Pandemic Decimates Urban Polling Places
Lack of workers leaves few voting sites open in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine.
Wisconsin’s April 7 election has been subject to confusion, whiplash and litigation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But in-person voting has already been greatly affected by coronavirus. A shortage of available poll workers forced jurisdictions around the state to consolidate polls.
In a survey conducted by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, 111 municipalities said they had a “critical” shortage of poll workers — meaning they couldn’t open one polling location — and 126 other municipalities said they had a “serious” shortage of poll workers, forcing consolidation.
WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe said at a press conference Monday it’s impossible to know how coronavirus will affect turnout. More than 1.2 million voters have requested absentee ballots as of Monday, according to WEC data. About 720,000 absentee ballots had been returned, as of Monday morning.
The last two spring elections that had presidential primaries, 2012 and 2016, had turnouts of 1,144,351 and 2,113,544, respectively.
However it’s possible the decreased number of polling locations will cause more people to be packed into the few locations that are open — going against public health guidelines of social distancing and avoiding crowds.
The Wisconsin National Guard has been mobilized to fill the gaps in poll workers. Wolfe said at the press conference around 2,500 service members had been deployed to their home communities and would be working at the polls in plain clothes.
“The National Guard did conduct intake with nearly 2,500 service members … serving as poll workers in plain clothes in counties and communities where they live and reside,” Wolfe said. “They reported to their counties today to receive additional training, in municipalities where we know there’s a need.”
But even with the National Guard filling in, the pandemic has severely limited the ability to vote in person around the state.
The maps below show the impact poll consolidation has had on Wisconsin’s five largest cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine. These five cities have a combined population of more than 1.1 million people.
The five counties these cities are in account for 508,331 of the state’s absentee ballot requests — almost half the total.
On the maps, in gray, are pins noting poll locations open for Wisconsin’s 2019 April election. In red, the poll locations open tomorrow.
To see more detail, click the sidebar button at the top left of each map –
Milwaukee — Wisconsin’s largest city, has gone from 180 voting locations to five. It is also the location of the state’s largest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 1,000 confirmed cases as of Monday evening.
Madison has had to relocate poll locations across the city. City and Dane County officials have repeatedly warned against in-person voting.
Kenosha is down to just ten poll locations, about half its normal number.
Racine, which will still open most of its polling places, has moved to curbside voting as if it were a drive-thru. Laying out detailed instructions on the city’s website for how people will drive through parking lots to cast their vote.
Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.
- Why Don Natzke Couldn’t Vote - Enjoyiana Nururdin - Aug 9th, 2020
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report highlights public health measures taken by the Milwaukee Health and Fire Departments, Department of Administration, Election Commission, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Aug 4th, 2020
- CDC Says Election Did Not Cause COVID-19 Spike - Erik Gunn - Aug 4th, 2020
- Pandemic Reduced Black Vote, Study Finds - Dee J. Hall - Jun 25th, 2020
- Did April Election Hike COVID-19 Cases? - Alana Watson - May 20th, 2020
- Elections Commission Notes ‘Lessons Learned’ - Henry Redman - May 19th, 2020
- Wisconsin Elections News: WEC Releases Analysis of Absentee Voting in April 7 Spring Election - Wisconsin Elections Commission - May 18th, 2020
- Election’s Impact on County’s COVID-19 Cases Unclear - Jeramey Jannene - May 6th, 2020
- Why State’s Voting By Mail Was Chaotic - Daniel C. Vock - May 4th, 2020
- At Least 40 COVID-19 Cases Tied to Election in Milwaukee - Graham Kilmer - Apr 24th, 2020
Read more about 2020 Spring Primary here
- Milwaukee County Announces New Policies Related to COVID-19 Pandemic - County Executive David Crowley - May 9th, 2023
- DHS Details End of Emergency COVID-19 Response - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Apr 26th, 2023
- Milwaukee Health Department Announces Upcoming Changes to COVID-19 Services - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Mar 17th, 2023
- Fitzgerald Applauds Passage of COVID-19 Origin Act - U.S. Rep Scott Fitzgerald - Mar 10th, 2023
- DHS Expands Free COVID-19 Testing Program - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Feb 10th, 2023
- MKE County: COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rising - Graham Kilmer - Jan 16th, 2023
- Not Enough Getting Bivalent Booster Shots, State Health Officials Warn - Gaby Vinick - Dec 26th, 2022
- Nearly All Wisconsinites Age 6 Months and Older Now Eligible for Updated COVID-19 Vaccine - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Dec 15th, 2022
- City of Milwaukee Bi-Weekly COVID-19 Update - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Dec 9th, 2022
- MKE County: COVID-19 Disease Burden Remains Stable - Graham Kilmer - Nov 25th, 2022
Read more about Coronavirus Pandemic here