By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
After what seemed like a never ending will it or won’t it, the Spring General Election went forward as scheduled. This past Tuesday, April 7, Wisconsin was one of the trending topics due to the Wisconsin Supremes’ Court decision to continue with the election.
As part of this decision, in-person voting sites were open for business. Milwaukee, which typically has 180 voting sites, was reduced to five. In total, over 18,000 people voted in person and about 97,000 absentee ballots were requested.
Neil Albrecht, the executive director for the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, held a virtual press conference on Wednesday, April 8 to discuss the election.
“I am very pleased with this number and with the operations of those sites,” Albrecht said. “They operated first and foremost with the intent of protecting voters and election workers.”
He added that he put a lot of thought into which wards would vote together and at which sites in order to ensure no center was busier than another. This decision also aimed to decrease disparities and lower wait times. Each site saw about 3,300 voters.
“I consider it a successful election for the City of Milwaukee,” he said.
Adding, “It is an election that I believe never should have occurred. We should have never been put in the position of creating a community gathering setting at a time when health officials are speculating that incidents or infections of COVID-19 are spiking in the City of Milwaukee.”
Albrecht said he made the decision regarding the five voting centers based on the information he had on the resources available. This decision included looking at the number of facilities that could provide enough space for social distancing and the number of election workers.
As Milwaukee is the epicenter of the virus in Wisconsin, a lot of election workers made the difficult decision to stay home, Albrecht said. Those who were able to work received gowns, masks, gloves and disinfectants.
The National Guard helped at voting sites as well. While some ensured social distancing was maintained, others acted as election workers.
So far, no official election results have been announced. This is in part due to the large number of absentee ballots still being counted. The ballots are being counted at the city’s central count center. At night, police officers are standing watch over the ballots.
Furthermore, a decision must be made over absentee ballots lacking postmarks. If a ballot was returned on April 7 and contains the postmark then it will be counted, but not all ballots have a postmark. The lack of postmark poses an issue with the Wisconsin Constitution.
It should also be noted that not all voters who requested an absentee ballot received one.
Albrecht said the Election Commission received notice that a majority of ballots sent out on March 22 and March 23, never arrived. An investigation into the post office will be launched to see what happened.
It was difficult for all the players, Albrecht said, in regard to the clerks processing requests to voters having issues with the My Vote Wisconsin website and so on.
Wisconsin’s decision to continue with an election amid a pandemic will not be forgotten. Now, it’s only a matter of time before Wisconsinites see the impact of this election, for it won’t be the election results alone.