Voter suppression & COVID-19: too good an opportunity for WI legislators to pass up

On Tuesday, Election Day here in Wisconsin, I’m going spend the day counting ballots. Last week, the call went out for volunteers, and I figured it was something I could do. We’re going to be working in an 80,000 square-foot space; social distancing will be enforced. Masks and gloves will be  provided. 

Today, the front page of the Sunday paper featured an editorial praising our governor, Democrat Tony Evers. Evers wants to turn Tuesday’s election into an all-mail affair and give voters until May 19thto return their ballots. 

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, both Republicans, disagree and insist that in-person voting is perfectly safe. This, despite the fact that public health experts and thousands of poll workers who’ve opted to stay home have concluded otherwise. 

But voter suppression is powerful catnip. And Vos, Fitzgerald and the rest of the Republican-controlled legislature are rolling around in a partisan high at the idea of keeping Milwaukee and Madison voters (whose votes historically skew more Democratic), from showing up on Election Day.

I love walking to the end of my street, up the concrete ramp, through the heavy doors and down the steps to the library at the elementary school where I vote. Greeting and catching up with the same cadre of poll workers every Election Day is one of the small pleasures that make my life happy. But three weeks ago, I got sent home from work and a week before that, my-daughter-the-doctor-in-Canada told me to cancel my April trip to visit there.

Sweetheart and I requested absentee ballots. We completed and dropped them off last week. 

There’s no question that voter turnout is going to be negatively affected by the reality of the Coronavirus outbreak. As I write this, Milwaukee County has 1,167 confirmed cases, 991 of which are in the city proper, and that’s not taking into account the thousands of sick people who can’t get tested. 

“Even with low turnout, far too many people could be forced into close contact as they exercise their right to vote,” the editorial states in part. “Milwaukee normally has 180 polling places, for example, but will only have five on Tuesday because of the shortage of poll workers. Others fearful of waiting in crowded lines won’t vote at all.”

One of those “others” is my 90-year-old cousin, who lives in a suburb. She expressed her dismay at not being able to vote on Tuesday during a phone call yesterday. 

The editorial concluded with Vos’ and Fitzgerald’s contact information. I went right upstairs and sent them an email.

Dear Representative Vos & Senator Fitzgerald:

I am writing to admonish you both for disenfranchising my 90-year-old cousin, who told me on Friday that she is “ashamed” she isn’t voting this Tuesday. C lives in Glendale and her politics align closely with yours.

I would say shame on you both for forcing C and others in her situation to choose between their lives and their civic lives, but your craven actions indicate a level of indifference that makes me sure I’d be wasting my time and my breath. 

Were there to be a mail-in election with adequate time to return ballots, my cousin and others like her would be able to participate in the democratic process. If you can dig deep down into any unsold parts of your souls and make that happen, I might stop fantasizing about which of your districts I’d move to just to vote you out in the next election.


Amy Waldman


3 thoughts on “Voter suppression & COVID-19: too good an opportunity for WI legislators to pass up

  1. The State of Washington has had mail in ballots for years. It’s so much easier…you have the time to read up on the candidates and issues, no standing in line, and send in the ballot, day or night, by mailing it (free postage) or putting it into a locked secure ballot box, of which there are many. It’s a far better process,, far more private and secure.

    Liked by 1 person

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