More than 200 local leaders have signed a letter telling state leaders, Governor Tony Evers, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, that more must be done more protect voters from coronavirus.
Jerry Deschane at the League of Municipalities said some “modest, minor changes” to election law could help keep people safe, like the requirement that voters sign the poll book.”Instead we could check off their names and have them witness it, so they don’t come in contact with one another.”
The letter was sent Sunday. In-person absentee balloting gets underway Monday. Deschane said local leaders need input now, on how to keep voters, employees and poll workers safe. “We want to have the conversation.”
Evers said last week that he lacks authority to change the date of the April 7 election, but the local officials aren’t asking for that.
This is the letter:
Dear Governor Evers, Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Fitzgerald:
We want to thank you for your leadership related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been thoughtful, responsible, and smartly aggressive, as you take the actions necessary to reduce spread of the illness and keep Wisconsinites safe.
We urgently ask you to apply that same approach to voting. Please take action now to reduce the risk of our residents, members of our staff and our election workers, and to avoid unnecessary disenfranchisement of voters.
In many communities across Wisconsin, in-person absentee voting has already begun. Nearly all places will start such voting tomorrow, and it will continue for the next two weeks. Based on the dramatic increase in absentee voting that we have already experienced, it is almost certain that large numbers of people will show up at government buildings to vote this way. The health risks involved will be multiplied once again on the actual Election Day, April 7.
Please offer us solutions to protect those citizens.
Local government leaders and each of the local government organizations have presented a number of options to various state offices for protecting citizens’ health and rights to vote. As yet we have not seen a sufficient response from the state. More needs to be done and done quickly.
Advice and orders from federal, state and local public health professionals is clear: Limit personal contact, especially in large groups (more than 10 currently). Please give us the tools to live by this when it comes to voting.
We recognize concerns about disenfranchisement, and we fully support our rules around elections in normal situations. These are not normal circumstances — and the potential for disenfranchisement is actually higher if we proceed like we are. Many people will stay away from the polls for fear of contacting COVID-19, or spreading it, unless something changes.
Please do not force citizens to choose between getting sick, or voting. Act now.