Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the city has put in an order for additional secure drop boxes ahead of the November election and is nearly doubling the per diem for poll workers to make things run more smoothly than this spring.
Barrett and city officials faced intense criticism after reducing the number of in-person polling sites to just five for the April election, resulting in long lines and lengthy delays.
But in a virtual breakfast meeting with Wisconsin’s delegates to the national convention, Barrett said the city was losing “hundreds of poll workers by the hour” amid the guv’s stay-at-home order and concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Barrett said it was inappropriate to ask some people in neighborhoods where the virus was “running rampant” to still staff polling sites for 14 hours that day.
The state made members of the Wisconsin National Guard available to local communities to staff polling sites in April.
The lack of local poll workers, coupled with the “last-minute changes” through orders by the Wisconsin and U.S. Supreme Courts, “put that election in disarray,” Barrett said.
To attract more young people to work the polls, the city is increasing the per diem to $230 from $130. It’s also placed orders for 14 to 15 secure drop boxes so voters can return their absentee ballots without relying on the mail.
“As hard as the president is working to make it less appealing for people to use absentee balloting, we are doing everything we can to make it convenient for people because of health reasons, because of COVID-19, because it’s the right thing to do,” Barrett said.
Barrett told the breakfast he was “getting into the weeds” of what is typically part pep rally, part organizational meeting at a convention. Still, he stressed the importance of making sure people fill out the absentee ballots correctly so those votes count this fall.
The state and national Dem parties have filed a lawsuit seeking a series of changes to how absentee ballots are treated for the November election, including a request to extend the deadline for when they must be received. Typically, they have to be in the hands of local clerks by 8 p.m. on Election Day. The federal judge overseeing the suit, which has been combined with others, allowed absentee ballots postmarked by the April 7 election and received by the following Monday to count, and that suggestion has been made in the case about the fall election as well.
Perez assured Wisconsin Dems the national party is “all in on that. We will pay every penny of that litigation.”