Wisconsin Elections Commission takes action amid COVID-19 concerns

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Elections Commission approved two measures meant to address COVID-19 concerns around next month’s election at a special meeting Thursday.

The commission passed a motion that would allow municipal clerks to change the location of polling places designated by health officials as ‘areas of concern.’ 

Typically under state law, municipalities would be required to establish polling places at least 30 days before an election, which the April 7 polling date would have otherwise not met.

The group specifically targeted nursing homes citing the need to protect the state’s most vulnerable voters.

“Keeping with the guidance that we’re learning from health care professionals in addition to non essential personnel not being allowed in care facilities of course that means that care facilities should not be used as polling places on election day,” said Administrator for the Wisconsin Elections Commission Meagan Wolfe

The commission is also directing municipal clerks to mail absentee ballots to nursing homes and care facilities instead of sending in special voting deputies. 

They have yet to determine what the process by which they would send those ballots but they do have plans to work with nursing homes and other care facilities to make sure voters, particularly those who typically utilize the special voting deputy process, are aware of opportunities to get ballots.

The group is likely to meet again next week to discuss encouraging all Wisconsin residents to request absentee ballots and talk about other public health concerns in the election.

“We expect that our guidance might change daily and of course we rely every step of the way on the guidance of health care professionals. We know election laws, we know election policy but we are not health care experts,” Wolfe said.