Wisconsin Facing Serious Pollworker Shortages for April 7 Election

[Image via WKOW]

Wisconsin is facing a serious shortage of pollworkers willing to work Election Day for next Tuesday’s primary election – with over 100 municipalities unable to staff any polling places because of fears of coronavirus. WeAreGreenBay has more:

Numerous municipalities across Wisconsin are reporting shortages of poll workers for the upcoming election. According to a report from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, over 100 municipalities are experiencing critical shortages in which there are no poll workers available.

According to WEC, the shortages are due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 60 percent of municipalities are reporting a shortage of poll workers. Due to this, many have consolidated polling places in order to combat the shortage.

In the WEC report:

  • 111 jurisdictions cannot staff even one polling place
  • 126 jurisdictions have fewer staff than needed for efficient operations
  • 542 jurisdictions have enough poll workers to function efficiently

WEC says 530 municipalities have not shared data on the status of their poll workers. To combat the shortage, clerks, WEC staff, and the DOA have reached out to colleges, universities, labor unions, state employees, and other groups to locate additional poll workers. Despite this, many municipality clerks continue to report a shortage.

In addition to the pollworker shortage, the state is experiencing continuing staggering demand for absentee ballots – and the envelopes to hold them:

Officials are also reporting unprecedented demand for absentee ballots for this election, causing an equally high demand for envelopes. WEC says that, in early March, requests for envelopes rapidly grew from 300,000 to more than one million. Over one million absentee envelopes were distributed to nearly every county, yet the demand for envelopes remains unprecedented.

During a WEC meeting Tuesday, officials say a record number of over 900,000 absentee ballots have been requested for this election, beating the record of 800,000 during the 2016 Presidential election.

If municipalities do run out of absentee envelopes, clerks have been provided instructions on how to continue to fulfill requests using plain envelopes and printed certificates.

With the election less than a week away, and despite the pollworker shortage, Wisconsin is preparing to supply polling places with materials to sanitize surfaces and protect voters and workers alike:

WEC explains that clerks from all of Wisconsin’s counties have requested assistance to get sanitizer for both people and surfaces. Due to widespread shortages of sanitizers due to the coronavirus pandemic, WEC and DOA reached out to local distilleries to obtain alcohol-based sanitizer products.

This week, state officials will distribute 5,830 liters of multi-purpose sanitizer to clerks at six distribution centers across the state. The shipment also includes 10,000 plastic spray bottles, labels for the bottles, and about 7,000 paper towel rolls. WEC says these supplies will be enough for all polling places to have at least two liters of sanitizer.

Clerks have also requested 1.5 million disinfecting isopropyl wipes for polling places. As of Tuesday, Wisconsin officials say they have collected 750,000 wipes, which are expected to be delivered to municipalities this week.

While clerks have also requested Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, but WEC says these items are limited to medical facilities. If clerks are able to collect their own PPE, they may use it, but the state will not be able to distribute PPE.

Some municipalities have also requested disposable pens so voters and poll workers do not have to share pens. A request for 1.5 million pens was submitted. Officials believe pens will be shipped to municipalities this week and the pens may be used to sign the poll book and fill out their ballot.

Wisconsin has so far bucked the trend of postponing or eliminating in-person voting for statewide primaries during coronavirus. Next Tuesday will be a test of whether that was the right decision – and will provide the national election community a real-time view of the feasibility of polling places during the coronavirus pandemic. Best wishes for safety and continued health to everyone in the Badger State … stay tuned.

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