MILWAUKEE -- If you're planning on heading to the polls Tuesday, April 7 to cast your vote, odds are you're going to have to go someplace else. Officials in Milwaukee, as well as Wauwatosa, consolidated polling sites in light of the public health threat of COVID-19 and decreasing numbers of Election Day workers.
"It's spread out across the state. There is no one area. The shortage is truly statewide," said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) administrator. "We are working on creating a pool of workers that we could deploy if a polling location does not have any workers."
A word of warning from WEC staff about the lack of people to staff the polls come April 7; it would take a lift by state lawmakers to postpone the election. Statewide, 60% of municipalities are short on poll workers, leaving the WEC to try to come up with a solution.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has called for a vote-by-mail-only election. State Republican leadership disagrees. However, both say the election should go forward on April 7.
"We have an urgent need for poll workers. If you're healthy and able, we would love for you to work the polls in Wauwatosa," said Eva Ennamorato, a City of Wauwatosa spokesperson. "We have over 100 on a normal election, and so, we'll need roughly the same amount for this election."
The poll worker shortage is affecting cities both small and large.
"Earlier this week, we were down to 400 election workers of the 1,400 that we would normally use, so it's a minimal amount of staff that are available to us," Neil Albrecht, Milwaukee Election Commission executive director, said.
The lack of staff and concerns about spreading COVID-19 led officials in both Milwaukee and Wauwatosa to consolidate polling locations. Three locations in Wauwatosa were pared down to one. Milwaukee's usual 180 sites were boiled down to, at most, a dozen, but likely fewer than 10.
"I'm not in a position at this time to identify the voting centers that we will be using," Albrecht said. "But again, they will be sites that can offer us sufficient space for a large volume of people on Election Day."
And large enough to keep people separated enough for social distancing, too.
Officials in Wauwatosa and Milwaukee still urge voters to request absentee ballots, get them in time and mail them or return them to drop-off locations in time to avoid the prospect of heading to the polls in the middle of a pandemic.