A poll worker sits outside of Washington High School wearing a protective mask during the spring 2020 primary. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)
Weeks after thousands of Milwaukee residents went to the polls to vote in the April 7 election during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s newly sworn in common council passed a resolution to move the city to entirely mail-in voting.
The new program, called SafeVote and introduced by Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, would send an application for an absentee ballot and a postage-paid return envelope to all of Milwaukee’s registered voters for the 2020 general election. The measure, included in a package with a number of other coronavirus related matters, passed unanimously.
“I believe the time is now to offer Milwaukee’s determined and undaunted citizens a safe and sensible option for them to exercise their right to vote this fall,” Dimitrijevic said in a news release about the measure.
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Under the resolution, the Milwaukee Elections Commission — which had not returned a request for comment by publication — has 30 days to come up with a plan for how to accomplish the change. The details of the plan will then go back to the council for approval.
On April 7, with just five of its usual 180 polling locations open, long lines of voters stretched for blocks and health officials have connected at least seven cases of COVID-19 to in-person voting.
But even with the long lines, a majority of the ballots cast in Milwaukee were absentee, according to data from the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The city reported a total of 95,168 ballots were cast while more than 75,000 absentee ballots were returned to the city.
Statewide, proposals to move Wisconsin to a mail-in voting system for the remainder of 2020 have been dismissed, likely leaving a patchwork of plans set up by individual municipalities.
The Milwaukee Common Council is next scheduled to meet May 27.
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