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Wisconsin to use National Guard members to work polls during April primary

Wisconsin to use National Guard members to work polls during April primary
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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) plans to use members of the Wisconsin National Guard to work polling locations during the state's primary next week, according to a court filing.

The move comes as the state faces a massive shortage of polling staff and volunteers for the April 7 primary amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Assistant Attorney General Hannah Jurss wrote in a brief that even with the help of the National Guard, the state still expects to be short-handed, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday.

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"Governor Evers has agreed to use members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard to assist as poll workers, but it is anticipated that the assistance of the National Guard will not satisfy all of the current staffing needs," Jurss wrote. "The National Guard is currently determining how many personnel it can make available for each county."

The court filing came in a lawsuit filed by several voter advocacy groups calling for the election to be postponed amid the pandemic.

In Milwaukee alone, the election clerk was more than 1,000 people short of the number needed for the election, the Journal Sentinel previously reported, with shortages also among those needed to collect absentee ballots.

State and local officials are asking residents to request absentee ballots, though state-mandated social distancing measures have complicated the training process for the few people hired to carry out that process.

“Given the inability to train new poll workers, it is virtually certain that we will lack sufficient poll workers to staff the polling locations across the city, and will likewise lack the requisite number of staff members to process absentee ballots at the central count location,” Neil Albrecht, director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, said in a court filing last week, according to the Journal Sentinel.

Wisconsin allocates 84 pledged delegates for the Democratic presidential nomination and Milwaukee has been selected to host the Democratic National Convention in July. The state issued a stay-at-home order last week.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Wisconsin had more than 1,300 confirmed cases of the virus and at least 16 deaths.