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— Local clerks generally say they will have sufficient staffing for Election Day, but the state’s top election official reported today 51 municipalities across 31 counties are facing a severe shortage of poll workers.
Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe said during her weekly media briefing that shortage equated to roughly 180 poll workers statewide. But she added “in the grand scheme of things,” the overall shortage statewide only represented “a small number.” Overall, the state is aiming to have some 30,000 poll workers for next month’s election.
“I think we’ve come a long way,” she said. “I still think we need to do what we can to help support those small communities that don’t have a lot of options and places to turn to in terms of filling those needs.”
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.
Gov. Tony Evers ultimately deployed the National Guard ahead of that election to staff polling sites, largely alleviating the problem. But information on that deployment came too late for some municipalities such as Milwaukee, which opted ahead of the announcement to consolidate from 180 polling places down to five to keep those locations fully staffed.
Evers also deployed the National Guard to bolster polling sites ahead of the statewide August election and a special election in the 7th CD in May.
The guv indicated during a Department of Health Service briefing this afternoon the National Guard would be available for communities still experiencing poll worker shortages in November.
“The National Guard will be there to make sure we have enough people working at the polls,” Evers said.
— Wolfe said the 51 municipalities she highlighted identified either a “serious” or “critical” shortage of poll workers.
A “serious” shortage means a community will be able to open all of its polling locations but will lack the personnel to run Election Day operations as planned. A “critical” shortage, she said, means a jurisdiction does not have enough staff to open all polling locations in accordance with state law.
Wolfe said most communities reporting shortages were small, rural townships or villages. In those jurisdictions, Wolfe said, a shortage of one or two poll workers could result in “a pretty significant need for that community.”
Wolfe said some larger jurisdictions have already completed recruitment for poll workers as well as backups in the case of emergency. But she said Green Bay, the state’s third-largest city, is facing a shortage of 30 poll workers. That’s the largest shortage in the state, according to figures reported back by local clerks so far.
Other large shortages include 15 in Menomonie in Dunn County and 10 in Antigo in Langlade County.
See information on poll worker shortages on the MyVote site:
— The Evers administration’s final accounting of 2019-20 shows the general fund finished the fiscal year with $89.2 million less than originally expected when the two-year budget was signed last summer.
That figure accounts for all of the spending in legislation that was signed during the fiscal year, the revised revenue estimates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the savings measures Gov. Tony Evers ordered as the virus spread.
But the annual fiscal report shows the general fund with a balance of just under $1.2 billion as of June 30. It is the largest ending balance for a fiscal year in at least two decades, according to today’s report.
The report is also the latest sign the state’s general fund was largely able to weather a turbulent fourth quarter in the fiscal year following the guv’s stay-at-home orders and a drop in some economic activity due to COVID-19.
The next piece of the state’s fiscal picture will be released in a month as the Department of Administration provides new revenue estimates for 2020-21. That report also will pair up agency requests with tax collection projections for the 2021-23 budget. WisPolitics.com reported last month agencies had already requested a net increase of $755 million in general purpose revenue. That figure didn’t include the Department of Public Instruction’s request for K-12 aids, which the agency plans to submit early next month.
The guv’s office and the Joint Finance co-chairs didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on today’s report.
— The Milwaukee host committee for the Dem National Convention raised $42.7 million and is expected to finish the year with a small debt.
John W. Miller, who chaired the committee’s Board of Directors, said final bills are still coming in, and the effort expects a final debt of a few hundred thousand dollars. He pledged the committee will pay off the final bills without asking for public support.
“We will absolutely not rely on not only taxpayers, but anyone in Wisconsin to pay that bill,” Miller said in a phone interview.
The committee could look to various sources to cover the shortfall. Joe Biden’s campaign, for example, has posted back-to-back fundraising months in excess of $300 million.
The committee, under its official title The Good Land Committee, filed a report with the FEC late last night detailing its finances for the first time.
It raised $42.7 million, including in-kind contributions of $988,201, and detailed $38.4 million in spending so far. The report also showed $1.5 million in cash on hand and $1.6 million in debts.
Much of the debt stemmed from a letter of credit the committee pulled together during the bid process. That includes $1.5 million the National Education Association pledged to the effort, and Miller said the committee expects the union to forgive the loan.
The NEA was also the largest donor to the committee at $3.5 million, while $2 million donors included: Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, IBEW International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Bank of America, Priorities USA and the Democratic Governors Association.
The host committee was tasked with raising money for the event, while the DNC funded organizing and running the convention, which went to a virtual format due to COVID-19.
The host committee originally had a fundraising goal of $70 million, but that was pared back as the pandemic set in and plans for the convention began to change. It also cut its staff in half this spring.
Putting a virtual convention on during a pandemic came with its own set of costs, including nearly $1.8 million to Live X Inc. for live streaming. The report included $858,000 in payments for those costs with another $916,000 that will be listed on its next filing.
The committee paid $822,275 to Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories for COVID testing and listed more than $300,000 in expenses for health protocol consulting and $164,512 to Nurses PRN to conduct COVID testing.
When Milwaukee beat out Houston and Miami for the convention, organizers pledged it would be an economic windfall for the city. As it switched to a virtual event, calls ramped up in some quarters for Milwaukee to land the 2024 convention to make up for the missed economic impact.
Miller said it’s not up to him whether a new bid will be put together for the 2024 Dem convention. But he personally supports going for it.
“There’s no doubt that we would like to redeem ourselves in a non-COVID world and show the world what we can do,” he said.
— Wisconsin added 23,800 total non-farm jobs in the month of September, bringing the unemployment rate down to 5.4 percent from August’s revised 6.3 percent.
The state’s unemployment rate peaked in April at 13.6 percent as a result of the COVID-19 economic shutdown. Now, Wisconsin is at levels last seen in the summer of 2014.
Wisconsin also added 13,700 private-sector jobs in the month of September, the Department of Workforce Development released today.
The Badger State continues to have a lower unemployment rate than the national average by more than two percentage points, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in September, down from August’s 8.4.
— Senate President Roger Roth said he believes Republicans will gain a veto-proof supermajority of seats this November, so long as President Trump wins Wisconsin.
The Appleton Republican in a WisPolitics.com virtual event suggested the highly contentious presidential campaign at the top of the ticket is “weighing heavily” on down-ballot races, making certain districts more competitive.
“If Trump wins Wisconsin I do believe we’ll have a veto-proof majority,” he said. “It’s highly charged out there right now. You can’t escape it.”
And while Roth conceded Trump has been down in most state polling, he reminded people he was also down in the polls in 2016 before ultimately winning the state by less than 23,000 votes.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley, D-Mason, dismissed the idea that Republicans will pick up the three seats needed for a veto-proof majority. She agreed Trump “is an effect” on the race.
She added that she felt Dems even have a shot at picking up a seat or two in suburban districts, thanks in part to Trump’s unpopularity among those demographics.
“I see it as dead weight,” she said of GOP candidates’ ties to Trump. “I see it as dragging down their candidates.”
But while Bewley praised the quality of Dem candidates like Sen. Patty Schachtner, of Somerset, who picked up the Republican-leaning western Wisconsin seat in a 2018 special election, she said her party faces a tremendous uphill battle thanks to gerrymandered districts in the GOP’s favor.
She said Schachtner’s seat “was made to be a Republican seat” and the 2020 political climate means many candidates are more beholden to national issues than local ones.
Bewley urged viewers not to count Schachtner out just yet, calling her someone who knows her constituents well and puts in “top tier hard work” in the job. She called the 10th SD her “sleeper race,” expecting a surprise Dem victory in November.
Roth said he didn’t have a “sleeper race” this cycle, other than that he thinks Republicans will gain a supermajority with a Trump victory.
He did say, however, that the 30th SD race between Dem Jonathon Hansen, of De Pere, and GOP candidate Eric Wimberger, of Green Bay, would be an exciting race to watch. He pitted Wimberger’s military experience against Hansen’s last name, as he’s the nephew of longtime Sen. Dave Hansen, of Green Bay.
“I really like this just for the political sport of things,” Roth said. “The 30th is a district that has always eluded us. Trump won that seat by 10 points. That’s something trending in the right direction.”
Roth also said he didn’t think there’s a Republican advantage baked into gerrymandered districts. He said Schachtner’s 2018 victory and that Republicans are winning in seats “that maybe we don’t have a right to be winning in” shows elections come down to good candidates instead of well-drawn maps.
— Additionally, Roth suggested the GOP-controlled Legislature could reconvene in a lame-duck extraordinary session after the election wraps up.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic cut short the Senate’s agenda to pass more bills in March. And while he said many in his caucus are skeptical of passing any spending bills, others are left on the table, like one that would target high prescription drug costs.
“If it were up to me, I’d like to see a way where we could come in and do some of those bills prior to the start of the next session,” he said. “And I think it’s important to do so because the hardworking people of Wisconsin took the time to testify on these bills. It’d be nice to get them over the finish line.”
Roth said he’d like to see lawmakers return in December.
But Bewley pointed out that lawmakers could return to the Capitol at any time and there’s nothing stopping them from holding an extraordinary session before the election.
“There’s no reason to wait and there never was,” she said. “I didn’t hear Roth give any reason why they haven’t except that they didn’t want to. There are very good bills waiting to be passed that could’ve been passed.”
Watch the event:
— Gov. Tony Evers today joined with two other Midwestern Dem governors to urge federal leaders to pass a COVID-19 relief package with funding for states to battle the pandemic.
Along with Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Tim Walz of Minnesota, Evers wrote in a letter to President Trump and congressional leaders the Dec. 30 deadline for states to spend CARES Act dollars “creates a dangerous fiscal cliff for all of our states.”
“Absent substantial and flexible federal aid, we are experiencing revenue shortfalls that will require difficult budgetary choices and that will have painful impacts on the communities, workers, and families in our states,” the guvs wrote. “We therefore ask that you take action
this month to provide additional, substantial fiscal relief to states.”
The letter also calls for economic stimulus measures as well as additional investment in testing, personal protective equipment, and contact tracing.
Oct. 22: DC virtual event: “Battleground Wisconsin 2020: State of the race in swing state Wisconsin”
Join WisPolitics.com for a D.C. event from noon to 1 p.m. CT on Thursday, Oct. 22, focusing on the presidential election in swing state Wisconsin.
-Jason Rae, a national Democratic National Committee officer who was elected secretary of the DNC in 2017. Bio: https://democrats.org/jason-rae/
-Ashlee Rich Stephenson, vice president and national political director of Political Affairs and Federation Relations at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and former Scott Walker adviser. Bio: https://www.uschamber.com/ashlee-rich-stephenson
-Khary Penebaker, DNC committeeman and former congressional candidate. Bio: https://www.kharypenebaker.com/meet-khary/
-Tom Schreibel RNC committeeman and former chief of staff to Cong. Sensenbrenner. See more: https://www.michaelbest.com/People/Thomas-Schreibel
For the latest news go to Battleground Wisconsin 2020.
The event is free and open to the public.
REGISTER HERE: https://bit.ly/2SO22VK
Sponsors of the WisPolitics.com D.C. event series: Michael Best/Michael Best Strategies, WPS Health Solutions, Xcel Energy and Exact Sciences.
AP: About 50 Wisconsin municipalities need poll workers
Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin shatters previous daily records with more than 3,700 new coronavirus cases
Cap Times: Wisconsin Senate leaders from both parties assess potential for seat gains
State Journal: Madison Assembly candidate uses C-word in calling out Tavern League
WPR: In Unpredictable Western Wisconsin, Fight For 3rd Congressional District Could Signal Shifting Politics
Channel 3000: Michigan AG charges Wisconsin Dells man in plot to kidnap Michigan governor
Politico: Trump’s come-from-behind strategy: Go everywhere, fast
Reuters: Democrats urge early voting, massive turnout as Trump stokes fears of contested election
Roll Call: Census count wraps up early amid questions about accuracy
– 10 a.m.: PSC hearing.
– 10 a.m.: WPR debate: 10th SD incumbent Patty Schachtner, D-Somerset, vs Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond.
– 12 p.m.: Thompson Center event with Howard Kunreuther, author of “The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare for Disasters.”
– 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.: VanderMeer campaign fundraiser.
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