Nearly two weeks after Wisconsin governor Tony Evers issued a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19, voters in the state are gathering at polling places to cast votes in the presidential primary and other down-ballot races.
Voting is taking place despite Evers’s last-minute attempt to postpone the election with an executive order Monday. It took less than four hours for the conservative State Supreme Court to rule that Evers does not have the authority to postpone election day. And later Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an attempt to expand vote by mail in the state.
And so today, April 7, is Election Day in Wisconsin. So what does voting look like in the middle of a global health pandemic that has led 2,511 Wisconsinites to fall ill and 85 to die?
Lines are excessively long
Unsurprisingly, Wisconsin is experiencing a poll-worker shorter given the coronavirus outbreak. Milwaukee, a city of 600,000, and the home to more than 150 polling places on a normal Election Day, will operate only five Tuesday.
Poll workers at those locations will be tasked with cleaning voting stations and helping voters maintain their distance. In Madison, poll workers have been provided with “hand sanitizer, Plexiglas to separate workers from voters and marks on the floor to denote six-foot distances so that voters can easily maintain social distancing,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
The contraction of polling places, along with an attempt to maintain a safe distance between voters, has led to long lines at the few sites that remain open.
In Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb with a population of 70,000, election officials opened just one polling place.
The shortage of poll workers has led the Wisconsin National Guard to be called in to work the polls in some areas. On Monday more 2,400 members were trained as election workers, and on Tuesday they were dispatched to polling places to “perform the normal functions of poll workers while also distributing hand sanitizer,” NBC News reports.
Social distancing is being encouraged
Voters will have help when it comes to staying six feet apart. Some officials have drawn chalk x’s on the ground outside of polling places. In other places, voters are social distancing by standing one person to a parking spot and poll workers are limiting the number of entrants into sites.
Voters are covering their faces
Like the CDC, public health officials in Wisconsin have encouraged residents to cover their faces when out in public. Some voters are taking the recommendation.