- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014
Appeals court to decide on Wisconsin voter ID law

CHICAGO (AP) - A U.S. appeals court was set to hear arguments Friday on whether a Wisconsin law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls should be reactivated in time for the November elections following a nearly three-year legal battle.

Attorneys for the state of Wisconsin’s Justice Department will defend the law in front of a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, while lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and minority rights groups will speak against it.

Under the measure adopted in 2011, those arriving at polling stations must produce a government-issued ID with a photo to vote. In most cases, it would be a driver’s license - though some other IDs are acceptable, including U.S. passports and military IDs.

Legal disputes over similar voter ID laws have arisen in nearly a dozen other states, including Pennsylvania and Texas. Republicans in Wisconsin and elsewhere who back the laws say they are designed to combat voter fraud. Critics say they are crafted to keep Democratic-leaning constituencies - such as minorities, poor people and immigrants - from voting.

How the 7th Circuit rules could influence how judges decide pending appeals in other districts, said Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, of the civil rights group Advancement Project, which will have a lawyer arguing against the law at Friday’s hearing. She characterized Wisconsin’s law as especially strict compared to other voter ID laws, calling it “one of the worst” in the county.

Attorneys for Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen argued in a recent 7th Circuit filing that more than 90 percent of Wisconsin voters already have IDs and that there is no correlation between race and the likelihood of possessing an ID.

“Neither plaintiffs nor the district court could even estimate to the nearest 100,000 what the number of impacted voters would be,” it says. “To assert that widespread ‘irreparable harm’ will result if (the law) is enforced is utter speculation based upon the inconclusive facts.”

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Things to know: Emails in Walker-related probe

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Thousands of emails collected during the first secret investigation into former aides and associates of Gov. Scott Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive were released Thursday. Here are a few things to know about the latest document dump in the long-running John Doe case:

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WHAT WAS RELEASED?

Plenty. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele’s office provided 7 gigabytes of documents, including more than 26,000 pages of emails from Walker’s county executive email account accumulated between 2005 and 2011. The material was collected during the now-closed investigation that resulted in six convictions on a variety of charges - but none against Walker. The tens of thousands of emails included messages from work accounts of those close to Walker, including chief of staff Tom Nardelli, spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin, and deputy chiefs of staff Tim Russell and Kelly Rindfleisch. Both Russell and Rindfleisch were convicted as part of the probe. She pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in office for doing campaign work on county time while Russell was convicted of stealing more than $20,000 from a nonprofit group Walker appointed him to lead.

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WHAT’S NEW?

Not too much. A review of the emails by The Associated Press did not immediately reveal any significant new details about the investigation or Walker’s knowledge of county workers doing campaign work on government time. Emails sent by Walker contain internal staff communications, drafts of news releases, speeches and responses to reporters’ questions, Christmas greetings, and personal messages in which Walker thanked supporters after his primary win for governor in 2010.

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Prosecutors: Former deputy planned homicides

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A judge doubled bail to $2 million Thursday for a former Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy accused of killing his wife and sister-in-law after prosecutors argued he had carefully prepared for the slayings by arranging the couple’s wills and leaving instructions on the care of their children.

Andrew Steele is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of his wife, Ashlee Steele, and sister-in-law, Kacee Tollefsbol. Police found both women shot in the Steeles’ Fitchburg home just outside Madison on Aug. 22. Prosecutors haven’t revealed any motive yet.

A court commissioner set bail at $1 million last month and ordered Steele to have no contact with his children or his wife’s family. Prosecutors this week moved to increase bail to $5 million, saying Steele had clearly thought out the slayings and was a risk to society.

Several family members have said Steele insisted that Tollefsbol, who lived in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, visit them in Fitchburg alone, the motion said. He signed the couple’s wills within 36 hours of the slayings and evidence shows he communicated with his parents about how to care for the couple’s children if his wife was absent. Steele also left a note on his phone detailing his plan, the filing said.

“Because of the meticulous planning and premeditation involved, there is a risk to other family members (including his own children) and to the community should the defendant be released or his bond lowered,” Assistant District Attorney Andrea Raymond wrote.

Prosecutors filed their motion after Steele’s defense attorney, Jessa Nicholson, filed a request Tuesday to reduce his bail to between $50,000 and $100,000.

Nicholson argued Steele can’t possibly raise $1 million. He’s unemployed after he resigned from the Dane County Sheriff’s Department in June following a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Funds his family raised to combat his disease are now either in a trust for his children or in escrow waiting to be donated to a charity and he can’t access any equity on the couple’s $336,000 home, she said.

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Emerald ash borer confirmed in Calumet County

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Emerald ash borer has been confirmed in eastern Wisconsin’s Calumet County.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection announced the discovery Thursday.

As a result, Calumet County will now be quarantined along with Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Outagamie counties. Emerald ash borer has not been found in those counties, but they are close to counties where the tree-destroying pest has been confirmed.

The Calumet County infestation was found in the Village of Sherwood.

The quarantines will apply to the entire counties. The Oneida Tribe is expected to decide soon whether to enact the quarantine within reservation boundaries.

Quarantines prohibit ash wood products and hardwood firewood from being moved to areas that are not quarantined.

Emerald ash borer was first found in Wisconsin in 2008 in Ozaukee County.

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