MADISON — Amid liberal recriminations and dour reporting of fears in the polling place, Wisconsin’s spring election went on as scheduled Tuesday.
And thanks to devoted clerks and a flood of volunteers, in-person voting was made as safe as possible for a critical function of a free republic — even amid a pandemic.
“It was cleaner than a grocery store,” a voter in Brookfield, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after voting at the city’s single voting station.
State and local elections officials took safety seriously in the weeks and days leading up to the election, as cases of the deadly COVID-19 grew in Wisconsin.
“Thank you to each of our municipal and county clerk partners for everything you are doing to lead your communities through this difficult time. Everything you have done to prepare for Election Day is truly incredible,” Meagan Wolfe, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission wrote in a memo last week to local clerks.
Clerks were provided with truckloads of hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, paper towels, disposable pens. Poll workers used isopropyl wipes to clean voting equipment and touch screens.
“All our polling stations are open and fully functional, and we have taken all safety precautions and are fully prepared,” Washington County Clerk Ashley Reichert told Empower Wisconsin Tuesday morning. “We have been preparing for weeks in regards to our sanitizing efforts and applying our social-distancing guidelines.”
Fears of the pandemic forced a surge in absentee ballots in the weeks leading up to the election, smashing previous records. That kept in-person voting numbers down.
Election officials in Wisconsin’s largest counties, Dane, Milwaukee and Waukesha, reported heavy numbers and some long lines. With Gov. Tony Evers’ order on social distancing, voters standing at least six feet from each other will tend to create longer lines. In Milwaukee, the elections director complained that too few poll workers forced the city to dramatically reduce the number of polling sites to five. But other areas of the state reported volunteers, including members of the National Guard, stepping up to fill the shortage.
Liberals like Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett sat at home grousing at the Republican-led Legislature for not moving to postpone the election, but even Milwaukee County’s clerk acknowledged poll workers were in good spirts and voters were appreciative.
Election results aren’t expected for days, with absentee ballots, postmarked by election day to be counted through Monday.