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Evers to use National Guard soldiers as poll workers during shortage

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Gov. Tony Evers will use members of the Wisconsin National Guard to step in as poll workers after election officials said they're short about 7,000 workers throughout the state.

According to a brief filed in federal court to postpone the election, Assistant Attorney General Hannah Jurss wrote, “Governor Evers has agreed to use members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard to assist as poll workers, but it is anticipated that the assistance of the National Guard will not satisfy all of the current staffing needs.”

This announcement comes a day after the Wisconsin Election officials reported nearly 60% of municipalities are dealing with a shortage of poll workers, as many volunteers are fearful to work due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Nearly every county in Wisconsin has at least one municipality concerned about their ability to open a polling place on April 7, according to a WEC memo.

Wisconsin's National Guard public information officer Joesph Trovato said they are currently determining how many personnel it can make available for each county.

"Our personnel stand ready to assist the state in whatever way we can to ensure Wisconsin can hold its election," said Trovato.

"The Wisconsin National Guard is also assisting with logistics considerations to ensure the election can be held in a safe and sanitary matter and is assisting with procuring and distributing hand sanitizer, wipes, spray bottles, and other necessary supplies to polling sites," he added.

The guardsmen and women will be assigned to staff polling sites depending on where they reside in Wisconsin and will receive the same training poll workers have today, according to Trovato.

The governor has said he wants every registered voter to receive an absentee ballot in the mail and doesn’t want to postpone the election. Top Republican leaders also want the election to go on.

Wisconsin clerks have received over 1 million absentee ballot requests so far, shattering records from the 2016 presidential primary election. Many clerks are overwhelmed with requests and are concerned how they can count thousands of ballots on time. 

As of Wednesday, only 387,833 absentee ballots have been returned.

This week the election commission said they will allow municipalities to consolidate to one polling location and are currently working on a poll worker “pool” to have people on standby if they need to step in. 

WEC and the Department of Administration have reached out to colleges and universities, labor unions, state employees, and other groups to find more volunteers.

The governor is also encouraging state employees to work on election day to help fill the shortage.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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