“Sausages on campus” Photo credit: Michael Newman via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The city of Milwaukee will no longer be able to use Fiserv Forum and Miller Park as locations for early voting, the Milwaukee Elections Commission announced Tuesday.
The stadiums will not be eligible because the city did not include them on its list of early voting locations in June when state statute required they be approved. The city had filed a lawsuit requesting the June deadline be extended, but U.S. District Court Judge William Conley denied the request.
Milwaukee Elections Commissioner Claire Woodall-Vogg said at a Milwaukee Press Club virtual newsmaker event Tuesday that Miller Park and Fiserv Forum would have been great early voting locations, but that she didn’t want to risk the validity of Milwaukee voters’ ballots.
“It was a very tough decision, but the last thing I would ever want is for City of Milwaukee voters to use either of those sites and then later have their ballots thrown out due to our mistake or our violation of a very unforgiving state statute,” Woodall-Vogg said. “It was a tough call and one that we’re really disappointed to have to make — but we do think it’s in the best interest for the City of Milwaukee voters.”
Woodall-Vogg said the two locations were useful because Miller Park, with its large parking lot, allows the city to hold drive-through voting without creating a traffic jam in downtown Milwaukee. Fiserv Forum is useful because its large capacity, accessibility and state-of-the-art ventilation system allow people to cast their votes while following public-health guidelines during the pandemic.
Because the two sites weren’t on the list approved in June — which Woodall-Vogg said was a challenge because it was hard to know what would be available and safe four months ahead of time — the ballots cast at those sites could be subject to legal challenges.
The legality of the sites had already been threatened when Andrew Hitt, chairman of the state Republican Party, sent a letter to Woodall-Vogg saying that the presence of the Bucks’ mascot Bango, Bernie Brewer or any of Miller Park’s famous racing sausages would be considered electioneering.
“All of the Bucks’ and Brewers’ athletes and mascots are, of course, beloved of their fans, so their presence at a venue is undoubtedly something of significant value,” Hitt wrote. “Consequently, it would be inappropriate for them to be at Miller Park or Fiserv Forum while those venues are in use as alternate absentee ballot sites.”
While it doesn’t matter now that the two sites won’t be used for early voting, Woodall-Vogg said Tuesday the idea that mascots could be used for electioneering is ridiculous.
“To think that Bango has political views and is telling someone how to vote is a little ludicrous and a little dramatic in my opinion,” she said.
Woodall-Vogg said the city is finalizing plans to use the two sites as drop-off locations for absentee ballots or for voter registration drives.
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