Officials facing poll worker shortage, changing voting locations ahead of election

MARATHON COUNTY, Wis. (WSAW) -- With a statewide election just one week away and Wisconsinites under a Safer at Home order, election officials are working to make sure polling locations are staffed with poll workers and safe for voters.

Officials are asking anyone over 16 to work at the polls Tuesday (WSAW Photo).

Election officials in Wausau say a significant number of poll workers declined to work this election because of concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

It’s just one city in Marathon County racing to make sure polling locations are staffed and safe.

“We had 100 poll workers that were set up for the April 7th election, we lost about probably half of them, so we’ve filled some of them, I think last count we were at about 60,” said Leslie Kremer, Wausau City Clerk.

Marathon County Clerk Kim Trueblood echoes the need for poll workers, with her office getting the word out on their Facebook page . She said by phone Tuesday that many of the usual poll workers are elderly, putting them at a greater risk of infection.

“We definitely notice an increased need for people to help out at polling stations,” said Trueblood.

Several options are available to voters who come to the polls.

“Curbside voting has always been available at elections. It’s for people who are disabled or for some reason cannot come into the polling site,” Kremer said.

Kremer says in Wausau, steps will be taken to keep voters and poll workers safe.

“As you come into the building, there will be hand sanitizer available at all of the tables. There will be hand washing stations as you exit the building. We’ve also let voters know that if you’d like to bring your own black pen, it must be black ink, and use it throughout the whole voting process, they’re welcome to do that,” she said, adding that a sneeze guard would separate poll workers from voters.

If you live in Wausau and plan to vote in person next Tuesday, several polling sites are changing.

Districts 3, 6 and 10 will now vote at the Marathon Park multi-purpose building, and Districts 7 and 8 will move to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.
“There will be signage at all of the new polling locations directing voters where to go. We also will have signage at the old polling places for anyone who is not aware of the changes,” said Kremer.

You have to be 16 or older to be a poll worker. Election officials ask anyone who can give even a few hours of their time to contact their local clerk’s office.

Many people are choosing to vote absentee, as encouraged by the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

“We’ve noticed, of course, a radical increase in absentee voting, we have ordered upwards of 20,000 absentee ballot envelopes,” she said.

If you are quarantined at home and cannot get a witness, Trueblood offered several ways to get it done.

“You can always have a neighbor view you mark your ballot through a window, and maybe hand the envelope or set it outside on the ground for them to sign. Maybe enlist the help of your mailman to do that. Of course, if you’re under a doctor’s care, any medical personnel can do that for you,” she said.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Thursday, April 2nd. Online voter registration has closed, but you can still register to vote in person on Tuesday. For more information, click here .