Listen MKE: Milwaukee's 2020 Election Plan

Oct 9, 2020

WUWM is partnering with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee PBS and the Milwaukee Public Library on an initiative we call Listen MKE. Its goal: help Milwaukee’s north side residents get the information they want and need. More specifically, we want to better understand what's most important to people who live in these Milwaukee neighborhoods and help fill information gaps.

The latest Listen MKE was co-hosted by Teran Powell, WUWM’s race and ethnicity reporter, and Talis Shelbourne, an investigative reporter with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. This discussion focused on preparing for Election Day and voting that’s already underway. 

This conversation was recorded on Wednesday before a court decision struck down the extension for counting absentee ballots. If that ruling stands, absentee ballots will have to be delivered to election officials by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.  

Watch the full conversation here

After the catastrophic election of April 7, many voters have had their confidence in Milwaukee’s ability to run an election during the COVID-19 pandemic shaken.

Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, says that election was a result of a lack of resources and knowledge that is not the case for this November election.

“We are hopeful that voters will find a very different experience on Nov. 3. April 7 was really a catastrophe of events that never should have occurred,” says Woodall-Vogg.

One of the partnerships the Election Commission is leaning on this November is with the Milwaukee Public Libraries.  

Milwaukee Public Library Director Joan Johnson says libraries aren't new to elections, that they've been training staff how to register people to vote since before you could use a computer to do it.

“The library has long been a partner of the Election Commission and it’s long been a place where people can come and get registered to vote. Libraries have supported elections and voting rights for decades,” says Johnson.

As the city prepares to receive more absentee ballots than ever before, the Milwaukee Election Commission has created a new initiative with the libraries – ballot drop boxes that are open 24-hours a day, 7 days a week at every library.

This is all part of the Election Commission’s plan to allow every voter to exercise their right to vote in whatever way they want.

"Voting by mail has in fact never been safer, never been more legitimate, in my opinion, and really you have a right to vote by mail if you wish to do so despite what the national rhetoric may be." - Claire Woodall-Vogg.

“Voting by mail has in fact never been safer, never been more legitimate, in my opinion, and really you have a right to vote by mail if you wish to do so despite what the national rhetoric may be,” says Woodall-Vogg.

Both Johnson and Woodall-Vogg acknowledged the large amount of work that is left ahead. All libraries except the Central Library will be closing on Election Day to reduce congestion at polling places and the Election Commission expects absentee vote counting to go into the early hours of Nov. 4.

Since absentee vote totals are reported all at once, Woodall-Vogg says Wisconsinites could go to sleep and wake up with very different election results.