What a year, eh? The RiverTown newsroom looked back on 2020 to compile lists of the most important news and sports stories covered by the Star-Observer and Republican Eagle. Check back to Top 10 Stories of 2020 over the next few days to see what made the cut.
Supreme Court rulings, a contentious presidential race and an ongoing pandemic made for a year of elections like no other.
As COVID-19 first started to ramp up in the United States, Wisconsin spring elections -- which put local offices such as city council and school board on the ballot -- was on, then off, then on again.
Gov. Tony Evers' administration issued an executive order to postpone the election, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court quickly overturned it. The court also ruled that absentee ballots had to be received by April 13 to be counted, a week after Election Day.
Polls opened that Tuesday to long lines, as municipalities limited capacity within polling places and implemented social distancing.
Polling places were dropped and combined in Hudson and River Falls, and both cities had difficulty staffing polling places. Some poll workers declined to volunteer, fearing potential exposure to COVID-19. Many Hudson poll workers were still willing, but City Administrator Aaron Reeves said the city did not feel comfortable as they tend to be older and in a more vulnerable category.
The National Guard helped fill some of the need in Hudson, both as poll workers and traffic control.
It was the first exposure to what an election looks like amid a pandemic and a preview of what was to come in the November general election.
The big election saw high voter turnout locally, with St. Croix County’s at 85% and Pierce County's almost 85%. Much of that turnout came before polls opened Tuesday morning.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court again had an impact, ruling that absentee ballots received after Election Day could not be counted.
Election Day stretched out, with many voters turning to mail-in absentee ballots or early voting days to avoid lines as polling places and potential exposure.
Hudson’s absentee votes were double that of its in-person ballots, City Clerk Becky Eggen said.
In River Falls, 5,120 people voted absentee compared to 2,636 in person.
The numbers were much the same in New Richmond: Election Day saw 1,627 in-person voters, while 3,635 people voted absentee, with about 1,500 voting in early in-person polls.
GOP prevails here
While President Donald Trump lost his reelection bid on the national stage to President-elect Joe Biden, locally Republicans retained control of major seats.
Wisconsin’s 10th District seat shifted back into Republican control as Rep. Rob Stafsholt beat incumbent Patty Schachtner. Schachtner flipped the district in the 2018 election, the first Democrat to hold the seat in 17 years.
Stafsholt’s Wisconsin Assembly District 29 seat was filled by Republican Clint Moses who beat out Democrat John Rocco Calabrese.
Republican Tom Tiffany held onto the Wisconsin 7th Congressional District seat against Democratic challenger Tricia Zunker. Tiffany was first elected to the position in a special election in January, after Sean Duffy stepped down.
Republican Shannon Zimmerman was reelected to the Wisconsin Assembly District 30 seat after being challenged by Democrat Sarah Yacoub.
Wisconsinites will be heading to the polls again soon enough with the spring 2021 elections.
The timing could mean yet another election under COVID-19 safety measures. While the first vaccine has begun to be distributed, current projections put wide-spread vaccination in May or June.
Local offices including city council and school board will be on the ballots.