LWV of WI Election Report on spring elections

LWV of WI Election Report on spring elections

PDF iconapril_7_2020_election_report_2.pdf

For the full report click here:  april_7_2020_election_report_2.pdf

General Findings

Wisconsin was the only state to hold an election in the midst of a pandemic. Shifting and overly stringent rules, overwhelmed clerks and frightened voters and poll workers created, in many communities, a dangerous and chaotic atmosphere. While this was not true in every community in the state,, click here it was a major problem for far too many Wisconsin voters. There are specific problems that need to be addressed and rectified before future elections.

We have been participating in Election Protection efforts for more than 15 years and never have we been contacted by so many voters – more than one hundred - who were disenfranchised because of the way the election was carried out. Stories have poured in from across the state, from big cities like Milwaukee and Madison, medium-sized cities like Waukesha and Oshkosh, and small towns and villages like North Freedom and Lakeland. For many, this was the first time in their adult lives they were not able vote in an election. While each of these voter’s stories and individual experiences are different, one thing was true for the vast majority of voters who responded to our survey: approximately 75% of them requested an absentee ballot that never arrived.

Here are some of their stories.

  • A Madison voter: “I am an emergency medicine doctor and have been quarantined for exposure to COVID. I requested an absentee ballot at least three weeks ago and did not receive it. I could not go vote because of public health laws/rules and my own desire not to spread the infection.”

  • A Milwaukee voter: “I did not get to vote and I am pretty upset about it. I requested an absentee ballot but it never came. Why didn't I vote in person, you ask?? Because I'm disabled and already have a weakened respiratory system. There have been many stories floating around about healthcare workers having to choose who to save if it came down to only having a handful of life saving supplies. The elderly and disabled are viewed as disposable in this virus situation. Yesterday, I chose my life over my rights. If that isn't ableism or able-bodied privilege, I don't know what is.”

  • A North Freedom voter: “No, I did not vote, I didn't receive my [absentee] ballot in time!! I am not happy. This is the first time I’ve ever tried to vote this way. I am at high risk for the virus!”

  • An Eagle voter: “I ordered my absentee ballot at least a week before the deadline and it never came. I am an at risk person so I chose not to risk my life to vote during a global pandemic. This is the 1st time I haven't voted since I turned 18.”

  • A voter who did not provide their community of residence: “My sister is a cancer survivor. I am disabled. My absentee ballot arrived and has been mailed. Her ballot never arrived. First time she will not be voting. It's a crushing day.”

  • A Madison voter: “88 years old, did not want to risk the polls. Applied for an absentee ballot online March 18th, said it was mailed, NEVER received.”

  • An Oshkosh voter: “My absentee ballot hasn’t yet arrived. I am undergoing treatment for cancer and wasn’t comfortable actually going to a polling place.”

  • A Town of Lakeland voter: “I requested an absentee ballot and it never arrived. When I contacted the town clerk after the election I was told she made a mistake and forgot to submit my application.”

  • A New Berlin voter: “Couldn’t go. I’ve not set foot in a store or public place since the 13th of March. Taking every precaution but nothing would of protected me at the polls.”

  • An Oshkosh voter summed up the feeling of many voters: “I didn’t receive my absentee ballots after two requests. I will not go vote in this pandemic.”

Another overarching concern is the profound difference in access to information and election participation depending on whether a voter did or did not have meaningful digital access at home. Especially for persons confined at home, much of the ability to register and request an absentee ballot was contingent upon digital access. Further, much of the information – and many of the rules – changed quickly and were often publicized, if at all, primarily online. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that overwhelmed clerks often were unable to even answer phone calls. Voters who rely on public locations such as libraries for internet access, voters without smart phones, and voters who live in parts of the state with little or no broadband service, were at a significant disadvantage.





Finally, we are very concerned that the combination of fear, confusion, lack of information, and systemic problems with voting processes may have caused voter participation to decline, especially among certain groups of voters. For example, preliminary research conducted by University of Wisconsin Elections Research Center Prof. Ken Mayer, suggests that turnout in Black and Latinx wards in Milwaukee, as a percentage of overall turnout in the city and county of Milwaukee, decreased or lagged compared to that turnout in previous Spring elections with presidential primaries.



PDF iconapril_7_2020_election_report_2.pdf

This page is related to which committees: 
Voter Services Committee