- Associated Press - Sunday, April 27, 2014
Wisconsin lagging in online voter registration

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin may soon be in a minority of states that don’t allow voters to register online.

The state, long considered a model for its high voter turnout and election administration, seems stubbornly old-fashioned as it sticks to paper registration while others move to online systems that are simpler, cheaper and less prone to errors, elections experts told lawmakers recently.

Legislators from both parties have expressed interest in online registration, but progress has been stymied by a longstanding fight over same-day voter registration and other party divisions. Two bills that would have allowed online voter registration have failed to pass in the past four years, frustrating elections officials.

“Online registration is no longer cutting-edge innovation, it is a well-established and essential tool,” said Kevin Kennedy, director of the Government Accountability Board, which oversees Wisconsin’s elections. “We already have in place what we need to do. We need the legislative authorization to do this.”

Eighteen states have already adopted online registration, with Arizona pioneering the approach in 2002 and others following since 2007. Four states have approved the method and are working on the systems. Fifteen more states, including Wisconsin, are considering legislation, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, has pushed to pass a bill that would allow the Government Accountability Board to create a system permitting voters to register online, with data to be checked with records in other state databases.

The system would allow voters with a driver license or other identification to update addresses or names and register to vote up to three weeks before an election.

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Tips of cybercrimes against children skyrocket

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - State records show that tips about the online sexual exploitation of children skyrocketed while Wisconsin’s investigations of such cases languished.

The number of tips the state received from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tripled between 2010-11 and 2011-12, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1j463h6http://bit.ly/1j463h6 ). But over that period the number of Department of Justice staffers assigned to investigate Internet crimes against children remained the same at 31.

A DOJ agent and her supervisor recently lost their jobs after an internal investigation found they let child pornography cases languish for months.

The department receives hundreds of tips every year from the national center. DOJ agents investigate some while others are referred to local police agencies. In 2010-11, the center forwarded 366 tips to the department and other Wisconsin law enforcement agencies, prompting the state agency to open 145 cases, according to a 2013 report by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The following year, 2011-12, the center forwarded 909 tips, resulting in 450 new DOJ cases, the report said.

The number of tips for 2012-13 is not yet available, DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck said.

Nationwide, there’s been a huge jump in such cases, center spokeswoman Rebecca Kovar said. Kovar said her group has referred 2.4 million tips to state Internet crimes against children task forces since 1998 - half in just the past two years.

Attorney Dan Bach, who represents the former supervisor, Willie Brantley, said system-wide problems, including a ballooning caseload, have led to months or years of inaction in Internet cases involving child pornography, enticement or similar crimes against children. Both the large increase in cases and disagreement over who was in charge of tracking their progress may have led to some tips being overlooked and cases neglected, he said.

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Two Rivers police investigate fatal stabbing

TWO RIVERS, Wis. (AP) - Police in Two Rivers are investigating the death of a man who was stabbed and then crashed a vehicle into a house.

A police statement says officers got a call of a vehicle striking a house about 3 a.m. Sunday. They later determined the driver had been stabbed. He died later at a hospital.

A 54-year-old man was taken into custody.

Police say all the subjects involved in the incident knew each other, and there’s no danger to the community, which is in Manitowoc County in eastern Wisconsin.

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Shed fire kills 52 chickens in southern Wisconsin

TOWN OF CHRISTIANA, Wis. (AP) - A fire in a pole shed has killed 52 chickens in the Town of Christiana in southern Wisconsin.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office says its deputies and fire departments from the Cambridge and Deerfield fire departments got the call just before 4:30 a.m. Sunday.

The 20-foot-by 30-foot shed was fully engulfed when they arrived.

A statement from the sheriff’s office says the fire does not appear suspicious, and the preliminary investigation indicates a possible electrical issue as the cause.

The damage is estimated at $25,000. The shed is a total loss.

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