By Wendell Harris
President, Wisconsin Conference of Branches
The NAACP Wisconsin Conference of Branches maintains a network of NAACP units in Beloit, Dane County, Kenosha, Ozaukee County, Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha to advance the cause of civil rights. The Wisconsin Conference of Branches believes absentee and early voting is an effective alternative to in person voting for the April 7, 2020 election. With proper procedures to mitigate health and safety issues, including social distancing and bans on large gatherings, implementing good hygiene and infection control practices, including, in part, the frequent promotion of hand washing, requirement of employees to stay home when they are sick, reminders on respiratory etiquette and routine cleaning and disinfecting procedures, the election can proceed.
Wisconsin officials from both parties are urging people to vote early in the April 7 election as the coronavirus spreads in the state and around the country. COVID-19 has impacted the availability of polling places which affects all voters but particularly those voters who vote at schools, residential care and assisted living centers. To maintain available polling sites, the Wisconsin Election Commission has voted to allow local clerks to relocate polling sites due to the unavailability of schools, residential care and assisted living centers. In addition, local clerks are extending hours to accommodate greater opportunity to register to vote and vote early with an in-person absentee ballot.
Early voting and absentee voting offers the following advantages:
• Voters can avoid waiting in lines which can assist with social distance requirements and hygiene measures to maintain health and safety.
• Early voting and absentee voting can assure effective crowd control. Local clerks can manage crowds by maintaining a smaller number of voters in the facility and by offering curb side voting.
• Early voting and absentee voting can reduce exposure to the virus and make sure your vote is counted. Voters will spend less time in the polling site, reducing the potential exposure.
It is recommended on Election Day that poll workers sanitize surfaces hourly and disinfect pens between uses. Voters can opt to bring their own pen, but it must be a regular ball point pen with black or blue ink. Gel and felt pens are not allowed.
The April 7th Election should go forward as scheduled and voters should follow directions to vote early and by absentee. The Wisconsin Conference of Branches support the following options to vote on April 7, 2020.
• Request by mail
Complete the form and mail it to your municipal clerk’s office (for the correct address please refer to the Listing of Local Municipal Clerks). The application must be received by the clerk no later than 5 p.m. on the Thursday before the election in order for an absentee ballot to be mailed to you.
• Request by E-Mail, Online or by Fax
A voter may request that a ballot be sent to them by sending an e-mail or fax to their municipal clerk. Registered voters can also request an absentee ballot at https://myvote.wi.gov by clicking “Vote Absentee. This request must be made no later than 5 p.m. on the Thursday before the election in order for an absentee ballot to be mailed to you.
• In-Person at your Municipal Clerk’s Office
In-person absentee voting hours and date vary by municipality. Municipalities may choose to start in-person absentee voting as soon as ballots become available, in-person absentee voting then ends at 5 p.m. or the close of business (whichever is later) on the Sunday before the election. Please check with your municipal clerk for regular office hours.
• Utiliziemyvote.Wi.gov to learn about relocated polling places for voters, changes by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, and other information that will be helpful to voters.