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Grant County had the highest soybean yield with an average of 64.7 bushels per acre

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Grant County had the highest soybean yield with an average of 64.7 bushels per acre


In 2023, Rock County led all Wisconsin counties in total soybean production, with 5.05 million bushels according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service 2023 Soybean County Estimates report. Dane (5.02 million), Dodge (4.92 million), Grant (4.63 million) and Lafayette (3.86 million) rounded out the top five counties with the highest production. 

Statewide, thirteen counties averaged at least 55.0 bushels per acre. Grant County had the highest yield with an average of 64.7 bushels per acre. Lafayette (63.2), Dodge (60.1), Fond du Lac (58.9), and Columbia (58.9) rounded out the top five highest-yielding counties. Forest County recorded the lowest average yield at 28.8 bushels per acre. 

Wisconsin yields are calculated by dividing a county’s production by its area harvested. Only published estimates were considered in rankings of counties.

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Find the full 2023 Soybean County Estimates report online here.



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Wisconsin Watch: Wisconsin voters with disabilities demand a better way to vote absentee

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Wisconsin Watch: Wisconsin voters with disabilities demand a better way to vote absentee


Don Natzke, 69, is seen in the backyard of his Shorewood, Wis., home on July 31, 2020. Natzke, who is blind, was unable to vote in Wisconsin’s April elections as the COVID-19 pandemic kept him from his in-person polling place and he was unable to fill out an absentee ballot. Photo by Will Cioci of Wisconsin Watch.

A new lawsuit seeks an electronic voting option so voters have a right to cast an absentee ballot privately and unassisted, but there are security risk concerns.

This article is republished from Wisconsin Watch.

When Stacy Ellingen, a 38-year-old Oshkosh resident with athetoid cerebral palsy, wants to cast a ballot, she relies on voting absentee because she can’t drive, and caregiver transportation to the polls is unreliable.

But even voting from her home is a struggle—and the process may well mean sacrificing her constitutional right to a secret ballot.

Unlike more than a dozen other states providing fully electronic absentee voting for people with disabilities, Wisconsin requires absentee voters to cast their votes on a paper ballot. Ellingen, a university graduate and small business owner, lacks the fine motor skills to fill out a paper ballot herself.

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She’s welcome to use help under current law, but Ellingen said she prefers not to have her caregivers assist because she usually feels uncomfortable sharing her political preferences with them. At times, she has turned to her parents, who live an hour away, for help filling out ballots, but they’re not always around.

Those obstacles have kept Ellingen from voting in some elections, she told Votebeat on Friday in a statement typed using an enlarged keyboard and an eye-gaze system. And she knows her obstacles under current law may only increase.

“Each election, a question always comes to mind: What’s going to happen when my parents are no longer here?” she said. “Will I be able to vote? I honestly don’t know. It’s a disheartening, but very real thought. Having to rely on my mom or dad for something I could easily do independently if given the appropriate accommodation is extremely frustrating!”

Ellingen is among four voters with disabilities who, along with Disability Rights Wisconsin and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, sued the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Tuesday to allow them to receive and return absentee ballots electronically, just as military and overseas voters in many other states do.

The lawsuit alleges that the state’s election system places undue burdens on the right to vote for Wisconsinites with disabilities. It also alleges that the state’s failure to provide accommodations within its absentee ballot system violates the Americans with Disabilities Act’s guarantees that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from government services.

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Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesperson Riley Vetterkind declined to comment for this story.

The issue isn’t unique to Wisconsin. Nationwide, 1 in 7 voters with disabilities faced difficulties voting in 2022, compared with 1 in 9 in 2020, according to a Rutgers University and SSRS analysis. Americans with vision and cognitive disabilities were likeliest to face difficulties voting, the analysis found. And Americans with disabilities were far likelier than nondisabled Americans to run into difficulties voting, whether absentee or at the ballot box.

Push for accessible voting grew during the pandemic

The Wisconsin case is similar to several successful lawsuits filed across the country. Many of those cases came amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which raised hurdles for voters with disabilities, because many of them couldn’t or didn’t feel safe voting in person, and voting absentee required them to complete ballots they couldn’t fill out alone. According to the lawsuits, that eliminated their right to a secret ballot, something every state either guarantees in its constitution or references in state law.

“A lot of us who have mobility and the transportation and so forth could go to the polls if we didn’t like the way that absentee ballots were handled, but during the pandemic it became mission critical to have, in more jurisdictions … a way for us to mark ballots independently,” National Federation of the Blind spokesperson Chris Danielsen said.

At this point, 13 states allow voters with disabilities to electronically fill out and return absentee ballots, according to the National Federation of the Blind. Others, like Vermont, Michigan, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, allow voters with disabilities to fill out ballots electronically, though depending on the jurisdiction they have to print and return them by mail, drop box, or in person.

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Ellingen said the problem in Wisconsin was especially infuriating given that accessible technology exists elsewhere.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand why this isn’t an option for everyone, but it should be at least available as an accommodation for those who are unable to cast a ballot independently,” she said.

Voters with disabilities, especially those who are blind or have low vision, have for years lobbied for more accessible absentee voting. But they have often faced pushback over the security of receiving, casting, and returning ballots electronically. Governmental election security experts say that sending digital copies of ballots to voters is safe, and that filling them out electronically is somewhat safe, but that returning them electronically adds significant security risks.

Still, filling and returning absentee ballots electronically is the gold standard for many people with disabilities, including blind and low-vision voters, Danielsen said. Allowing voters with disabilities to fill out a ballot electronically and return it by mail is a step in the right direction, but it’s inconvenient for people without printers, he said.

Lawsuit alleges “incomplete framework” for protecting right to vote

The Wisconsin lawsuit acknowledges that federal and state laws provide some accommodations for voters with disabilities, but they “focus on assistance to the detriment of independence,” which “forces voters to give up their constitutional right to a secret ballot.”

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State law previously allowed clerks to send absentee ballots over email and fax to any eligible Wisconsin voter. In theory, the measure allowed voters with disabilities to mark ballots electronically using a screen reader, a 2023 report by the Wisconsin Elections Commission stated.

But Denise Jess, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, said she never knew about or used the method. Don Natzke, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who’s blind, said the same.

“When you end up having a policy or opportunity out there that isn’t made available to people or knowledge brought to their attention, it sort of rings hollow,” Natzke said.

In any case, that option was taken away in 2011, when then-Gov. Scott Walker signed a bipartisan bill restricting electronic absentee voting only to military and overseas voters. A federal appeals court upheld the law in 2020, eliminating the ability for voters with disabilities to independently fill out an absentee ballot, the Wisconsin Elections Commission report stated.

“Voters with blindness or low vision still do not have an accessible absentee ballot or certificate
envelope that can be marked independently,” that WEC report stated.

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Natzke said he witnessed firsthand the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities.

Natzke, a Shorewood resident who has been blind since he was 12, said he has tried to vote in person in every election since the 1970s, but the COVID-19 disrupted that routine. Dealing with high blood pressure and concerned that his age made him more vulnerable to the virus, he instead opted for an absentee ballot in 2020.

Using a paper ballot in that spring election, Natzke held a phone in one hand to scan the text while trying to figure out with a remote helper where he should mark the ballot. He couldn’t ask his wife to guide him, because she is also blind.

The process, he told Votebeat, “became absolutely infeasible, and it wasn’t something that could possibly work out, so I abandoned it. And then because of the restrictions, not wanting to be exposed to the virus, I didn’t actually end up being able to vote for that election.”

Even if he had somebody to assist him in person with voting, it would have presented a COVID-19 health risk and compromised the privacy of his vote, he said.

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The lawsuit asks the Dane County Circuit Court to allow voters with disabilities to electronically receive, mark, and return absentee ballots. A federal appeals court in 2020 upheld the law restricting who can receive ballots electronically, but the case wasn’t brought by Wisconsinites with disabilities and didn’t contain the same claims as the lawsuit filed on Tuesday, the complaint states.

The plaintiffs aren’t asking the court “to develop and engineer a revolutionary method of accessible absentee voting,” the complaint states. “Enfranchising Wisconsin’s print disabled voters … is simply a question of implementing existing solutions.”

Thirty-one states, along with the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, allow military and overseas voters to receive, cast, and return ballots electronically, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At least a dozen of those states extend the same voting method to people with disabilities.

Lawmakers raise concerns over security of electronic absentee voting

Jess, who called the inability to vote absentee in an accessible way a “compromise of basic human dignity,” said she received pushback when she urged Wisconsin lawmakers to allow for electronic voting.

Specifically, she said, the lawmakers raised fears that transmitting and returning ballots digitally could allow somebody to tamper with them.

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Jess mentioned to lawmakers the less risky option of receiving and casting ballots electronically and then printing and returning the physical ballot, but she said, “there’s not even an openness to that.”

The Legislature’s two election committee chairs, Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, and Sen. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Federal agencies have also raised concerns over the security of electronically delivering, marking and, especially, returning ballots.

There are “effective risk management controls” to enable electronic ballot delivery and casting, but returning ballots electronically is “high-risk even with controls in place,” states a report by several federal agencies, including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Election Assistance Commission.

The risks of returning ballots electronically can affect an election’s results and occur at scale, the report found. It further stated that securing ballot return digitally while guaranteeing voter privacy and ballot integrity is “difficult, if not impossible, at this time.”

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But if election officials choose or are mandated to allow electronic ballot returns, they should allow voters returning ballots electronically to check their ballots’ status, the agencies stated. They recommended that its use be limited to voters who can’t vote any other way.

Voters with disabilities fit the category of people who have no other means to return their ballots privately and independently, said Eileen Newcomer, voter education manager at the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. While there may be security risks, Newcomer said the risk of voters’ being disenfranchised must also be addressed.

Despite warnings about the risks of electronic voting, there have been no instances of widespread electronic voter fraud or high-profile prosecutions of people alleged to have tampered with the electronic system that voters with disabilities use.

Voters with disabilities would have to understand the risks of returning ballots electronically if the lawsuit is successful, Disability Rights Wisconsin public policy manager Lisa Hassenstab said. But she said the organization didn’t want to budge on its request for electronic ballot return, because the alternative — printing and returning physical ballots — could sacrifice voters’ ability to vote privately and independently.

She also said current fears about security risks will soon be overcome by better technology.

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Between August 2021 and September 2022, the University of California, Berkeley, hosted a working group of election, technology, and cybersecurity experts to discuss the feasibility of creating standards to enable safe and secure electronic marking and return technologies.

The group found that widespread adoption of electronic return requires technologies that don’t currently exist or haven’t been tested.

The group pointed out six particular concerns that could threaten election security: client-side malware; the potential for people to hack voters’ computers; a targeted denial-of-service attack; the difficulty in verifying voters’ identities; the absence of a physical ballot that voters can verify; and the possibility that a small group of people could alter votes in bulk.

While the group cautioned against electronic return technology, it said eliminating that path for voting without reasonable alternatives could “produce an unacceptable risk to those with accessibility needs and would place election officials” at risk of violating federal laws like the Help America Vote Act and the ADA, the group stated. The group advocated for the research and development of technologies to improve accessibility.

Natzke said electronic voting would remove a barrier for voters with disabilities just as curb cuts in raised sidewalks made streets more accessible. “We need to have that curb cut because we know it can work,” he said

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“To not do that, when you know that it’s there, makes a statement, because it’s been done elsewhere,” he said. “So when there’s a choice to then not do it, it ends up really concerning me in terms of the position people with disabilities hold in the hands of our policymakers.”

This coverage is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan news organization covering local election administration and voting access. Sign up for Votebeat’s free newsletters here.

This story was produced as part of the NEW (Northeast Wisconsin) News Lab, a consortium of six news outlets.




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Penn State Softball Takes Two Of Three Against Wisconsin

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Penn State Softball Takes Two Of Three Against Wisconsin


Penn State softball (32-12, 11-6 Big Ten) battled against Wisconsin (17-26, 6-11 Big Ten) in a three-game series, where the Nittany Lions came out with another Big Ten series win. Bridget Nemeth started in the circle twice and won both games.

Game One

Freshman Bridget Nemeth got the start on the mound to start the series for the Nittany Lions. The first inning remained scoreless for both teams. With no outs on the board, Gaby Garcia hammered the ball over the left center-field wall to get things going for Penn State, 1-0.

Nemeth shined through the second inning, throwing five strikeouts and keeping Penn State in the lead.

At the top of the third, Maddie Gordon stepped up to the plate and hit a single to the short-stop, which got her to first base. Kaitlyn Morrison entered the box and put away a triple, getting Gordon all the way home. Garcia stepped back up to the plate after her homerun and hit a single down the left field line, getting Morrison home. The score was then 3-0 in favor of Penn State.

Nemeth and the defense didn’t allow a run from the Badgers until a double in the bottom of the sixth, giving Wisconsin their only run of the day. Garcia went three-for-three on the day, with an RBI and a dinger.

Penn State took the first game of the series 3-1.

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Game Two

Looking to take the series, Mady Volpe got the start on the mound for the Nittany Lions.

After two scoreless innings for both squads, Wisconsin exploded after a double sent the Badgers on base home to make the score 2-0. The Badgers continued their early campaign and scored again, 4-0.

At the top of the third, Jiselle Hernandez slammed the ball over the fence for her first collegiate home run.

After a walk, Penn State’s offense added a pair of runs at the top of the third.

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Midway through the third, Wisconsin added third more runs, making the score 7-2.

At the bottom of the fourth, Wisconsin hammered a home run and a double, taking their revenge for their loss yesterday, 10-2. Despite a solo home run in the fifth by Garcia, the Nittany Lions allowed the Badgers to walk all over them, the final score being 17-3.

Game Three

With a series on the line, Penn State started Nemeth on the mound.

At the top of the first, Morrison on the first pitch hit a single to get the game started. With Morrison on first base, Gordon slammed a dinger to left field, sending Gordon around, making the score 2-0.

To end the first, Wisconsin scored on an RBI double to make the score 2-1.

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With a player on third base, Haylie Brunson hit an RBI double, adding a run to the scoreboard. With strong defensive plays and solid pitching, the Nittany Lions keep the Badgers from scoring.

In the top of the sixth, Brunson solos a home run with one out, making the score 4-1.

With only two outs and bases loaded, Liana Jones hits a grand slam, extending the lead to 9-1.

Wisconsin managed to tally a run at the bottom of the sixth to avoid an early ending to the game. At the top of the seventh, Hernadez’s hit barely stayed fair to add another run for Penn State. To end the game, Nemeth struck out the Badgers, earning her 25th win as a freshman.

What’s Next?

Penn State will host Saint Francis at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23, for faculty and staff appreciation night at the Nittany Lion Softball Park and Beard Field.

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Alex is a first-year Journalism major from Tampa, Florida. If you want to debate any sport (including pickleball), she’s your girl. Her email is [email protected]!





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Prosecutor Won't Bring Charges Against Wisconsin Lawmaker Over Fundraising Scheme – KFIZ News-Talk 1450 AM

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Prosecutor Won't Bring Charges Against Wisconsin Lawmaker Over Fundraising Scheme – KFIZ News-Talk 1450 AM


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin prosecutor said Friday that she won’t bring charges against a Republican lawmaker accused of trying to evade state campaign finance laws in order to unseat the powerful speaker of the Assembly.

Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper said she would not be filing felony charges against Rep. Janel Brandtjen as was recommended by the bipartisan Wisconsin Ethics Commission.

She is the fourth county prosecutor to decide against filing charges against former President Donald Trump’s fundraising committee, Brandtjen and others involved in the effort to unseat Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Ultimately, the state attorney general, Democrat Josh Kaul, could be asked to prosecute the cases.

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The ethics commission alleges that Trump’s fundraising committee and Brandtjen, a Trump ally, conspired in a scheme to evade campaign finance laws to support the Republican primary challenger to Vos in 2022. It forwarded recommendations for filing felony charges to prosecutors in six counties.

Vos angered Trump by firing a former state Supreme Court justice Vos had hired to investigate Trump’s discredited allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Vos launched the probe under pressure from Trump, but eventually distanced himself from Trump’s effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s win in Wisconsin.

Trump and Brandtjen then tried to unseat Vos by backing a GOP primary opponent, Adam Steen. Trump called Steen a “motivated patriot” when endorsing him shortly before the 2022 primary. Vos, the longest-serving Assembly speaker in Wisconsin history, defeated Steen by just 260 votes.

The ethics commission alleges that Trump’s Save America political action committee, Brandtjen, Republican Party officials in three counties and Steen’s campaign conspired to avoid state fundraising limits as they steered at least $40,000 into the effort to defeat Vos.

Opper said her decision did not “clear Rep. Brandtjen of any wrongdoing, there is just not enough evidence to move forward to let a fact finder decide.”

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“I am simply concluding that I cannot prove charges against her,” Opper said in a statement. “While the intercepted communications, such as audio recordings may be compelling in the court of public opinion, they are not in a court of law.”



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