Empower Wisconsin | April 8, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — As multiple news outlets conceded, voting in Wisconsin’s spring election in most parts of the state went smoothly — with one glaring exception.
Liberals spoiling for a legal fight bemoaned the long lines and longer wait times at the city’s polling stations. But it appears the city and its elections division brought the headaches on themselves — and may ultimately be responsible for unnecessarily threatening the health of voters and poll workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
Milwaukee elections officials, insisting they couldn’t recruit enough poll workers because of COVID-19 fears, cut the number of polling stations from about 180 to just five.
Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) said Milwaukee ultimately had more workers available than they first advised in asking the election be postponed. She said it was a “hyper-partisan” decision not to open more voting locations.
“I believe that the Milwaukee Election Commission and the clerk in Green Bay had dug in their heels and had a skeleton plan because they were hoping the governor was successful in putting the kibosh on the election,” Bernier told Empower Wisconsin Wednesday. “It’s for that reason, or it’s absolutely sheer incompetency, and if that’s the case, those officials should be removed.”
Gov. Tony Evers, after insisting the in-person election must go on as scheduled, changed his tune late in the game. On the eve of the election he issued an executive order postponing the election until June. He clearly overstepped his authority and the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked his edict. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision extending the time ballots could be cast.
The Wisconsin National Guard dispatched some 2,000 troops statewide to assist at the polls. It appears some communities that complained of long lines and too few volunteers didn’t take the Guard up on the offer.
Bob Spindell, a Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said there appears to have been a failure to communicate between the governor’s office and the city of Milwaukee, which did not fully employ the Guard.
“The governor originally said that he would use the National Guard, then he said he wouldn’t. I got a press release last Wednesday night saying that we were going to use the National Guard, but that information obviously wasn’t passed along to the Milwaukee election people,” said Spindell, who served on the Milwaukee Election Commission for 20 years.
Green Bay could have used National Guard troops to help at the polls, but declined.
“We had the option of bringing experienced individuals into the process, but our city clerk and I did not feel comfortable implicating untrained city employees, members of the public, or members of the National Guard in a dangerous and stressful environment,” Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich wrote in a Facebook post.
While the mainstream media breathlessly reported on the election day problems in Milwaukee and Green Bay (blaming the Republican-led Legislature for not acting to postpone the election), they paid little attention to the successes happening in most of the state. They gave little notice to the clerks or the many volunteers who stepped up to serve their communities in the critical mission of holding regularly scheduled elections.
But many voters did.
“Our town hall did drive through in a municipal garage. It worked out really slick and no human contact,” Lori Papke wrote on Empower Wisconsin’s Facebook site. “I commend the ingenuity to proceed with caution and voting rights. TY Poll workers!!”
“My polling station had voters wash hands before we entered the polling room,” wrote Jerry Peplinski. “They had plexiglass between me and the workers. I put my license in a basket, then I signed the ledger, retrieved my license too a pen and filled out my ballot.”
“It went well by me. Everyone wearing masks, practicing social distancing (cuz it works). Hubby and I carried our Lysol wipes with us. No shortage of volunteers/staff,” wrote Sharon Monaco.
Bernier questioned the motives of Milwaukee and other cities that seemed wilfully unprepared for the election. Lawsuits, like the left’s recriminations, will surely come. But were Democrat-controlled cities like Milwaukee purposely putting voters and poll workers’ health at stake in the pursuit of litigation?
“What an injustice to the electors, to have to stand out there for an hour or two. They didn’t harm anyone but their own voters,” Bernier said. “If I’m a voter in Milwaukee standing in a line for an hour and a half and see the news that Madison had 60 polling places open, I’m asking, ‘What is wrong with Milwaukee? Why did they do this?’”