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Wisconsin governor deploys National Guard to help at polls

A worker helps voter outside the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building Monday March 30, 2020, in Milwaukee. The city is now allowing drive up early voting for the state's April 7 election. Photo: Morry Gash/Associated Press. A worker helps voter outside the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building Monday March 30, 2020, in Milwaukee. The city is now allowing drive up early voting for the state's April 7 election.

The Associated Press
Created: April 01, 2020 12:28 PM

Wisconsin’s governor said Wednesday that he will use National Guard soldiers to staff undermanned polling sites in next week’s presidential primary.

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined others who have called for the state to postpone the election.

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Local election clerks across the state say poll workers are quitting in droves out of fears of contracting the coronavirus during Tuesday’s election, which also features a state Supreme Court race and hundreds of local races. More than 100 municipalities have reported they lack enough people to staff even one polling site.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers told a federal judge in a filing that he will use members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard to help as poll workers but that even that move likely won’t fill all staffing needs. The court filing said the Guard was determining how many soldiers it can make available in each county.

Guard spokesman Joe Trovato told The Associated Press in an email that commanders were working closely with election officials to decide how many soldiers will be needed and how to train them. Trovato said the soldiers will be from the same county as the site they work, in line with a state residency law for poll workers.

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Evers submitted the brief Tuesday as U.S. District Judge William Conley considered three lawsuits seeking to postpone the election. Conley was scheduled to hear testimony Wednesday afternoon.

Wisconsin residents are under a stay-at-home order from Evers that prohibits nonessential activities to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Democratic National Committee, the state Democratic Party and other liberal-leaning groups argue in lawsuits filed last month that in-person voting should be postponed until after that order expires on April 24.

In a written statement Wednesday, Sanders said: “People should not be forced to put their lives on the line to vote.”

Both Evers and Republican legislative leaders have wanted to keep the Tuesday date. Evers says postponement could leave countless local offices vacant. But the two sides have sparred over how to conduct the election, including whether to relax photo ID requirements to make the absentee voting process easier.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, both Republicans, told reporters that they support using Guard soldiers at the polls.

“I think we are up to the task and it sounds like (the election is) going to get done,” Fitzgerald said.


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