Wisconsin National Guard mobilizing to support August election amid escalating COVID-19 crisis
Governor Tony Evers announced on August 5 that the Wisconsin National Guard will assist local election officials as poll workers for the August 11 primary elections across Wisconsin.
The announcement comes days after the governor issued Executive Order #82 authorizing the Wisconsin National Guard to provide support during the August election. Individuals interested in being a poll worker are encouraged to apply by contacting their municipal clerk’s office or visiting the MyVote Wisconsin website.
“The Wisconsin National Guard has played a critical role in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and this mission is no different,” said Gov. Evers. “Time and time again the Guard has stepped up to help their neighbors, friends, and communities, as they will be doing on election day by helping to ensure that every Wisconsinite can vote safely without fear for their health.”
A yet-to-be determined number of Wisconsin National Guard members will mobilize to state active duty in the coming days to support the Wisconsin Elections Commission and clerks across the state. The Guard is working with the Wisconsin Elections Commission to determine how many Guard members would be available to support and fulfill requests from local elections officials.
The troops will report to duty on August 9 to complete necessary training and begin receiving assignments. They will report to clerks on August 10 to receive site-specific training and assist with polling place setup, before fulfilling the role of traditional poll workers on Tuesday, August 11 during the election. The troops will be released from duty August 12.
The Wisconsin National Guard consists of nearly 10,000 Citizen Soldiers and Airmen in total. Members reside in all 72 Wisconsin counties and will serve in the county in which they reside wearing civilian clothes due to a critical shortage of poll workers in the state stemming from concerns over COVID-19. Guard members will perform the same roles and functions as other volunteers who traditionally staff the state’s polling sites. Mobilized Guard members will complete several hours of training provided by the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
“We’re working in close collaboration and partnership with the Wisconsin Elections Commission to anticipate needs in each county,” said Brig. General Robyn Blader, Wisconsin’s assistant adjutant for readiness and training and the Guard’s liaison with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. “This is truly neighbors helping neighbors, because these Guard members will be serving in their own home communities across the state. As Citizen Soldiers and Airmen, we’re honored to fulfill this role and to help our state during a time of need.”
The Wisconsin National Guard also worked in collaboration with the Civil Air Patrol and the Wisconsin Elections Commission in recent weeks to ship supplies of hand sanitizer, wipes, spray bottles, and personal protective equipment to each county to help ensure safe and sanitary polling sites.
In Wisconsin’s last two elections the Wisconsin National Guard has played a key role. During the state’s general election April 7, more than 2,400 Wisconsin Guard members mobilized in the same role and supported 71 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. During the May 11 special election in the state’s 7th Congressional District, another 160 served as poll workers.
The mobilizations to support the Wisconsin Elections Commission have come amidst the largest sustained mobilization for domestic support in the state’s history. More than 1,000 Wisconsin National Guard Citizen Soldiers and Airmen continue to support the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wisconsin Guard simultaneously mobilized troops to assist civil authorities in preserving public safety amidst civil unrest in both May and June across several Wisconsin cities.
No Guard personnel supporting the COVID-19 pandemic response will be diverted to support the polling site support mission. Hundreds of Wisconsin National Guard troops simultaneously remain deployed across the globe to places like Afghanistan, the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa in support of the Guard’s federal mission as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force.