Election officials are urging people to vote from home via absentee ballot, but for those who come to the polls April 7, they are making changes to keep people as safe from the coronavirus as possible.
In Janesville and many other municipalities, tape on the floor will indicate where to stand in line, at least 6 feet from the voter in front of you.
But it’s possible to avoid all that potential for catching COVID-19.
“Vote absentee by mail. Do it now. Don’t wait,” Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson said with urgency in her voice.
Tollefson urged people to request ballots online at myvote.wi.gov.
“A clerk has 24 hours to mail out a ballot once a request is received. I can tell you they are working some long hours to make this happen,” Tollefson said.
Those who must register or get an absentee ballot in person should call ahead to their clerk’s office.
Tollefson, representing many of the rural municipal clerks, said many are restricting hours because of the virus.
“If you come in and you don’t know you’re a carrier, and you give it to the clerk, the clerks are going to give it to everybody else they meet that day. We don’t want to help the spread,” Tollefson said.
She suggests that voters who don’t get their absentee ballots until the last minute deliver them by hand to the polls or their clerk’s office. Ballots that don’t arrive by 8 p.m. April 7 won’t be counted.
New polling places
Janesville has combined some polling places for this election, which typically sees low turnouts and might see even lower turnouts with this virus-inspired wave of absentee voting.
Janesville voters who normally vote at New Life Assembly of God, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. Mark’s Church, First Lutheran Church or Blain Supply will vote instead at the old Sears store in the Janesville Mall, 2500 Milton Ave.
City Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek said the Sears store, at 65,000 square feet, will provide 30,000 more square feet than those four polling places combined, which will help with social distancing.
And Janesville voters who vote at the Rock County Job Center, Mount Calvary Church or Faith Lutheran Church will vote at the Rock County Job Center, 1900 Center Ave.
Godek didn’t have square-feet figures for those polling places but noted the Job Center has lots of room.
Elsewhere in Janesville, those who vote at Hedberg Public Library or City Hall will continue to vote at those places. Those facilities are large enough to encourage social distancing while voting in person.
These social distancing measures will be taken at all polling places.
Godek said rectangles 6 feet long with an “X” in the middle will be taped onto the floor. Voters will stand on the “X” until instructed to move forward.
Voting stations will be at least 6 feet apart. Voters are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ballpoint pens, and hand sanitizer will be available at entrances and exits from the polls, Godek said.
Poll workers will sanitize polling stations repeatedly during the day, perhaps at one-hour intervals, Godek said.