Republican Hypocrisy on Election
Why wouldn’t Vos, Fitzgerald postpone the election? Because they were safer.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is a brave man.
While refusing to postpone the election and make it a mail-in election only, Vos let the media know he would be volunteering at his polling place. But that’s in the small city of Burlington, which was planing to conduct a drive-through election only.
By contrast, the City of Milwaukee, should the election be held, could have 10,000 or more people coming to each voting location and would allow up to 50 people into the polling place at a time. Needless to say that would mean far more chances for human contact and the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Neil Albrecht, Executive Director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, invited Vos to work at one of Milwaukee’s polling places “located in the hot spots in the city,” as the Journal Sentinel reported. Vos hasn’t accepted the offer.
Gov. Tony Evers‘ just-announced decision to cancel the election will be challenged in the courts, and it’s far from clear how that will be resolved. But in understanding why Republicans felt comfortable going on with the election, you need to consider where they live.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald votes in the tiny city of Juneau, with a population of 2,680, which won’t be seeing many people congregating for the election.
These all tend to be areas represented by Republicans, while officials in heavily Democratic cities like Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and Racine, where voting in person involves large numbers of people gathering, have pleaded with the Legislature to postpone the election and move to a mail-in ballot vote only.
Most of the COVID-10 cases have been urban areas, where it is literally a life-or-death decision whether to work the polls or show up to vote. Half of all the cases in Wisconsin are in Milwaukee County, with most of those clustered in the black community. Milwaukee health officials have been pleading with African American residents to stay at home, to reduce the transmission of the disease.
But Vos seems oblivious to the problem. “Milwaukee could easily use city staff to open polling places like many other municipalities are doing in addition to their poll workers… It appears they want problems instead of an actual solution,” he tweeted.
“I think his commentary is very disrespectful and dismissive of the many people that have come forward to support this election and those that have had to make the difficult decision to decline out of concerns for their health,” Albrecht responded.
One such poll worker was Daina Zemliauskas who was scheduled to be a chief inspector at her polling place in Madison. She told Wisconsin Public Radio she was brought to tears by the decision she faced. “I feel guilty. I wanted to hold out,” she said. “But, of course, the risk was just too great.”
The most important thing government does is protect people’s lives. Across the nation, 15 states have postponed their spring election or gone to vote-by-mail only. Wisconsin was the only exception, the only one still holding an in-person election.
Dr. Robert Salata, an infectious disease expert with the UH Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine, told Cleveland.com that Michigan’s presidential primary “could be a possible factor in the state’s elevated cases,” compared to Ohio, “because large gatherings of people make it easier for the disease to spread.”
Why have Vos and Fitzgerald been the only public officials who didn’t move to protect people from disease and death? Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) told Urban Milwaukee that legislators of both parties could see the absentee vote in Milwaukee was down in the black community versus predominantly white wards. This would likely mean fewer votes for liberal Jill Karofsky, assuring the election of conservative Dan Kelly, who looked unlikely to win prior to the pandemic.
A lower turnout election generally favors Republicans and an election where urban voters face a much greater risk of getting a deadly disease is an ideal scenario for a GOP victory. Vos gave the game away with this comment: “I’m looking forward to the pride that I’m going to feel knowing that there were hopefully a million Wisconsinites who did the right thing and cast their ballot, whether by mail or in person, because democracy has to continue,” he said.
One million votes? That would be less than half the total for the 2016 Wisconsin presidential primary, when some 2.2 million votes. With that kind of election, Kelly’s election would be assured, as would the further spread of coronavirus.
If the courts do uphold Evers’ decision, there is likely to be a mail-in vote only, which is still likely to favor Kelly, but it won’t be as assured. But it will be much safer for the residents of Wisconsin.
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