UPDATE (4/2/20): The April 7 election will go on as planned, though the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot has been extended to Friday, April 3 at 5 p.m. The deadline for counting those absentee ballots has been extended to April 13.
The 2020 Spring Election is still set for Tuesday, April 7. And even if something changes between now and then, (U.S. District Judge William Conley is currently hearing arguments in a case that seeks to delay the election), Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other city officials are stressing the importance of voting absentee.
In a media briefing Wednesday afternoon, Barrett and County Executive Chris Abele implored city residents to request an absentee ballot via MyVote Wisconsin. Issues of public health and social distancing in the era of COVID-19—as well as the dwindling number of polling locations and poll workers—were cited as reasons for voting absentee. The deadline for requesting a ballot is Thursday, April 2 at 5 p.m.
Barrett, along with Executive Director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission Neil Albrecht, went even further, saying city residents should bypass the postal service and return their ballots to one of five drop boxes throughout the city. Ballots are due by April 7, though postal delays could cause problems.
“As state law stands now, absentee ballots do have to be received by Election Day, April 7,” Albrecht said. “We have witnessed some pretty significant delays…the post office is identifying as much as a week between a person receiving their absentee ballot [and it being] returned to the municipal court.”
The city drop boxes are open every day from now until April 7 from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., and are staffed by folks who can provide witness signatures. Their locations are:
• Zablocki Library (3501 W. Oklahoma Ave.)
• Bay View Library (2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.)
• Washington Park Library (2121 N. Sherman Blvd.)
• Mill Road Library (6431 N. 76th St.)
• Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building (841 N. Broadway)
Drive-up absentee service is available at the Zeidler Municipal Building Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Albrecht said that the City of Milwaukee had already issued approximately 75,000 absentee ballots by mail. By comparison, only 15,000 absentee ballots were requested for the 2016 presidential election.
Though Gov. Evers has authorized the National Guard to fill staffing shortages at physical polling places throughout Wisconsin, Albrecht said it was “too little, too late.” Properly integrating the National Guard into polling places would be difficult, he said; instead, Albrecht expected the National Guard to enforce social distancing and serve as crowd management.
Milwaukee County Clerk and Director of the Milwaukee County Elections Commission George Christenson noted that several physical polling places throughout the county had been consolidated due to staffing shortages. “We can’t ask our most at-risk population to be working the polls,” he said, referring to poll workers who tend to be past retirement age.
“Hopefully we’ll see some relief from Judge Conely,” Christenson said. “Some relief will be better than no relief.”
Conely said Wednesday “he didn’t think he had the power to postpone Wisconsin’s presidential primary.” He added that “he would consider making some changes to how the election is conducted, but might not issue a decision until closer to Tuesday.” Last week, Conley extended the online voting registration deadline to March 30.
Our super-simple voting guide can be found HERE. Vote, Milwaukee.