What It Was Like Voting In Wisconsin During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Apr 8, 2020

Tuesday was officially Election Day in Wisconsin. In Milwaukee, thousands of people showed up to cast ballots in person — but not at their usual polling places. Milwaukee consolidated its 180 polling places to just five because so many workers stayed home due to coronavirus concerns.

>>The Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus News

WUWM’s Angelina Mosher Salazar was one of the voters who went to the polls. Here's her experience of what it was like voting in Wisconsin during the coronavirus pandemic:

My usual polling location is a 7-minute walk from where I’m registered to vote. However, with the scale-down to just five polling locations for the entire city of Milwaukee, I was redirected to South Division High School — an hour walk. So, at 11:30 a.m., I drove the 3.1 miles to South Division. While cars lined the street outside the high school, there was almost no line to get into the school.

At the door I was asked by a poll worker, donning a mask and gloves, if I was feeling ill. I said no.

I was then offered hand sanitizer and directed to a woman who asked for my address and checked me in. She and every other worker I interacted with was wearing a mask. Some workers were also wearing protective gowns.

After checking in, I was pointed to a line inside the gymnasium. The line had about 10 people who were standing 6 feet apart and was marked by green tape on the gym floor. It took me less than 5 minutes to reach the front and receive my ballot. I signed for my ballot and was then directed to a line exiting the gym. This line was to get a poll booth. Each booth was cleaned by the staff before being used by someone new. After marking my ballot with a pen that I brought from home, I fed my ballot into a machine.

The entire experience took me less than 20 minutes. Now, that was just my experience. I was already registered to vote, I had triple checked my polling location before I left the house, and I had not requested an absentee ballot. Others I spoke to had a relatively smooth experience as well, but that wasn't every voter's experience. Some voters reported waiting in line for up to 2 1/2 hours.

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Time has yet to tell how this pandemic will affect the health of poll workers and voters. But what is for certain is that the coronavirus radically affected how voting was conducted.

Voting site supervisor Brad Hoeschen says he’s never seen anything like this in his 12-year career. 

“Certainly, this is the most dramatic and frankly the most frightening thing I’ve ever done as an election worker," Hoeschen says. "My son is 19. A year ago, he started working with me, and I’m introducing my kid to public and community service. And this morning, I put my kid in the car to bring him out to work an election in a pandemic. It’s craziness, it’s craziness.”  

Hoeschen went on to say that he’s concerned not only for his son’s safety but for all the voters who came to the polls on Tuesday.