Photo by Saiyna Bashir, The Capital Times

Madison is now offering election officials ways to work the polls next year without getting a COVID-19 vaccine first.

In a communication to elections officials yesterday, the clerk’s office wrote they may provide proof of a negative test within the last 72 hours or obtain an exemption for medical or religious reasons.

The message noted the city will allow no more than one official needing to show proof of a negative test scheduled per shift during elections next year to ensure as many as possible can work within 6 feet of each other.

Those who obtain a medical or religious accommodation also will have to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test to work the polls next year. The city will review on a case-by-case basis requests for an exemption from the testing requirement for a religious or medical reason.

Madison in August announced all city employees will have to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. Last week, the city notified those looking to work the polls in 2022 they would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment.

The message included no exemption, prompting criticism from Republicans, who suggested it was being done to dissuade GOP poll workers from signing up.

Scott Grabins, chair of the Dane County GOP, said it was disturbing that the original policy didn’t include an exemption such as the one offered to other city employees to undergo testing. He called the new policy a step in the right direction and said the party has been happy with the number of volunteers who have expressed an interest in working the polls.

Political parties face a Nov. 30 deadline to provide a list of poll workers to local officials.

“I still have big concerns over the idea that the city of Madison can layer on additional requirements for what is defined by the state Legislature,” he said.

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