Officials prepare for lines at the polls Tuesday despite COVID-19 concerns

Posted at 1:56 PM, Apr 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-05 14:56:48-04

Wisconsin's primary election will go on as planned Tuesday after a special session to consider the governor's plea to delay it adjourned within seconds.

Gov. Tony Evers called for a special session Saturday afternoon to discuss a mail-only election in place of Tuesday's in-person vote. Lawmakers gaveled in and adjourned in a matter of seconds.

Gov. Evers released a statement that reads in part, "Republicans in the Legislature are playing politics with public safety and ignoring the urgency of this public health crisis. It’s wrong. No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote."

Some lawmakers from both parties expressed frustrations.

"Moving to an all mail ballot at this stage would just be a logistical nightmare," said Rep. Adam Neylon, R-Pewaukee.

"There's absolutely no reason why we couldn't do what all these other states have done," said Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, D-Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, cars lined the block in downtown Milwaukee Saturday afternoon as dozens of voters drove up to cast their ballots.

"There’s nothing wrong with absentee voting people, come on. If that’s what it takes to get the vote out, absentee voting," Carol Jackson said.

Neil Albrecht, the executive director of Milwaukee's Election Commission said about 800 voters per day have participated in drive-up voting, with about a 40-minute wait time. Drive-up voting ends Sunday, April 5, at 5 p.m.

On Tuesday, there will be five polling sites across the city, which Albrecht says are evenly placed at the center of three aldermanic districts. Only 50 people will be allowed inside the voting rooms at a time, and Albrecht expects there to be lines at the polls.

"This is unprecedented in the city of Milwaukee. and we appreciate all the public's patience," Albrecht said.

Milwaukee normally has 180 polling locations and 1,400 poll workers. This year the staff will fall to 350, and Albrecht says about 75% of those workers do not have prior election experience. Albrecht believes about 3,000 to 4,000 voters could turn out at the polls on Tuesday.

Albrecht also said the city is asking for 500 members of the National Guard to help staff the polls.

The city has issued about 87,000 absentee ballots, and about a third of those have returned, according to election workers. You can mail in or drop off your absentee ballot at a designated site by April 13.

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