Wisconsin intends to go through with its April 7 elections despite the pandemic, and voters can make the process smoother and safer by considering two things:
Absentee voting is highly encouraged. Voters can still get absentee ballots and vote from home. Go online to myvote .wi.gov
- and click on “Vote absentee.” Voters might have to upload an image of their driver’s licenses or other ID.
Voters should order their absentee ballots soon. The ballots, which are mailed back to the local clerks, must arrive by 8 p.m. on Election Day. If someone orders a ballot April 2 and doesn’t get the ballot back in time, it could be disqualified.
- Emergency poll workers are needed. Voters still will be able to come to the polls, but many of the longtime, elderly poll workers are sitting this one out.
The clerks who run elections are counting on extra help from younger people, and they’re also considering drafting municipal or county employees to help.
“All indications are that we’re going to have an election, and we’re going to be prepared for it,” Janesville Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek said.
Godek needs a minimum of 150 new poll workers to replace those who are staying home.
Each municipality sets its own poll worker pay rate. Janesville pays poll workers $105 for the day.
Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson is trying to develop a list of new poll workers who could be sent to the municipality where they are needed. Wisconsin law allows poll workers to work any poll in their county of residence.
So far, she has only a few takers, but some college students have told her they will sign up.
Poll workers will mainly be opening absentee ballots and inserting the ballots in tabulators because a large number of people are voting absentee, Tollefson said.
A poll worker must be 18, a qualified Rock County voter, able to read and write English, not a felon or have mental incapacitation, and can’t be a candidate on the ballot.
Online training, including social distancing at the polls, will be provided.
The clerks who run elections are working on plans to make sure that people waiting in line to vote stay 6 feet from each other, Tollefson said. Some clerks are considering drive-thru voting.
Godek said all his chief election inspectors, who run the polls, have agreed—with some hesitation—to work Election Day.
“Our poll workers find the elections to be really, really important, and that’s why they do this, so even those who are calling and saying, ‘I just don’t want to risk it’ are very apologetic, and they feel bad,” Godek said. “But they have to do what’s right for their health and safety.”
Meanwhile, the more people who vote by mail, the better for the health of the community and for the smooth operation of the polls April 7. Godek said absentee requests are flooding in, about 4,600 of them Monday through Thursday of this week.