Gov. Tony Evers has authorized up to 400 members of the National Guard to work at polling stations across the state, a total roughly double the statewide shortage of poll workers reported today by the state’s top election official.
Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe told reporters at her weekly media availability Thursday the state is short some 200 poll workers across 42 counties. Those figures are updated daily but sit at roughly the same levels as Wolfe reported last week.
Wolfe praised the “fantastic work” done by election officials in recruiting both poll workers and a pool of reserves.
“I think they’ve all done a really good job of stepping up and making sure we have what we need for Election Day,” she said.
One week ahead of the state’s April election, the first to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic, local clerks indicated the shortage of poll workers was so severe that 111 communities wouldn’t even staff one polling site. Another 126 said they were unable to open all of the polling locations they’d like. The overall shortage reported by clerks on March 31 was nearly 7,000 poll workers.
Wolfe said roughly 2,500 members of the National Guard were deployed as poll workers in that election while another 1,000 worked the polls in both the state’s 7th CD special election in May and partisan primary in August.
Members of the National Guard are also set to serve at polling locations next week, but in much smaller numbers.
Wolfe told reporters that as with previous elections, the Guard members will receive training on Sunday, report to a jurisdiction where there is an anticipated need in order to complete further training on Monday before serving in a plain-clothes capacity on Election Day.
The Guard members, Wolfe said, will be stationed regionally on Nov. 3 and deployed as needed. According to Wolfe, Guard members who are needed in “decision-making roles” must be residents of the county in which the polling location is located. But she added other roles — such as greeters, helpers or those detailed with sanitation duty — don’t carry a requirement for county residency.
Wolfe also said the 400 Guard members authorized by Evers will be serving strictly as poll workers and will not be used in a law enforcement capacity to prevent voter intimidation or protect polling places.
“Whether or not there’s any other plans to utilize other Guard members on Election Day in the event that there were any type of unrest, that would be a question not for the Election Commission,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Evers, who controls National Guard deployment, was not immediately available for comment.
See more on the locations of the poll worker shortages here.