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Observers say it could come down to Wisconsin; Polls will be heavily monitored today; Stillwater bridge to reopen in early December; more briefs

The polls are open as the eyes of the nation watch Wisconsin and a handful of other presidential battlegrounds.

Ohio was considered by many to be the most crucial in state in play. And if Republican Mitt Romney takes Ohio tonight, some observers believe the race could come down to Wisconsin.

Republicans have not carried Wisconsin since 1984 when Ronald Reagan won his second term in the White House.

Democrats believe President Obama has nailed down Wisconsin again after winning the state by 14 points last time, but the GOP has put on a full-court press with native son Paul Ryan of Janesville as Romney's running mate. They also hope that former governor Tommy Thompson continues to show his popularity of old in a tight race with Democrat Tammy Baldwin.

Today Wisconsinites will not have to show photo ID's to vote, as the result of two judicial rulings which Republicans continue to challenge. But voters must still sign log books. Those who register at the polls must prove that they've lived at their present addresses for 28 days.

Also, Republicans ended voters' ability to choose a straight party. They must vote for all races individually. The Wisconsin polls close at 8 p.m.


Polls will be heavily monitored today

Federal and state authorities - along with political parties, partisan groups and private watchdogs -- will monitor today's activity at the polls.

They'll all be on the lookout for possible irregularities or voter fraud.

Some poll watchers displayed aggressive behavior during the Walker recall voting this summer so state elections' officials required that observers stand at least six feet away from poll workers.

In Milwaukee, there will be designated areas for observers at each polling place. When they get full, Election Commission chairman Neil Albrecht says that's it.

In the recall elections, Republicans complained that poll workers did not get acceptable proof of residency for some who registered at the polls, while the League of Women Voters said some voters were illegally turned away because of disputes over the residency requirements.

The state Government Accountability Board conducted training in the hopes that those problems won't re-surface today. The GAB also set up a website for voters who have questions on matters like this. It has a plethora of voter information, and you can find it at


Stillwater Bridge to reopen in early December

Northwest Wisconsin commuters can resume using the Stillwater Lift Bridge in about a month for getting to and from Minnesota.

Crews say a rehabilitation project on the historic bridge is about 70% finished, and the work is on schedule.

The bridge is expected to re-open to vehicle traffic during the first week of December.

It's been closed for almost two months, and drivers have been using two alternates for crossing the St. Croix River - I-94 at Hudson and Hwy. 243 at Osceola.


Ryan is last to campaign in Wisconsin

Republican Paul Ryan had the last word among the major White House candidates on Wisconsin soil when he spoke at an airport rally in Milwaukee late last night.

The vice-presidential nominee from Janesville capped off an intense two-month period in which he, Mitt Romney, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden crisscrossed the state.

Ryan told a packed house of supporters in a chilly airport hangar that Wisconsinites elect leaders to keep their promises. He said President Obama has not done that.

Ryan said millions would go back to work under Mitt Romney's five-point plan to boost the economy.

As the crowd cheered, Ryan yelled, "We're going to do this."

If he and Romney carry Wisconsin, it would be a first for the Republicans since 1984. But some years, it's been extremely close. Democrat John Kerry took Wisconsin by just .4% over incumbent George W. Bush in 2004.

It was no contest four years ago, as Obama carried the Badger State by 14 points.

Obama and rock star Bruce Springsteen campaigned in Madison yesterday to a cheering crowd of almost 20,000. Last night in the Capital City, folk legend Bob Dylan predicted that Obama would win by a landslide. He made the prediction midway through his 1960's hit "Blowin' in the Wind," and the audience roared.


Teen gets jail term in 'hill-jumping' deaths

A 19-year-old Campbellsport woman will go to jail for causing a "hill-jumping" vehicle crash that killed three of her friends.

Prosecutors had only recommended probation for Carly Ottery. But Fond du Lac County Circuit Judge Dale English sentenced her to a year in jail, plus the five years on probation that special prosecutor Christian Gossett sought.

Ottery can leave jail for work, school and counseling, and she'll have to perform 100 hours of community service during each year of her probation.

Authorities said Ottery drove an SUV at 109 mph over a hillcrest last February after she and her friends had left a slumber party. The vehicle hit a bump before it flipped over in a field.

Sabrina Stahl, Katie Berg and Caitlin Scannell were killed. Six others, including Ottery, were hurt. All nine were soccer players.

This summer, Ottery pleaded no contest to her three original charges of homicide by negligent driving.


Authorities try to use sex-offender law to hold suspect in 40-year-old murder

Milwaukee authorities want to use Wisconsin's sex offender confinement laws to keep holding a man whom they believe killed a 9-year-old neighbor girl in 1970.

Prosecutors say they don't have enough evidence to convict Robert Hill, 73, for the actual murder. But he just finished a prison term for molesting four young girls, and he's being held at the Sand Ridge Treatment Center in Mauston because he's still considered a threat to society.

A court hearing will be held Nov. 19 on whether Hill should be committed indefinitely for psychiatric care.

Hill lived next to nine-year-old Donna Willing when she was raped and left underneath a car inside a garage on Milwaukee's west side. The case remained unresolved for almost a quarter century before the victim's sister asked police in 2004 to re-investigate.

A new petition for the confinement said Hill confessed to raping and killing young Donna, and he gave details about the crime that only the police knew before he recanted the confession a few years later.


Train-maker sues state

The state government is being sued by a train-maker which said it never got paid for two new trains it built from the existing Amtrak high-speed line from Milwaukee to Chicago.

But a Department of Transportation official claims that Talgo of Spain never built the trains to meet federal standards, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the units were never tested properly.

In March, majority Republicans scrapped new borrowing for a maintenance base in Milwaukee for the two trains. Gov. Scott Walker said at the time that the new units would most likely not be put into service.

Officials said the state could save $12 million a year in operating costs by not using Talgo's trains - something the company refuted.

The state and Talgo held a mediation session last week, but it did not settle anything.

Now, Talgo is asking Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas to approve Talgo's decision to end its contract with the state and to let the firm keep the trains so it can sell them to another state.

Former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle convinced lawmakers to hire Talgo with a no-bid contract to build the new trains with the possibility of more trains for a proposed Amtrak line from Milwaukee to Madison. But Walker scrapped that extension as part of a campaign promise.


Teen accused of slamming into squad car on I-94

A suburban Milwaukee teenager is due back in court today after he allegedly slammed into a Waukesha County patrol car while driving drunk on I-94.

The defendant's vehicle burst into flames upon impact, and his passenger was killed.

Ihor Sahan, 18, of St. Francis is being held on a $100,000 bond on a charge of drunken homicide and two counts of causing injury while under the influence.

Authorities said Sahan's blood alcohol level was .135 when he lost control on the Interstate near Brookfield early last Thursday.

Officials said the vehicle was speeding at 74 mph when it slammed into a patrol car in the median in which two sheriff's deputies were watching for speeders.

The deputies suffered non-life-threatening injuries but were able to pull the two teens from their burning car.

Sahan's passenger, Ryan Petri, 17, died Saturday, two days after the crash. Sahan suffered minor injuries.

He told officers they were returning home from a concert in Madison where he had six vodka and Gatorade drinks in a one-hour stretch.