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South side polling sites running smoothly despite COVID-19 fears on Election Day

Posted at 7:41 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 20:42:10-04

MILWAUKEE — As Election Day rolls on, polling sites on the Milwaukee's South Side are slightly slower, but still running smoothly.

"We saw a huge rush in the morning," Asst. Chief Aaron Lipski with the Milwaukee Fire Department said. "But since we got our rhythm going, it's going smoothly."

Local entities banded together to work the polls during the shortage. Along with the Milwaukee Fire Department, the National Guard and Milwaukee Health Department were at Hamilton High School all day.

Early in the day, voters said wait times were between 15 and 30 minutes.

"We are calling that a collective win," Lipski said. "Not only is it fast but a safe and healthy process in light of the pandemic."

"Public health, in general, has been doing what it can to postpone the election," Julie Katrichis, Director of Clinic Operations with the City of Milwaukee Health Dept. said. "This is not an ideal situation during a pandemic. But like [Asst.] Chief Lipski said, we've got to work with what we got and do the best we can to keep people safe."

Folks coming out to vote were determined to do so, even when wait times extended to an hour.

"That's my constitutional right to vote," Dale Sutton said. "If I had to stand in line all day long, so what?"

It was more of the same at South Division High School. Very few people were waiting outside during the day, and when they got inside, it only took about 20 minutes for voters to get through.

"I had to vote," Jadoris Daniels said. "I won't say who I voted for, but I had to get out and vote. I always vote."

Election workers were doing everything they could to keep the area clean and safe for voters. They looped through the gymnasium, maintaining proper social distancing, and poll booths were cleaned after every use.

"I think if we were responsible, we wouldn't have any voters at all today," Brad Hoeschen, Building Supervisor said. "But we're doing the best under an exceptionally difficult and unique set of circumstances to serve voters while mitigating the risk to both the worker and voters here."

Hoeschen believes things are running smoothly at South Division because voter turnout is lower than usual.

"I would like turnout to be higher," Hoeschen said. "But we're doing our best to conduct an efficient and safe election. We're doing it in spite of what politicians have given us."

It's been even more motivation to get out and vote for voters like Alex Williams.

"I don't know why the stubbornness of the powers that be needed to have this election on this day to risk people's health, but I think it's troubling," Williams said. "Voter suppression is a very real thing. A lot of states have pushed elections back. These smaller elections, these are my opportunity to really advocate for my community. Some times, big scale things don't get down to us small people here in Milwaukee."

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