How the world saw yesterday's election in Wisconsin
On Tuesday, the eyes of the world were on Wisconsin – though I'm sure they wished they could avert their gaze.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic closing down businesses and shutting down gatherings – including the two Supreme Courts who imparted decisive rulings on the situation – the Wisconsin hosted in-person voting for its primary election on Tuesday, April 7. From last-minute rulings to missing absentee ballots and conflicting reports on rules, the Wisconsin election was a full-scale fustercluck no matter your side of the aisle – and that's all before people were lined up for blocks and gathered into close quarters in the midst of a once-in-a-generation health crisis, forced to choose between voting or potentially infecting themselves and others.
Here's how national publications, news outlets and the world saw the events on Tuesday.
"The scenes that unfolded in Wisconsin showed an electoral system stretched to the breaking point by the same public health catastrophe that has killed thousands and brought the country's economic and social patterns to a virtual standstill in recent weeks. And in Wisconsin, the political institutions proved overmatched, with a Republican legislature and a conservative state and federal judiciary resisting efforts to reschedule the election or revise the procedures for voting.
"The result was a dangerous spectacle that forced voters to choose between participating in an important election and protecting their health. While election administrators said they were trying in myriad ways to make the voting process safer, the long lines, last-minute judicial rulings and backlogged absentee ballot requests added up to something resembling system failure."
Lines forming just 30 minutes after polls open in Milwaukee, people trying to space. Almost everyone has a mask pic.twitter.com/KVCJ7Ik0Xe— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) April 7, 2020
"Some jurisdictions also offered curbside (a.k.a. drive-through) voting, whereby voters stayed in their car to vote. But not everyone felt this was safer. Charles Minnich, who voted curbside on Tuesday morning in Beloit (on the Illinois border), told FiveThirtyEight that the unorthodox setup seemed unrehearsed, and many of the poll workers he saw weren't wearing any personal protective equipment. 'People seemed confused by the whole process, on both sides of the clipboard,' he said. 'People are going to get sick and probably die from this.'"
"The first things that hit my electric Twitter machine feed Tuesday morning were photos and videos of Wisconsin voters, most of them masked and distanced socially, waiting in line to vote in that state's primary election. This jerry-rigged burlesque of an election was made possible by the Republican majority in the Wisconsin legislature, and the conservative majorities in both the Wisconsin and United States Supreme Court. All the sturm und drang was occasioned by the Wisconsin GOP's desire to hang onto a seat on that state supreme court, thereby avoiding having its majority reduced to 4-3 from 5-2. It was impossible for me to sort out my reaction to the videos from the polling places. I mean, can something be brave, thrilling, terrifying, hopeful, and infuriating, all at the same time? Apparently so."
"Democracies around the world are wondering how to hold elections during a pandemic. The state of Wisconsin, which may well decide the outcome of America's presidential election in November, has just provided a lesson in how not to do it."
"The coronavirus death toll is rising. A statewide shelter-in-place order has been in effect for nearly two weeks. Hundreds of polling sites have been shuttered and thousands of poll workers cannot fill their shifts.
"Yet somehow in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has led more than a dozen states to delay their elections, Wisconsin is asking its citizens to come out and vote Tuesday.
"This is what the complete collapse of a state's political system looks like."
"Amelia Brummond, 34, submitted her request for a ballot for herself and her husband on 12 March. Her husband's ballot came weeks later, but hers never came. She said she tried to follow up with election officials in Milwaukee, but never got an answer. Brummond, who has five children, said she won't go to the polls on Tuesday because it's too risky. She wanted to vote in a school measure that was on the ballot, but won't be able to.
"'I can't bring coronavirus into my house,' she said. 'I'm just going to have to opt out.'"
"Still, on Tuesday voters showed up, trying to be socially distant, but undoubtedly putting themselves at risk to cast their ballot. In Milwaukee, where the city's election commission had shifted 180 voting locations to 'five voting centers' because of 'severe shortages in election workers,' long lines formed. The videos and photos of voters doing something so ordinary in such panicked times immediately drew expressions of shock online.
"One of those voters, Ronny Hill, 65, a retired construction worker, waited over two hours to vote. Dressed in a jogging suit and wearing a medical mask, plastic gloves and a Marines baseball cap, he said his sense of duty outweighed his fear of the virus.
"'Was I scared? Hell yea I'm scared!' he said. 'This virus is taking out the black people in this community, but I knew what I had to do. My daddy couldn't vote during his time, so I voted for him.'
"A lengthy wait also didn't deter Lauren Gilbert, a student support consultant and adjunct professor. The 26-year-old voted Tuesday at a polling place located in a predominantly black neighborhood and described lines that 'were around the block.'
"'It took me almost 2 hours to vote,' Gilbert said. 'I wasn't scared, I felt empowered. I am passionate about voting as an educator.'
"'I always vote, but I didn't want to be here today. I'm afraid I could get the virus and bring it home to my family, but my absentee ballot didn't arrive,' said Lilly Miller, 34, a full-time stay-at-home mom. 'My husband stayed home from work with the kids so I could come vote. My husband received his ballot, so he was able to vote.'
"Jazemeka Fuller, 18, a senior in high school, was casting a ballot for the first time on Tuesday.
"'I'm not gonna lie, I'm scared,' she said. 'When I was younger I was really excited to turn 18 and vote. My granddad used to always tell me the history of voting in this country and how Black people couldn't vote. But today, the excitement I had is gone.'"
"Sally Rohrer, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, volunteered at a local polling station, a location that combined four sites into one.
"Many voters who turned out on Tuesday donned masks and socially distanced as they lined up.
"But Ms Rohrer told the BBC she and other volunteers were not supplied with masks.
"She said that while many voters had covered their face not everyone had.
"'This is a huge risk, not only to our health but to our democracy,' Ms Rohrer said."
"Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, wore a mask, gloves and other protective gear as he sought to assure voters it was 'incredibly safe' to vote in person for Tuesday's election amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"Standing in front of cars lined up for curbside voting, Vos said people working at polling locations and those voting in person face 'very minimal exposure.'
"'Actually, there's less exposure here than you would get if you went to the grocery store, or you went to Walmart, or you did any of the many things we have to do to live in the state of Wisconsin,' Vos said.
"Add them all up, and you have an election taking place today, where Republicans – like President Trump – are urging voters to go to the polls in Wisconsin, and where Democrats are saying that it's unsafe. (A sizable number of Wisconsin voters have already cast absentee ballots.)
"All of this instability should be a warning to the other states and the two political parties to come to some sort of an agreement on rules for the road in voting in our new Coronavirus Era.
"... Now that the election is moving forward — results won't be released until April 13 — the state, the political parties and everyone involved better hope that today's in-person voting doesn't lead to a further outbreak in the state.
"Because that would be the biggest mess of all."
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