Jeramey Jannene

Barrett Calls for Mail-In Only Election, Delay

Calls on governor to move back election "or this issue is going to explode."

By - Mar 24th, 2020 10:03 am
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Mayor Barrett speaking about the Strauss deal. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Barrett speaking about the Strauss deal in October 2019. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Add Mayor Tom Barrett to the growing list of officials calling for the April 7th Spring Election to be delayed. He’s reversed his earlier position that the election be held as scheduled and is now convinced the COVID-19 pandemic will put the lives of both poll workers and voters at risk.

The city had 189 positive cases as of Tuesday morning.

Barrett, in a letter sent Monday to Governor Tony Evers, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, asked for the election to be switched to mail-in only and delayed.

“Having monitored the situation we are experiencing in Milwaukee, I now believe that neither in-person absentee voting nor in-person voting on April 7 is feasible or safe for our workers or residents. Consequently, I am asking you to modify the election procedure and to conduct it through mail ballots,” wrote Barrett.

Barrett echoed those remarks in a call with reporters Monday morning. “There has to be a change, whether it’s all mail-in balloting, where it’s a new date, this issue is going to explode,” said the Mayor.

The City of Milwaukee announced it would close its three early voting sites on Sunday evening citing a shortage of workers and concerns for their safety. In his letter, Barrett said the city must relocate 25 polling sites to protect high-risk populations.

But even if the city can find suitable replacements, and the cleaning supplies to operate them, it may not have the workers to operate them. Barrett said that Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht has told him “we are losing the commitment of dozens of election workers by the hour.” The city had previously announced a shortage of 900 workers.

“This is very real. In good conscience I would not ask one of my loved ones to sit in a room for hours greeting dozens of people during this pandemic. I can’t expect citizens of my city to do that either,” wrote Barrett.

But switching to mail-in voting, as is done in Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington, would not be something the city could do easily. Barrett and Albrecht had already raised concerns that the city wouldn’t be able to process all of the mail-in ballots on election day and state law prevents the city from starting early.

“I recognize that a ballot by mail election presents its own  challenges. It will take more time and could not be completed realistically by April 7,” wrote Barrett.

Barrett, unlike Vos, Evers, Fitzgerald and any state legislators, appears on the ballot. Milwaukee voters will find a number of races on their ballot, including a Presidential primary, statewide race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, a referendum for Milwaukee Public Schools and local races for mayor, county executive, Circuit Court, Milwaukee Common Council, and Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

“Timing is of the essence. Every day spent preparing for in-person voting is a lost opportunity for municipalities to retool their election systems and regain traction with meeting the already heavy demands for absentee ballots.”

By state law, the city is required to provide in-person voting at polling sites across the city on April 7th. Last week both Evers and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald publicly expressed their desire to continue to hold the election given the fact that voting is already underway and a number of races beyond the Presidential primary are on the ballot.

You can read the entire letter on Urban Milwaukee.

Voters have until March 30th to register to vote online. Registered voters can request an absentee ballot through April 2nd, but are encouraged to do so sooner.

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Categories: Politics

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