Wisconsin Guard members to be poll workers during Aug. 11 primary

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MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) —Wisconsin National Guard members will assist local election officials as poll workers during the Aug. 11 primary elections across the state, Gov. Tony Evers announced Wednesday.

Evers authorized the deployment after the novel coronavirus pandemic created a critical shortage of poll workers because some regulars are reluctant to serve out of fear of exposure to COVID-19.

Civilians also still are invited to be poll workers, with the governor encouraging them to apply at municipal clerks’ offices or by going to 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,” Evers said.

“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 Guard members will be on state active duty, reporting on Sunday for training and assignments.

They will report to clerks Monday to receive site-specific training and help set up polls before fulfilling the role of traditional poll workers on Tuesday. The troops will be released from duty the day after the election.

Guard members, who live in all 72 counties in the Badger State, will wear civilian clothes and serve in their home counties.

“We’re working in close collaboration and partnership with the Wisconsin Elections Commission to anticipate needs in each county,” said Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, Wisconsin’s assistant adjutant for readiness and training and the Guard’s liaison with the state elections commission.

“As Citizen Soldiers and Airmen, we’re honored to fulfill this role and to help our state during a time of need,” Blader said.

The Guard also worked in collaboration with the Civil Air Patrol and the state 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.

The Guard has played a key role during the state’s past two elections. More than 2,400 Wisconsin Guard members supported 71 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties during the April 7 general election. During the May 11 special election in the state’s 7th Congressional District, another 160 served as poll workers.

The activations come amidst the largest sustained mobilization for domestic support in the state’s history. More than 1,000 Guard members continue to support the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably working at test sites.

The Wisconsin Guard, which includes nearly 10,000 Citizen Soldiers and Airmen, also mobilized troops to help civil authorities preserve public safety amidst civil unrest in May and June across several Wisconsin cities.

At the same times, hundreds of Wisconsin National Guard troops also are deployed across the globe to places such as 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.