testing specialist in Crandon to go over the importance of testing groundwater especially after there has been flooding in the area.

We'll bring you this and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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MERRILL - The Merrill Area Public School District will need to replace its school board's vice president.

Eric Geiss emailed his resignation to Board President Kevin Blake, announcing he would step down immediately.  Geiss cited personal reasons for his decision.

"I regret any inconvenience that my resignation may cause," Geiss said in his email, which was relayed to Newswatch 12 through the MAPS Administrative Office. "I have enjoyed the experience and am honored to have worked with you in service of the students and the district, helping transform the board's reputation and community relationships. I do believe we have done very good things for our kids, the future of the district and the community."

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