‘Nothing like usual’: City clerks take precautions at polls during pandemic

MADISON, Wis.– After the spring election, the City of Madison Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said she learned that absentee ballots aren’t best for everyone. So, leading up to the Aug. 8 election, Witzel-Behl focused on ensuring people could vote safely in person, as well.

“Polling places will look nothing like usual,” Witzel-Behl said.

Poll workers wore face masks, face shields and gloves. Glass barriers separated poll workers from voters. Everything was sanitized.

“There was glass between everyone I talked to. It was super easy, signed my name and no lines. It was in and out,” Sophia Shields, a voter, said.

Despite the COVID-19 complications, Shields still took advantage of her 19th amendment Tuesday morning.

“It’s hard to get your vote in right now. It might seem like that, but it’s really not that difficult,” Shields said.

The City of Madison utilized members of the Wisconsin National Guard for the election, but won’t know how many of the members worked at polls until after the election.

“We put in a request of our most urgent locations to have additional staff based on absentee numbers, and then the list went on from the greatest need to the least need,” Witzel-Behl said.

Nearly 700 members of the Wisconsin National Guard worked at polling places in 40 counties around the state, according to the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs.

While every vote counts, this election was a test run for the November election.

“This gives us a chance to put our plan into action for safe voting, and then evaluate that, learn lessons, and make improvements for November,” Witzel-Behl said.

All ballots will be counted and results will be announced on Tuesday night.