MADISON – More than 50 Wisconsin municipalities — many of them in rural areas — have a severe shortage of poll workers but can get help from the National Guard if they don’t find more soon.
Meagan Wolfe, the director of the state Elections Commission, called the shortage of poll workers a small but significant problem. She said the situation is much better than it was for the April election for state Supreme Court, when the coronavirus pandemic had just emerged and election officials faced much greater shortages of poll workers.
“I think we’re in a much better spot than we have ever been this year,” Wolfe told reporters during a virtual news conference.
But the shortage in 51 communities is severe enough that they won’t be able to open polling sites if they don’t get more poll workers, Wolfe said.
Gov. Tony Evers in a separate news conference said he would deploy the National Guard to help those communities, just as he did for other elections this year.
“The National Guard will be there to make sure we have enough people working at the polls,” the Democratic governor said.
In all, the 51 communities need about 180 more poll workers for the Nov. 3 presidential election, Wolfe said.
That’s a tiny share of the 30,000 or so poll workers who serve in Wisconsin, but for some communities the problem is significant.
Green Bay is short 30 poll workers, Menomonie is 15 short and Antigo is 10 short. The rest need five or fewer, Wolfe said.
Many longtime poll workers are senior citizens — a high-risk group for coronavirus — and many of them chose not to serve in April. But in the months since then, many communities have done a good job of finding people willing to work the polls, Wolfe said.
Milwaukee, which faced a severe shortage of poll workers in April, has enough poll workers for the fall election and a large reserve of backup poll workers if those scheduled to serve don’t show up, Wolfe said.
Other communities aren’t as fortunate. Among the municipalities needing poll workers are Chetek, Paddock Lake, Spring Green and Waterford.
Some rural towns typically have as few as five poll workers, so a shortage of even one poll worker can be problematic for them, Wolfe said.
Poll workers can serve in any community in their county. Those who want to work at the polls can contact their clerk or sign up at myvote.wi.gov.
The amount poll workers are paid varies by community.
Contact Patrick Marley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.