National Guard Will Work Election, Again
Guards will work polls in all 72 counties.
Governor Tony Evers is mobilizing members of the Wisconsin National Guard to assist poll workers during the upcoming August 11th election.
There’s no word yet on how many guard member will be activated, but they will be in all 72 counties. And no guard members currently serving in the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be pulled from those duties to work at polls, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
“Time and time again the guard has stepped up to help their neighbors, friends, and communities, as they will be doing on election day by helping to ensure that every Wisconsinite can vote safely without fear for their health,” Evers said in the release.
Guard member will be serving at polls in their home counties and wearing civilian clothes. “This is truly neighbors helping neighbors,” said Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader in a statement.
During the spring election, 264 members served at polling places in Milwaukee County. You may not have noticed because they were wearing their civilian clothes. For that election, county clerk George Christianson said the guard members underwent baseline training as chief election inspectors, registration official training and COVID-19 mitigation training. On the day of, they served as poll workers, assisted with curbside voting, sanitized polling places, set up and tore down polling places and even worked as greeters.
This is the third time guard member have been activated to work at election sites. In April, more than 2,400 guard members worked at polling places around the state. And in May, 160 went to northern Wisconsin to work at polls during the special election called to fill former U.S. Representative Sean Duffy‘s vacated seat in the 7th District.
The state has experienced a crippling shortage of poll workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many are worried about the potential health consequences of coming in contact with so many people. Voting, too, has suffered. In-person voting during the 2020 spring primary was half of what it was during the spring election in 2016. And even with mail-in voting, total turnout was half what it was in 2016.
In April, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitizing agents were a concern everywhere, even among healthcare providers. To prepare for the coming election, in recent weeks, the guard worked with the Civil Air Patrol and the election commission shipping PPE, hand sanitizer and wipes, spray bottles, to counties around the state.
“As Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen, we’re honored to fulfill this role and to help our state during a time of need,” Blader said.
The City of Milwaukee, which faced criticism in April for only operating five polling sites, plans to operate more than 150 this time. City officials were critical of the timing of the Guard’s deployment in April.
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