Wisconsin Primary Election: Long Lines as Voters Head to Polls Amid Pandemic – The New York Times,

Wisconsin Primary Election: Long Lines as Voters Head to Polls Amid Pandemic – The New York Times,


A voter cast her ballot at a church in Kenosha, Wis., On Tuesday. (Credit …) Kamil Krzaczynski / Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

The few open polling sites in Milwaukee have long lines – and space between voters.

In Milwaukee, where election workers expect more than , 06 voters, the number of polling locations has been drastically reduced, from more than to just five. The effects were immediately apparent on Tuesday morning: Across the city, lines stretched for blocks even before 7 a.m. local time.

On the South Side of the city, the parking lot of Alexander Hamilton High School was already full as daylight broke. By 8 am, more than 728 voters waited in a line that snaked through the parking lot and down the street . One voter who had cast a ballot said the wait was one hour and 50 minutes.

At other locations nearby that would have normally been open for voting, signs were posted directing voters to Hamilton High School . But many of the locations were in heavily immigrant neighborhoods, predominantly Spanish or Hmong, and the only signs posted were in English.

At Marshall High School, in the northern part of Milwaukee, the line stretched for more than three blocks, with voters keeping six feet of space between each other. Most wore masks or other facial coverings.

The northern part of the city, which is predominantly black, has been hit the hardest by the coronavirus. Yet hundreds of voters had already queued by early morning.

The lines weren’t limited to Milwaukee. In Waukesha, a suburb just outside of Milwaukee, only one polling location was open for a city of 76, . A similarly long line wrapped around a parking lot, as cones denoting a safe distance between voters helped break up the line.

How many people will actually vote?

Heading into Tuesday’s elections, the questions among Democratic and Republican operatives were clear: How many people will actually vote? Will the results be trusted? And will voters and poll workers fall ill?

The election is proceeding despite the advice of public health professionals who say the state’s leaders are putting residents at risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus. But the voting turned into a bitter partisan dispute between the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, and Republican lawmakers, culminating in two decisions on Monday by the State Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court that favored the Republicans.

The legal back-and-forth has also caused confusion and logistical chaos among state election clerks, with some poll workers refusing to participate in Tuesday’s election. Other municipalities have drastically cut back or eliminated in-person voting options. The chair of the state Democratic Party pledged not to mobilize voters on Tuesday and has called on the state Republican Party to do the same.

Wisconsin awards pledged delegates in the Democratic presidential primary, and could be another step toward Mr. Biden’s knocking Mr. Sanders out the race. Mr. Sanders had called on the state to delay its election, citing the coronavirus concerns, but he still faces pressure from allies and democratic operatives who are ready to see him concede and rally behind Mr. Biden, who leads in pledged delegates and raw votes.

Wisconsin is a wildly important state in the general election, and often cited as a bellwether in the national Electoral College. Outside the presidential primary, voters are weighing the State Supreme Court race and a Democratic challenger to Milwaukee’s mayor, also a Democrat.

Partisan brawling and a logistical tangle have led to chaos. (A A series of official orders and court rulings whipsawed the public in the final days before Tuesday’s elections.

Now the municipal and county clerks who oversee voting in Wisconsin have to conduct a presidential primary, a critical State Supreme Court election and contests for more than 3, (local offices amid a pandemic and the governor’s order for residents to stay in their homes.

It adds up to an election that became a logistical nightmare before the Election Day polls opened.

Like so much else in Wisconsin ov er the last decade, the state’s coronavirus response and opinions about moving the election broke along partisan lines.

Democrats, aiming to expand turnout especially. in the state’s largest cities, Milwaukee and Madison, sought to expand mail voting and delay the election until June. Republicans, wary of affording new powers to a Democratic governor and content with suppressing turnout in urban centers where the coronavirus has struck hardest, refused to entertain proposals for relief.

“Thousands will wake up and have to choose between exercising their right to vote and staying healthy and safe,” Governor Evers said after the State Supreme Court ruling on Monday.

But Dean Knudson, a Republican former state legislator who is chairman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said during a lengthy online session late Monday that voters who wished to participate in Tuesday’s contest would have no recourse but to venture to the polls – even if they had requested but had not yet received an absentee ballot.

“If they haven’t got their ballot in the mail,” he said , “They are going to have to go to the polling place tomorrow.”

Republicans have played down the danger to public health of v oting during a pandemic. One Republican county chair, Jim Miller of Sawyer County, said the process would be similar to people picking up food to eat during the state’s stay-at-home order.

“If you can go out and get fast food, you can go vote curbside,” Mr. Miller said. “It’s the same procedure.” Poll workers across the state are terrified, and thousands said they wouldn’t show up.

Forging ahead with the election thrusts thousands of clerks and poll workers, many of them older or with health conditions, onto the pandemic’s front lines.

As a result, thousands of poll workers said they wouldn’t show up, leading to major reductions in the number of polling sites, particularly in cities like Milwaukee. In Green Bay, there are usually about 49 polling locations, but on Tuesday there were just two. Though roughly 2, National Guardsmen were being trained as poll workers as late as Monday, it still won’t come close to the more than 7, who have already said they cannot work.

If there is a bright spot for Democrats, it will be in deeply blue Madison, where the mayor said more than two-thirds of the city’s polling locations would be open on Tuesday.

(missing missingentent ballot snaps a) – year voting streak.

In the city of Oshkosh, where officials have (implemented curbside voting) , Brian Binder, 70, was one of many Wisconsin voters who reported not receiving the absentee ballots they applied for. Mr. Binder’s wife, who applied at the same time, received hers.

“There’s a large number of people who just did not get them,” said Mr. Binder, an employee of a food packaging company.

As a result of all the confusion and the coronavirus, Mr. Binder said he would not vote in this election, breaking a 40 – year streak.

“I vote in every election, local primaries, since I was . I’m a person that takes it very seriously, your right and your responsibility to vote. However, given the situation with the virus I’m not sure I want to endanger myself or other people at the polls, ”said Mr. Binder, who has been working from home for the past two weeks.

He also expressed frustration with the state’s deeply entrenched political division.

“I feel that this is something they shouldn’t play politics with,” said Mr. Binder, a lifelong Republican who said his support for the party had waned since President Trump’s election. “I don’t know why we couldn’t postpone to keep people safe. I don’t know what the goal was. ”

Polls will close at 9 pm Eastern, but that’s unlikely to be the end of the elections.

Though voting may end on Tuesday night, there will most likely be a new round of lawsuits challenging both the results and the disenfranchisement of many voters. Many allied groups in Wisconsin were already gathering accounts of voters unable to get a ballot or vote in anticipation of litigation.

One story shared from a local lawyer involved a pregnant health care worker who had the coronavirus and hadn’t received her absentee ballot yet. Because she could not vote in person, she could not vote at all.

It’s been a messy, confusing and chaotic march toward the Wisconsin primary. And the uncertainty is likely to continue.

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