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Merrill voters agree U.S. job creation is a vital issue in this year’s presidential race. Many said they will vote for Republican Mitt Romney, because they have faith in his ability to balance the budget. Others think President Obama is more in tune with the country’s middle class. A few said neither is fit for the job.  
These photos are part of Wisconsin Public Radio's Road to November series. Reporters Maureen McCollum and Lindsey Moon are traveling north along Highway 51 talking to voters about the election all this week. What issue is most important to you? Tweet @WPRNews #WIpolitics. Find updates from the road on WPRNews' Facebook page.

In Merrill, the presidential race is close - literally. Volunteer campaign offices for both President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney are in the same building.
Wednesday morning, Judy Ayer was volunteering at the Lincoln County Republican campaign. She sat in a metal folding chair amidst tens of yard signs for local, county, state and presidential candidates. Ayer lives outside Merril on an 80 acre farm and has worked as a nurse for 34 years in Wausau. She spends a majority of her free time volunteering with the Republican Party and Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
Ayer says she's scared of the country’s debt and what it will mean in the future. In addition to solving the country's debt problems, she wants to be able to earn more money per paycheck after taxes than she does now. “I just think Mitt Romney is wiser with money,” she said.
I asked her if people from opposing parties ever have run-ins since the...

Between 8:45 and 9:00 a.m. on weekdays, a group of retired Merrill men usually meet at a local restaurant for their morning coffee. It's an out of the way place, behind an old fire house in a concrete building. 
On Wednesday, seven retired men, most unshaven and dressed in jeans, flannel, and fleece, poured their coffee and discussed Tuesday night’s presidential debate. 
The group poked and prodded each other about Big Bird’s 15-seconds of fame or how one thought Mitt Romney was a "lightweight" for being the governor of a state a fraction of the size of Wisconsin.
Ray Bollmer, a retired junior high and high school math teacher said he’s voting for President Obama. He believes Democratic-led governments let middle class citizens keep more of their money than Republicans do.
“I’m a lifelong Demipublican or Republicrat,” he said. Bollmer belonged to the Young Republicans when he was young, but says he votes for the best candidate, no matter...

If you take Exit 113 off Highway 51, you'll drive into Westfield, “Where the pioneer spirit lives on.” A large statue of a pioneer greets travelers, along with a military tank and large Romney/Ryan sign. We heard varying opinions about the election from voters in town -- including a group of seniors.
Five days a week, about 45 retirees have lunch together at the community center in Westfield. But before anyone eats, they say grace.
Tuesday, the community lunch program served roasted pork, carrots and corn, and sweet potato tots. Sixty-seven year-old Kathleen Collins, who lives outside of Westfield and thoroughly enjoyed her meal. She says for some of the people, this is the only meal they’ll have all day.
"A lot of people here don’t have enough at home to feed themselves. That’s why this is a good program,” she explained.
The Westfield senior lunch program receives some federal funding. Collins says with all the...

Some people in state Rep. Roger Rivard's district say they're not swayed by a controversy over remarks he made in a local newspaper. Rivard was quoted as saying "some girls rape easy" -- a comment that's led some top Republicans to put some distance between themselves and Rivard.    
Rivard’s comment was first printed in the Chetek Alert just before Christmas 2011. The article was a one on one discussion with the legislator about statutory rape and juvenile sexual assault. Rivard says his comments were taken out of context and he was actually repeating a warning from his father, that consensual sex one night could be considered rape the next day. Ryan Urban is the Chetek Alert’s News Editor, “Initially I know some people took offense to it and actually did forward the story on to major news outlets statewide and nationally but it didn’t gain any traction then.”
But while much hay is being made over Rivard’s statement...

While many across the state gathered for presidential debate parties Tuesday night, a group of people in Madison held a pre-debate party to hear opposing views on immigration reform from two immigrants.
The immigration debate at a restaurant on the shores of Lake Mendota was part of a series of debates sponsored by the group Reach Out Wisconsin. For the past year each month organizers have invited people of opposing viewpoints to speak on controversial issues to an audience that includes people from both sides of the political divide. The goal is to promote civil dialogue. Todd Osborne is a Tea Party organizer he says he welcomes the opportunity rub shoulders and viewpoints with liberals, "Usually when I'm talking politics I'm preaching to the choir, I'm talking to people that have my own views. Outside of this group I don't get much liberalism."
At another table, Karen McKim, a self-professed progressive says she comes to these gatherings because...

Civil rights groups in Milwaukee are demanding that an anonymous  foundation take down billboards that warn voters not to vote illegally. But the company that owns the billboards won't identify who paid for them.
A coalition of civil rights groups in Milwaukee is urging people to sign an online petition calling on Clear Channel Outdoor to remove more than a dozen billboards in African American, Latino, and student neighborhoods in the city. The billboards are similar to ones that appeared in the same neighborhoods during elections in both 2008 and 2010. The  billboards warn in large block letters that voter fraud is a felony punishable by 3 years in prison and a ten thousand dollar fine. Mike Wilder of the African American Round Table calls the signs a blatant attempt to suppress the minority vote.
"A lot of people think you still have to have an I-D to vote in the state of Wisconsin, that's not true. A...

Things are "heating up" in the race for northeastern Wisconsin's eighth Congressional district. The Democratic challenger says he wants to take his opponent up on an offer for a cup of coffee and a frank discussion. 
Republican Reid Ribble took to the television last week with an ad showing him in a kitchen with a cup of coffee. The incumbent accuses Democrat Jamie Wall of "stalking" him and posting video of his house online. The video was taken by "trackers" employed to record what candidates do and say, "It's creepy and it's got my wife worried about being home alone and that's not right. I'll make this easy for Mr. Wall he came come on over for a cup of coffee and we can discuss America's problems in a civil way."
This week Wall took to YouTube with a video of him trying to reach the Congressman at three different numbers, eventually leaving a message at the Appleton...

In the corner of the Merrill bowling alley bar, a handful of Mitt Romney supporters gathered to watch Tuesday evening’s second presidential debate. They mumbled under their breath at the television screen amidst a Tuesday night women’s bowling league, dartboards, and several neon bar signs.
Garth Swanson was just one voter there who said Romney is the candidate to solve problems the county faces.
“President Obama did a much better job than the first debate,” said Swanson. “But he was still a long way from winning.”
Swanson volunteers for the Republican Party of Lincoln County and spends about 14 hours a week campaigning. He wasn’t the only one who thought Romney did a better job than President Obama. Lincoln County Republican Party Treasurer Julie Stevenson was as impressed with the governor Tuesday, as she was after the first debate.
She does, however, worry people watch debates for the wrong reasons. “I just hope people will watch...

WPR: The Kathleen Dunn Show

Mayor of Milwaukee and County Executive of Waukesha, then college political leaders

WPR: The Joy Cardin Show

Owen Robinson and Ed Fallone answer this week's Big Question: who made a better case in last night presidential town hall debate?

WPR: The Joy Cardin Show

Owen Robinson and Ed Fallone answer this week's Big Question: who made a better case in last night presidential town hall debate?

People we spoke with in Westfield say there are a variety of reasons behind their voting decisions. Several seniors who were eating lunch at the community center were worried what a Republican presidency would mean for the future of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Others said they will vote for Governor Romney because of their faith and conservative values. Many hadn't made up their minds yet. 
These photos are part of Wisconsin Public Radio's Road to November series. Reporters Maureen McCollum and Lindsey Moon are traveling north along Highway 51 talking to voters about the election all this week. What issue is most important to you? Tweet @WPRNews #WIpolitics. Find updates from the road on WPRNews' Facebook page.

This election season, Barbara Barton of Westfield is voting for Green Party Candidate Dr. Jill Stein. “I just don’t like what Obama has done with allowing Monsanto to play the GMO game,” she said. “He has had a number of opportunities to regulate them and hasn’t.”
Barton plays guitar with the band Jerry and Friends, a group that often plays live music for the elderly at community centers and nursing homes in the area.
During the lunch hour at the town’s community center, where the city serves meals to retirees who struggle to afford food, Barton debuted her new song about genetically modified fruits, vegetables, and plants. In it, she specifically criticizes Monsanto for the company's efforts to sell genetically-modified crop seed overseas.
Barton voted for President Obama in 2008, but says that she won’t cast her ballot for him in November. ...

Jeff Kleist is the owner of Frontier Spirits in Westfield. This election season, he's concerned about jobs.
"I've got so many friends who can't find work," he said. "As a small business owner, I don't know how anybody could want to vote for Obama.”
Kleist bought his liquor store about five years ago and since then has almost doubled its business. After working for a liquor distributor based in Arizona for 5 years, he moved back to his homestate to buy Frontier Spirits because he thought it was a better opportunity. He didn’t feel a sense of job security in Arizona.
In 2008, shortly after he bought his business, Kleist believed President Obama could be a voice for small business owners and help the working class. Four years later, he regrets that vote. 
“He just didn’t do what he said he was going to. I’m not voting for him again,” Kleist explained.
When Governor Mitt Romney announced Janesville Congressman Paul...

WPR: At Issue with Ben Merens

Ben Merens talks with Ronald Rapoport about the role of third party candidates in presidential elections.

WPR: At Issue with Ben Merens

Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil Goode talks about his campaign for the presidency and the issues he's focusing on.

Republican candidate Paul Ryan says he still believes in Congressional term limits, even as he's running for both re-election to the House this fall, and for Vice President.
At Rep. Ryan's town hall meeting in Waukesha Monday, a man in the audience asked if Ryan backs term limits for members of Congress. Specifically no more than six two year terms for the House of Representatives. Ryan, who's in his seventh term, said he once co-sponsored a term limit measure, "I've always been a fan of term limits."
Ryan notes it would take a constitutional amendment to set up Congressional term limits. If Ryan and Mitt Romney win the race for the White House next month, Ryan plans to resign his house seat, if he's also defeated his House contest opponent, Democrat Rob Zerban. Zerban says he also backs limiting House members to 12 years in office. Zerban says Ryan, now in his 14th year in Congress may be...

Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan used a Waukesha town hall forum Monday to attack Wisconsin's elections agency, accusing it of mishandling absentee ballots for military voters.
The Romney-Ryan campaign is suing the Government Accountability Board to try to give military and overseas voters extra time to return ballots. At issue are some municipalities that failed to send ballots before a federal deadline. Ryan was asked about the situation at his campaign forum and immediately blamed the state, "You can't selectively enforce our election laws. You can't selectively enforce voting rights. And of all the people who have a right to vote, it's our men and women in uniform, especially those that are overseas serving us right now."
Just how many people are affected by this depends on how you slice the numbers. The Government Accountability Board says clerks sent a total of 37 ballots less than 45 days before the election. Forty five days is what's required...

A central Wisconsin state Senate candidate is asking a city clerk to recuse himself in the upcoming general election because he is married to the candidate's opponent.
The request came in an October 4 forum in Wisconsin Rapids for the candidates for the 24th state Senate seat. Republican Scott Noble issued a demand that Stevens Point City Clerk John Moe step down from his post for the upcoming election because he is married to the incumbent state Senator, Democrat Julie Lassa, "I don't want someone that spends their weekends wearing my opponents t-shirt and handing out Packers schedules, when they come in at 8:00 Monday morning working on our votes. And it doesn't just apply in this race. It would apply in the presidential race. My opponent has done rallies for the President, and her husband is going to count the votes in the presidential election in Stevens Point."
Lassa called Noble's request a sign of desperation, "These...