Special Elections Commission Conference Call on COVID-19 and Elections | Wis.Community

Special Elections Commission Conference Call on COVID-19 and Elections

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The Wisconsin Elections Commission had a special conference call today about the challenges of holding the upcoming election during the period of COVID-19 shutdown. Much of this revolved around the challenges of where polling places could be located. Many polling places are in care facilities for the aged, libraries and schools. It will be difficult to hold elections without violating the Governor's order on reducing contact between people. Other issues involve backup lists for poll workers because many poll workers are older and are self-quarantining. The Commission is suggesting using high school and college students as well as teachers as poll workers. 

Many local clerks are not conducting in-person registration or early voting. Advice on this is included in the documents in the link below. Clerks may change their hours for these purposes, but must provide an opportunity, even if it is only by appointment.

Additionally, many clerks are having great difficulty keeping up with the huge numbers of Absentee Voting requests. In many cases, this has been complicated because the uploaded ID pictures are not sufficient. In some cases, clerks have asked to bring in extra help, and have asked for exemptions to the new security guidelines. This will not be allowed.

Many election clerks are running out of absentee ballot envelopes and the commission is providing advice on how to deal with that. 

A lively discussion occurred concerning a proposed amendment to point 1 in the election planning memo to request a special session of the legislature to make changes to the law allowing a successful election, and to decide if a meaningful election can take place under these circumstances. There are many long-term ramifications of this crisis whether the current election date is moved or not, such as circulating petitions in August. The situation right now has brought up many election issues that have never been considered or needed in the past. The amendment failed 3-3. Points 2-7 were accepted and voted on. The commission remained undecided on point 1 and how an April 7 election can be held successfully. The Commission has no authority to change the laws regarding the election, such as extending the deadlines for registration and absentee ballot requests, nor does it have authority to postpone the election. There was more discussion on the possibility of postponing the election or going to a fully email election. Primary questions were raised about people who are quarantined and not able to vote, or if a complete shelter in place rule is in place on election day. They considered allowing people who are high-risk or quarantined to be considered part of the hospitalized election statute. Chairperson Wolfe is going to investigate the safety implications of any changes to voting procedures. The item will be postponed and taken up in another meeting. There are many concerns about election safety and if people will be able to vote under the circumstances. There is a motion to inform all elections commission clerks on appropriate health safety measures. The motion was passed.

A motion was made that staff will be asked to put together a set of recommendations to the legislature if changes need to be made to the law to have the maximum number of people be able to vote. This is a complex situation because changing any of the statutes will be very difficult in the time frame, and to not create other legislative issues that are not anticipated. There will be further discussion of this in the future in a meeting to be held soon.

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PDF icon Copy of Election Planning Memo661.05 KB

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Wisconsin COVID-19 Confirmed Cases

Data through 3/26 from New York Times, after from Wisconsin DHS

Published

March 18, 2020
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