Voters, poll workers called heroes of Wisconsin election

Voters practicing social distancing cast ballots at Riverside High School during Wisconsin's primary election Tuesday April 7, 2020, in Milwaukee. Voters in Wisconsin are waiting in line to cast ballots at polling places for the state's presidential primary election, ignoring a stay-at-home order over the coronavirus threat. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- As Wisconsin voters headed to the polls on Tuesday - some of whom waited for hours to make their voices heard - Gov. Tony Evers released a statement praising their determination as well as all that was being done on the other end to make sure the election happened.

"I am overwhelmed by the bravery, resilience, and heroism of those who are defending our democracy by showing up to vote, working the polls, and reporting on this election," the Democratic governor said after reiterating his concern over in-person being allowed to go forth on Tuesday.

"Thank you for giving our state something to be proud of today. Please stay as safe as possible, Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also praised what he described as the "impressive amount of planning and organization that went into ensuring everyone can safely exercise their right to vote."

Vos' statement came in a Facebook post in which the Republican donned personal protective equipment to join poll workers in Racine Co.

The executive director of the city of Milwaukee's election commission says poll workers are the true heroes of the state's decision to move forward with an election.

The city of Milwaukee could only operate five polling sites for Tuesday's primary, down from its usual number of roughly 180, due to the coronavirus. Neil Albrecht, executive director of the city's election commission, says Tuesday the five sites opened on time or within minutes of on time, and they were sufficiently staffed.

He says there were 80 to 100 poll workers at each site, and about 30 National Guard members at each location. Workers were taking safety precautions.

As of midday Tuesday, turnout had been robust, with most of the sites reporting wait times ranging from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Lines stretched for several blocks as workers maintained social distancing between voters.

Albrecht called the wait times unfortunate. He also said the election has been filled with injustices.

Among them, his office has gotten numerous calls from people who requested an absentee ballot but didn't get one. He said for those people, their only option was to vote in person. He says because of the decision by the Legislature and the courts to move forward with an election, some members of the public who have voted consistently for 40 years or more are now faced with making a decision to skip the election and not cast a ballot.

"We have moved forward with an election, but we have not moved forward with democracy in the state of Wisconsin," he said.



Voters practicing social distancing cast ballots at Riverside High School during Wisconsin's primary election Tuesday April 7, 2020, in Milwaukee. Voters in Wisconsin are waiting in line to cast ballots at polling places for the state's presidential primary election, ignoring a stay-at-home order over the coronavirus threat. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)