Voting in the Time of Corona

Absentee Ballots are the Future

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R - Rochester), wearing surgical mask, gown and gloves, explaining how incredibly safe it is to vote in-person.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester)
explaining how incredibly safe it is to vote in-person.

The first warning was the March 17 training video for the April 7 Spring Election. Hand sanitizer would be provided, but the supply was limited, and poll workers “should bring their own.” The Election Official Newsletter covered the initial public health recommendations that did not yet include masks. In-person training sessions for the election were canceled, and poll workers with medical conditions were asked “to determine whether interacting with the public at the polls could compromise their health.” 

As late as April 4 plexiglas table shields and sometimes plastic face shields were required, but masks were optional.1

“If you choose to bring a paper-based or form-fitting mask from home, you will be required to sign a green “voluntary use waiver” form. Cloth masks or other cloth over the face does not require the form. Based on CDC guidance, the City of Madison neither encourages nor discourages the use of cloth masks.”

The next sign came during an emergency state-wide video conference of the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) on March 19.2

As if age alone can prevent COVID-19 transmission.7 In Wisconsin people under 60 account for 80% of confirmed COVID-19 cases.3 This was posted on the Commission’s website the next day:

“The WEC strongly recommends that anyone planning to vote in the April 7 Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary request to have an absentee ballot mailed to them.”

The final straw was the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that in-person voting could not be delayed for the pandemic. It was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.4

“Wisconsin Primary Voters Receive ‘I Voted’ Gravestones”The Onion, 4/7/20

With symptomless transmission of COVID-19, it’s going to take universal precautions to avoid infection until we have a vaccine.5 That’s a mask and hand hygiene for everyone leaving home or having visitors. And mail-in absentee ballots. 

Updates: “80% of Wisconsin Republican legislators voted absentee in April“, SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press, Jun 29, 2020

1 Memo from Clerk to City of Madison Poll Workers, Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl, April 4, 2020

2 “Elections Commission searching for answers on safety of April election”, Henry Redman, Wisconsin Examiner, March 19, 2020 

3 “Percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases by age group”, Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), 6/28/2020 

4 “How a Supreme Court Decision Curtailed the Right to Vote in Wisconsin”, Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, The New York Times, April 13, 2020 5“How the World Missed COVID-19’s Silent Spread”, Matt Apuzzo, Selam Gebrekidan and David D. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times, June 27, 2020 

6 “Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wore protective gear as a volunteer poll worker, said ‘you are incredibly safe to go out’”, Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 8, 2020 

7 “Houston Surge Fills Hospitals With the Young”, Sheri Fink, The New York Times, June 29, 2020