Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Voters line up at Riverside High School in Milwaukee for Wisconsin's primary election, on April 7, 2020.

Morry Gash/The Associated Press

Despite a last-minute court battle and a stay-at-home order, thousands of Wisconsin voters on Tuesday braved the coronavirus outbreak to wait 6 feet (1.8 m) apart in lines for hours and cast ballots in the state’s presidential primary and local elections.

Some Wisconsinites who had requested absentee ballots said they never received them, forcing them to choose between risking their health to cast a ballot in person or forgoing their right to vote.

The confusion and frustration among the Midwestern state’s residents – as well as the 11th-hour legal wrangling over whether to hold the election during a public health emergency – served as a sobering preview of what may await other states, or the country as a whole, if the pandemic persists.

Story continues below advertisement

The general election that will determine the next president – Republican President Donald Trump or a Democratic challenger – is scheduled for Nov. 3.

In Wisconsin, more than half of municipalities reported shortages of poll workers, prompting the state to call up 2,400 National Guard troops to assist.

Outside Riverside High School in Milwaukee – where officials closed all but five of the city’s 180 voting sites for a lack of poll workers – masked voters stood in a line that stretched for several blocks.

In Green Bay, poll workers sat behind Plexiglas barriers. In Madison, election officials urged voters to bring their own pens – black or blue ballpoint, if possible, because other colours or types of ink could flummox ballot-counting machines.

More than a dozen states have postponed nominating elections in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has transformed Americans’ daily lives.

On Monday, Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, ordered the election postponed until June despite having previously said he lacked the authority to do so. But the state Supreme Court reversed his order in a ruling late on Monday after Republican legislative leaders challenged Evers’ decision.

Separately, in another Republican challenge, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday overturned a federal judge’s decision extending absentee voting for six days, instead ruling all ballots had to be postmarked by Tuesday.

Story continues below advertisement

That decision forced Jennifer Archer, 35, to don a mask and gloves and head to the polls in Milwaukee after her absentee ballot did not show up.

“I know several people who also never got their ballots,” she said. “They had the option of coming out and hoping for the best, or sit this election out, but I didn’t see that as an option.”

Others were not able to vote at all. Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich said in a phone interview that his wife, who is immunocomprised, never got her absentee ballot and could not risk voting in person.

Hannah Gleeson, a 34-year-old health care worker who is 17 weeks pregnant, recently tested positive for the coronavirus. She is self-quarantining at home and last week requested an absentee ballot that has yet to arrive.

“I don’t, at this point, have a way to vote. It’s really despicable and voter suppression at its finest,” she said.

State records showed around 9,400 ballots had not been mailed as of Tuesday morning.

Story continues below advertisement

“Frustrating doesn’t even begin to cover it,” Satya Rhodes-Conway, Madison’s Democratic mayor, said in an interview. “The fact that the legislature has refused to take any action is just reprehensible.”

She said Madison opened 66 of its 92 normal polling sites after recruiting 1,400 replacement poll workers. The city shifted dozens of employees to the clerk’s office from other departments in recent weeks to help prepare for the election.

’DRIVE-THROUGH’ VOTING

The legal manoeuvring over the election overshadowed Wisconsin’s Democratic presidential primary, the first nominating contest since March 17 in the race to pick a challenger to Trump.

Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a commanding lead over rival U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. The pandemic has forced both candidates off the campaign trail.

Wisconsin election results will not be released until next Monday, the deadline for absentee ballots postmarked by Tuesday to be received.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, said Tuesday’s crowded polling sites were particularly risky for African-American voters, who are already seeing a higher incidence of coronavirus infections and fatality rates in Milwaukee, according to public health data.

Story continues below advertisement

Some cities resorted to “drive-through” voting. In Beloit, poll workers brought ballots to drivers’ windows to be completed.

In the village of Somerset, clerk Felicia Germaine said turnout appeared to be lower than usual. Strips of tape on the ground helped voters maintain distance.

“It’s almost like a big game of adult hopscotch,” said Cherie Link, a candidate for the state Senate this autumn who volunteered as a poll worker on Tuesday.

While the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, many frontline health-care workers are forced to isolate as they care for patients infected with the virus. See how Dr. Kanna Vela is coping with being away from her family as she treats patients in Ajax and Scarborough, Ontario hospitals.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies