Vote Absentee, Local Officials Plead
Barrett, Abele warn that crowds at polling centers represent a threat to public health.
There are only 24 hours left in the State of Wisconsin to request an absentee ballot, and local elected officials in Milwaukee are pleading with the public to do so as crowds at polling places represent a serious threat to public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have not yet requested an absentee ballot, you can do so by Thursday, April 2 at 5 p.m. by going to myvote.wi.gov.
Local elected leaders are pleading with residents to vote absentee. In the City of Milwaukee polling sites have been reduced from 180 to no more than 12. And the city has less than a third of the number of poll workers they normally use, and that number “continues to dwindle daily,” said Neil Albrecht, executive director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission.
“Obviously these voting centers are contradictory to good public health and the concept of avoiding community gatherings,” Albrecht said. It is hard to predict turnout, but Albrecht said there could be 40 to 50 thousand people showing up to polling centers next week Tuesday.
And around the state a shortage of poll workers is affecting the ability of local governments to safely hold an election during the pandemic. There are 111 municipalities in the state right now that have zero poll workers available for the election next week. And others are greatly reducing the number of polling places.
It was reported Wednesday that Wisconsin National Guard troops will be used to staff polling places. This is something Albrecht said election commissioners had requested from the state 45 to 60 days ago. “It’s a little too little too late, really, to integrate members of the national guard into the operations of our polling sites right now,” he said. Other than for crowd control and enforcing social distancing.
“I don’t think that’s good public policy,” he said. “I think it’s dangerous during a pandemic.”
Abele repeatedly told the press that postponing the election won’t kill anyone, but holding it in April very likely will. “One thing we know for certain, is that the safest way for you to vote is to vote absentee,” said Barrett.
A record breaking number of voters have already requested absentee ballots in the City of Milwaukee and the 18 other municipalities in Milwaukee County. Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy, chair of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council said Bayside has 60 percent of the electorate requesting a ballot, in Glendale they have 50 percent, and in Franklin 45 percent. Albrecht said the city has issued 75,000 absentee ballots. That’s 5 times as many were requested in 2016.
These massive numbers of absentee voters are expected to cause delays in election results by up to two days. There are also concerns that many trying to participate in the election will not have their vote counted.
Under state statute, all absentee ballots must be received by local election commissions on April 7th, the day of the election. But the latest information, Albrecht said, is showing that it can take a week to receive a ballot after it is requested, and another week for your local election commission to receive it after you mail it. Albrecht said the deadline for receiving absentee ballots is a “very unrealistic time frame.”
As of this writing, U.S. District Judge William Conley is considering appeals made to allow ballots received after election day to be counted. Many of the local elected officials who have long asked for postponement of the election hope at least this will be granted.
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