In Person Elections During a Pandemic Is a Mistake for Wisconsin

It’s been frustrating reading the news about the election in Wisconsin this Tuesday. Our governor Tony Evers has called for the election timeline to be delayed a month, and allow the entire election to be handled by mail, but Republican state representatives are pushing for it be held in person as scheduled. This is the wrong way forward as it encourages people to leave their homes , increasing the spread of Covid-19, and force people to choose between voting, or staying home as they need to do.

Looking at my social media, and talking to friends/family, I believe we have all come around on why social distancing is important, and nearly all are staying home as much as possible. I for one haven’t been to my office since I left on 3/11. It helps that my job can be done remotely, and my company is very flexible. I acknowledge this is not the case for everyone. Since I can easily stay home, I take great responsibility in doing so. With the exception of walking to nearby parks, I have left my house 4 times since then, nearly all to pick up food.

Having said this, it probably comes as no surprise that I am voting in this election by mail. It’s a great option, and allows me to fulfill my civic duty in while doing my part in preventing the spread of Covid-19. While some states only vote by mail (like Colorado, and Oregon), this mailing method is mostly new to our state. Like every great “new” thing in the world, there are late adopters, those who can’t figure out, or others don’t have access to the technology. Just ask grandpa how much he likes TikTok, or Snapchat. Worst yet, there are still people who have not grasped the seriousness of the situation, or didn’t understand deadline for requesting it. For them they will have to vote in person somehow, or forgo voting.

Milwaukee has set up a drive through voting option, which is awesome for those who can do so. Honestly it warms my heart to see the line of cars wrapped around the Zeidler building on the clip from CBS 58. Unfortunately, this is inherently limited to those who have cars, can drive downtown, and wait in the drive through line (which they recommended allotting 45 minutes for.) This is not perfect as it still involves more contact than voting by mail, but it’s definitely better than not having it all.

For those who cannot do either of these, or did so incorrectly like those who requested an absentee ballot using a selfie instead of taking a picture of their ID, or are still waiting on their ballots, they will now be forced to vote in person. I don’t want to make up numbers on how many this is, so instead I tried to make an educated guess based on the data I can find.

Last presidential primary year (2016) the city of Milwaukee had 167,765 votes cast. This year, they expect 85,000 to be absentee, or cast early. This is an awesome number, and I hope it is higher. Comparing that estimate to last elections total leaves just under 83,000 votes to be cast in person. For the sake of easy math going forward I am going to say 50%, but know it should be slightly less.

Milwaukee has recently announced they will have only 5 polling places open, and not the typical 180 or more sites. Speaker Robin Vos, and other Republicans have argued this is an attempt by Milwaukee to sabotage the election, and “create more problems instead of an actual solution.” While 5 is a very low number, I can completely understand the inability, and reluctance to have more.

1. We are under an order at state, and city levels to stay at home. We are to practice social distancing, unless absolutely necessary. They stopped short of this at the federal level, but the CDC officially says to “Stay home as much as possible.”

2. If the city of Milwaukee had 180 polling locations open, and 83,000 votes were cast at polling locations, this would be an average of over 450 votes each. This is still a lot, and us not practicing social distancing.

3. The volunteers that normally handle elections at polling places are generally retired, and are considered high risk to Covid-19. They shouldn’t be out period, much less near 450 people in a given day.

4. It’s possible to replace them, but the backup volunteers shouldn’t be exposed either. Sem had originally suggested her, and I to volunteer as replacements, but we chose not to as we shouldn’t contribute to spreading Covid-19, or be exposed ourselves.

Speaker Robin Vos argues the polls should be manned by city employees, or even the national guard. My response is still the same: we shouldn’t be exposing workers to this, even 450 people at a given location isn’t social distancing, we are mandated to stay at home unless necessary at state/city levels, and recommended to do so by the CDC. At 5, 10, 100, 180+ polling locations this doesn’t make sense.

Again, these are educated guesses of how many votes remain to be counted, and my examples are local to Milwaukee. We can attempt to apply at the state level though.

Wisconsin saw 2,113,544 votes cast in the 2016 April election. If we used the same 50% early vote rate as Milwaukee, that would leave over a million votes left to be cast on Tuesday.

Over 1 million people,
making an extra trip,
when we are being told to stay home
due to a pandemic which took the lives of 17 Wisconsinites yesterday.

People are finally starting to take it seriously, and we’re seeing the increase in positive case flattening for the past few days. We have a system in place to prevent another spike, and continue to work to flatten the curve. We can convert this to mostly mail only election, and keep people in their homes. It’s not too late to do the right thing.

Yet this is where we are at. We are having an inperson election this Tuesday. People are going to go out in vote in atleast the hundreds of thousands, and Wisconsin Republican represntatives refuse to take action.

Those who made it this far, and disagree with my points/opinion, I would love to hear your reasons why. I’m really at a loss. All I can think of is people are playing politics, and think it’s beneficial to their party line, or the election results. Either way it is embarrassing. Best case it will lead to less people taking part in our election system, and at worst more people will contract, or die from Covid-19. Both are easily preventable if we move to a mail in system.

This post was originally posted on my Facebook page.