City News

City of Madison faces shortage of poll workers ahead of Tuesday elections

Image By: Will Gibb

“When voters have to pick between their life and casting a ballot,” Sally Rohrer, District 8 Alder and UW-Madison student said, “We can no longer call the State of Wisconsin a functioning democracy.”

With massive shortages in poll workers, many polling places in the city of Madison are being closed or consolidated ahead of Tuesday’s primary election. 

This is the trend throughout the state — nearly 60% of Wisconsin municipalities report they don’t have enough poll workers to maintain a fair, open election.

The city filed for a lawsuit Monday requesting to move the election date or make the vote entirely by mail. In a brief filed alongside the suit, the city stated an election held on the current date would strain the abilities of the clerk’s office and put the health of Madison residents at risk.

“With this type of dislocation, and more threatened as the date of the spring election nears, the city faces the very real possibility that half or more of the eligible voters who would normally go to the polls on Election Day will be unable to do so,” Madison City Attorney Michael May said in the court filing.

To curb the inherent problems with in-person voting amid a pandemic, the City of Madison’s Engineering Division created 132 plexiglass barriers for the 66 open polling locations in order to enforce social distancing guidelines, though some are saying the barriers won’t be enough to curb the virus’ spread.

Rohrer will be working at the polls Tuesday despite her concerns of potentially contracting COVID-19. 

“The whole thing feels incredibly irresponsible even for me as a relatively healthy young person,” she said. “It’s ridiculous that we are holding an in-person election in the middle of a pandemic, putting thousands of poll workers and voters at risk for a deadly disease.”

A special session called by Gov. Tony Evers to move the entire election to all-mail and increase the period for absentee voting ended with no decision. The special session on the April 7 election will reconvene Monday. 

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