- Associated Press - Sunday, March 30, 2014
Redistricting shores up GOP hold in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin has long been a politically competitive state, with the governor and other offices flipping between parties, but Republicans in 2010 took advantage of their legislative majority to redraw congressional districts to strengthen their majority hold on the delegation in Washington.

A prime example of this is in central Wisconsin, where Democratic communities were shifted into a now-bizarrely shaped 3rd District in exchange for Republican areas that put the northern 7th District more solidly in the GOP’s block.

Democrats, activists and others have objected that the process was unethical. However, their complaints aren’t gaining any traction since Republicans retain power in the state Legislature and, thanks to the maps they drew, are likely to keep it for the foreseeable future.

“We no longer have any congressional districts that are competitive in the state of Wisconsin,” said Democratic state Rep. Fred Kessler, a former judge who has worked on redistricting issues in Wisconsin and other states since the 1960s. “Here we’ve had the politicians choosing the voters, rather than the voters choosing the politicians.”

The Republican-friendly maps drawn by the Legislature in 2011 can explain how the GOP was able to make gains in the 2012 election at the same time President Barack Obama carried the state by nearly 7 points. Despite the statewide win, Republican Mitt Romney carried five of the state’s eight U.S. House districts, 17 of 33 state Senate districts and 56 of 99 state Assembly districts.

In the three House districts held by Democrats, Obama won by 11 points, 38 points and 51 points, respectfully. Obama lost in all five districts held by Republicans by between 3 and 24 points.

Even under the new maps, three congressional districts currently held by Republicans - the 1st, 7th and 9th - still remain competitive, said University of Wisconsin political science professor David Canon who studies redistricting.


Woman’s body found in Jefferson County cornfield

TOWN OF INOXIA, Wis. (AP) - Authorities are trying to identify a body that a passing motorist found in a Jefferson County cornfield.

The driver reported noticing something out of the ordinary around midday Saturday a short distance off the road in the Town of Ixonia. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office says it turned out to be a woman’s body. The department did not release any other description of the body.

The county coroner requested an autopsy, and the sheriff’s department asked other law enforcement for any leads or information on missing people that might help identify the body.

Milwaukee police spokesman Lt. Mark Stanmeyer says his department is awaiting the autopsy results and identification of the body to see if the death is connected with any of its investigations.


Report: Wisconsin police can track cellphones

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) - Police in Wisconsin have at least two devices that secretly track cellphone locations in real time to target suspects or missing persons, according to a published report.

The technology mines data from hundreds or thousands of unsuspecting people nearby. The devices are known by the trade name Stingray, Gannett Wisconsin Media reported this weekend (https://shebpr.es/1iONooohttps://shebpr.es/1iONooo ). The report said the devices raise concerns for privacy advocates because law enforcement officials won’t say how often they use them, how the data is used or kept, or whether they get a warrant from a judge before using the technology.

Law enforcement officials declined interview requests and redacted references to the Stingray in public records requested by the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team. But documents show that the devices have been used for years by both the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Milwaukee Police Department.

The DOJ device has been in use since at least 2006 and is loaned to federal, state and local agencies for use throughout Wisconsin and neighboring states, according to the report.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is considering whether a warrant to use a Stingray in a Milwaukee murder case was valid.

“We have very powerful technology that has very important consequences for our privacy, but we don’t have the kind of transparency necessary to kind of understand what the contours of the issue are,” said Byron Lichstein, a defense attorney arguing case. “Even if the targeted information is narrow, the amount and private nature of the information that can be collected is pretty striking.”

A suitcase-sized Stingray masquerades as a cell tower to trick cellphones into connecting to it. It can show phones within a mile or more, depending on the terrain. Records show the DOJ’s Stingray cost more than $150,000 and that the DOJ and Milwaukee police both purchased upgrade packages that topped $100,000.


Wisconsin students celebrate Final Four berth

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Thousands of students rushed onto State Street in Madison to celebrate Wisconsin’s 64-63 overtime victory over Arizona in the NCAA tournament, a win that sends the Badgers to the Final Four.

There were no arrests or injuries and there didn’t appear to be any property damage, Madison Police Capt. Brian Ackert told WISC-TV. But a construction company will have to check its scaffolding over a sidewalk after fans climbed up it during Saturday night’s celebration, he said.

Within sight of the state Capitol, students climbed trees and hung from windows, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. About 30 people hopped on top of a bus shelter, and one young man took a dive into the waiting arms of the crowd.

More than a dozen members of the Wisconsin Marching Band showed up and played to revelers. The thump of drums and the blare of brass cut through the night.

“It’s pandemonium on State Street,” shouted Matt Guyader, 18, a freshman from Kildeer, Ill.

The crowd broke into chants of “Final Four, Final Four” and “Let’s go, Badgers, let’s go Badgers.”

“It was crazy,” said Nick Gunowski, 20, a sophomore from Milwaukee. “We watched the game, walked out of the dorm and crowds of kids were running to State Street. It just happened.”

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