MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday he would call up the Wisconsin National Guard to help run next week’s primary because of a shortage of about 900 poll workers.
The Democratic governor made the announcement a day after election officials pleaded with the public to sign up to work at the polls. Many long-time poll workers have declined to serve this election cycle because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Time and time again the Guard has stepped up to help their neighbors, friends and communities, as they will be doing on election day by helping to ensure that every Wisconsinite can vote safely without fear for their health,” Evers said in a statement.
Guard members served as poll workers in the April election for state Supreme Court, helping communities across the state — including dozens that had feared they could not open any precincts without help. The Guard also helped in a May special election for a seat in Congress in northern Wisconsin.
For Tuesday’s primary, communities in more than 40 of the state’s 72 counties have reported a shortage of poll workers, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Guard members will report for duty Sunday for initial training and will start assisting clerks on Monday. Like other poll workers, Guard members must live in the county where they serve at the polls. They will perform their duties in civilian clothes.
The poll worker shortage is one of many issues that has officials worried about how they will run elections this fall because of the pandemic.
Attorneys for Democrats and others who have sued over how the Nov. 3 presidential election will be run said in court Wednesday that they welcomed help from the National Guard but believed Evers was activating it too close to elections.
They want him to call up the National Guard earlier for the November election so election officials know how many poll workers they will have and can plan better for election day.
A typical August primary requires between 25,000 and 30,000 poll workers. But some past poll workers do not want to serve this year because they are older or have health conditions that put that at greater risk if they were to be infected with the coronavirus.
Those who want to work at the polls can contact their municipal clerk log onto myvote.wi.gov.
Contact Patrick Marley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.