In response to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately half of the poll workers scheduled to staff the upcoming Wisconsin primary election have stepped down.
According to reporting from the Wisconsin State Journal, many workers made the decision to either prioritize their own health or their prior commitment to work at the polling sites. Although the Wisconsin Elections Commission requested sanitation supplies for the workers, many workers still plan to step down due to concerns about COVID-19.
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Because polling locations must have at least three poll workers, or election inspectors, according to the Wisconsin Election Commission, clerks have been working quickly to find poll workers. According to the State Journal, they’ve even considered government staff and the National Guard. The other option would be to consolidate polling sites if they can’t find enough workers.
Consolidation could lead to larger crowds at polling sites than normal, the State Journal said, though hopefully more people voting absentee will prevent that.
Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Debra Cronmiller said some assisted living facilities have said they can no longer be a polling site because they are restricting public access to protect their residents.
“Some wards will, by necessity, need to be consolidated as 20 some across the city have already said they will not be a polling place,” Cronmiller said.
Since the University of Wisconsin closed to the public during the pandemic, Cronmiller said the clerk’s office is working to secure new polling sites. Cronmiller said the clerk’s office will likely move dorm polling locations because few students currently live on campus.
Despite many Wisconsin officials and local organizations calling for the election to be postponed, Gov. Tony Evers told the State Journal he has no official plans to move the date of the primary election back.
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“We’re working hard to understand the issues of what’s happening on April 7, but what we do know for sure is that what’s easiest to do is just go online,” Evers told the Wisconsin State Journal.
In a letter to Gov. Evers, the Wisconsin Elections Commission requested sanitation supplies, help with recruiting new poll workers and public health officials to help create safety guidelines. Additionally, the State Emergency Operations Center is helping to acquire hand sanitizer for polling sites, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Evers’ legal counsel, Ryan Nilsestuen, said in a March 20 letter the WEC Evers’ office has expedited the process of requesting an absentee ballot and provided hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies for poll workers. A state task force is helping recruit more poll workers.