More than 200 local leaders in letter to Gov. Evers: Voters at risk with April 7 election approaching
MADISON — Scores of local leaders sent Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers a letter Sunday, March 22 warning him that the state isn’t doing enough to protect voters from the coronavirus as the spring election approaches.
The April 7 election features Wisconsin’s presidential primary, a state Supreme Court race, and hundreds of local races. A number of states have postponed primaries in hopes of slowing the virus’ spread. But Evers has insisted Wisconsin’s election go on as scheduled, saying people should vote by absentee ballot rather than travel to the polls.
Wisconsin health officials said Sunday that the state’s confirmed cases jumped to 381, up from 281 a day earlier. Four people in the state died from COVID-19, the disease that’s caused by the virus.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Nearly 225 local leaders signed the letter telling Evers that the state hasn’t done enough to protect voters. They warned that people will gather in large numbers in government buildings for early in-person voting. The health risks will only multiply on April 7 at the polls, they said.
The leaders don’t say what Evers should do, only that “more needs to be done, and done quickly.”
“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,” the letter said.
Asked for comment, Evers’ spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, pointed to a letter that Evers’ attorney, Ryan Nilsestuen, sent to Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe on Friday.
The letter states that the Department of Administration is working to secure more envelopes for absentee ballots and emergency management officials are trying to find hand sanitizer for poll workers as well as coordinating with volunteer organizations to recruit poll workers.
Evers announced Saturday that he directed state emergency management officials to ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help in obtaining gear for first responders. The state is also trying to obtain more equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile.
So far, the state has received about 52,000 N95 masks, 130,000 surgical masks, 25,000 face shields, 20,000 surgical gowns, 100 coveralls, and 36,000 pairs of gloves from the stockpile. Those supplies are being distributed to health care providers in areas with community spread.