Poll worker, officials reflect on historic April election

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Wisconsin took center stage Tuesday in the debate over how to hold elections during the coronavirus outbreak. The state went ahead with its April 7 election, holding in-person voting.

One poll worker said that meant putting his health and the health of voters at risk.

Jason Robinson worked at the polls for the first time in Tuesday's election.

"It was important to make sure we could operate our election process," Robinson said about why he volunteered.

Robinson said he was concerned about safety during the pandemic, but the first polling location he worked at did its best to keep workers safe.

"The plastic barriers were much bigger than I anticipated them being," Robinson remembered. He also said that location had tape to mark off the six feet recommended for social distancing.

Tuesday afternoon, Robinson volunteered at a different location that was running short on staff. There, he found things very different.

"I struggled to stay at first, I wasn't sure I wanted to expose myself to that," Robinson said.

Robinson said the second location had a lot of hand sanitizer, but other than that, the polling place had very few safety measures. Robinson said there were no plastic barriers at all.

"I don't think it would be physically possible to be six feet away from other people," he said, adding, "Everyone who voted at that location took a risk."

Wednesday afternoon, Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe thanked poll workers for their efforts, despite the experience.

"The things and the challenges that they overcame are just astounding and remarkable," Wolfe said.

The WEC also fielded questions about absentee ballots that some voters requested, but never received.

"We've been trying to work with the postal service and find out more information about if there are any irregularities or issues that they're aware of," Wolfe explained.

However at this point, Wolfe said there is no other option for voters who did not receive an absentee ballot and did not vote in-person on Tuesday. If absentee ballots were not postmarked or hand-delivered by Tuesday's deadline, they will not be counted.

"There is no remedy in the law for someone whose ballot doesn't make it by the postmarked deadline," Wolfe said.

Wolfe also added that clerks are tracking how many absentee ballots are rejected and how many are counted in this year's spring election. Those numbers will start to be available as other election results come in.