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Milwaukee mayor suggests April 7 election be modified to ‘vote by mail’

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett sent a letter Monday, March 23 to Gov. Tony Evers, Senator Scott Fitzgerald and Rep. Robin Vos, requesting that the April 7 spring election consist of mail-only ballots due to COVID-19.

“I do not believe that it would be fair to our election workers or to the members of the public to have a traditional emphasis on voters coming to the polls on April 7th,” Barrett said. “I also don’t think it’s feasible at this point to continue to have the early voting or absentee voting.”

The mayor talked about the suggestion during a web conference call on Tuesday afternoon, March 24.

Mayor Barrett indicated he reached out to Gov. Tony Evers and other state legislators about this modification — which will now be up for consideration.

The mayor’s letter to Gov. Evers and other legislators is below:

“Dear Governor Evers, Senator Scott Fitzgerald and Representative Robin Vos:

“As we all navigate the unprecedented health and economic challenges that covid-19 has brought to residents throughout the State of Wisconsin, I want to thank each of you for the leadership you have shown. We have already witnessed the disruption and hardships this disease has caused in addition to the health ramifications that are continuing to unfold. We must continue to work together as leaders and Americans to do all we can to protect the health and well-being of all residents in our great state.

It is in that spirit that I write to you about the spring election scheduled for April 7. In conversations with each of you individually, I have supported your shared desire to hold our spring primary as scheduled. Having monitored the situation we are experiencing in Milwaukee, I now believe that neither in-person absentee voting nor in-person voting on April 7 is feasible or safe for our workers or residents. Consequently, I am asking you to modify the election procedure and to conduct it through mail ballots.

Late yesterday afternoon, I learned that the Elections Commission for the City of Milwaukee could no longer maintain sufficient staffing levels to operate our three in-person absentee or “early” voting locations.

This occurred because the Election Commission was losing staff daily, including site supervisors. The staffing situation has become even more challenging as a result of both the local and state “stay at home” orders. In fact, late this afternoon, Neil Albrecht, Executive Director of the Commission, informed me that since the Governor’s announcement this morning, “we are losing the commitment of dozens of election workers by the hour,” including chief inspectors who run the sites.”

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