Graham Kilmer

Clerks Urge Vaccines for Election Workers

35 election clerks in state say election workers 'essential,' push Evers to give them priority for vaccines.

By - Feb 10th, 2021 12:56 pm
Dr. Ben Weston receives second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Photo courtesy of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Dr. Ben Weston receives second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Photo courtesy of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Milwaukee County Clerk George L. Christenson has assembled a group of 35 clerks from around the state to request that election workers be included in the next phase of vaccinations.

Election workers — as a class — are not included in the next phase of vaccination under the current guidelines for vaccination from the Department of Health Services (DHS) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are two elections coming up in the next three months, one of them next week, and the jobs performed by this pool of workers make them frontline workers, Christenson told Urban Milwaukee.

“It’s a tremendous amount of work that goes on in preparation for every election,” Christenson said. “It’s not something they can do from home, obviously.”

Election workers in the clerk’s office are programming for the election, putting together supplies for municipal clerks and remaining open to the public for candidates and voters with issues that need to be addressed before election day, he said.

“I’m very frustrated,” Christenson said, “because I believe that election workers were overlooked as the CDC put together their groupings.”

The clerk has been trying to get someone, anyone, in the administration of Gov. Tony Evers or with the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee to listen to his calls. He told Urban Milwaukee he has yet to speak to an actual person.

On Tuesday, he sent a letter, signed by 35 other county clerks, imploring the governor to make election workers eligible for vaccination. Milwaukee County Supervisor Joseph Czarnecki has also called upon the governor, asking for election workers to be vaccinated.

“The Center for Disease Control (CDC) ‘…identifies ‘essential workers’ as those who conduct a range of operations and services in industries that are essential to ensure the continuity of critical functions in the United States.’ We trust you agree that elections are critical to the continuity of our state and country,” the letter reads.

When the latest round of recommendations came down from the state regarding the next phase of vaccinations, Christenson said, “I was shocked and saddened to see they were overlooked given we just went through one of the most publicized, contentious and dangerous elections in history, and of course with the recount that was a whole other layer of danger.”

Both the scale and manner of the 2020 election made it an unprecedented undertaking for election workers. It was one of the highest turnout elections in recent history, with the largest number ever of mail-in ballots.

In Christenson’s office, there are five people working in the office every day, in close quarters, “that are extremely essential and critical to this election and don’t qualify under any of the groups,” he noted, and don’t qualify for vaccination.

The clerk said his advocacy for his employees and election workers is not intended to benefit them at the expense of other groups’ vaccine access. As the top election official in the county he said he feels it’s his duty “to ensure that our elections are conducted safely, fairly, securely and I feel it’s part of my job to advocate for those individuals who are out there doing their jobs.”

Christenson said “it’s just awful that our society has been put in this position by our former president,” given that the pandemic has been going on for nearly a year, and the federal government should have had a clear plan and the ability to do more vaccinations.

In early February, the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC), which has been making recommendations to DHS for each phase of vaccination, halted their deliberations until there was clear guidance from President Joe Biden’s administration on the national vaccine strategy.

Christenson said this hiatus presents an opening for the state to once again consider election workers for eligibility. 

Read the letter from county clerks to the governor here.

More about the Coronavirus Pandemic

Read more about Coronavirus Pandemic here

Categories: Health, MKE County, Weekly

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