I Tried It: Voting in the Pandemic Election

This whole thing is stupid and it should not have happened.

For me, it was easy.

I woke up this morning, a little late, like I have most other mornings since we’ve been told we shouldn’t leave our homes to stop the spread of a virus that has killed more than 11,000 Americans and will surely kill thousands more. 

I checked the news to confirm that nothing had changed since last night, when the high courts of our state and our nation ruled that today’s election had to go forward, that Gov. Tony Evers did not have the authority to delay it.

I finally opened the envelope containing the absentee ballot I requested and received weeks ago, when it became clear that anything in crowds would be a bad idea. It was known weeks ago that an April 7 election would be a bad idea. 

I had resisted filling out my ballot because there had been much talk about delaying the election in hopes that the “safer at home” period would do what its designers intended and we could go to our polling places in late May, or June, or, heck, maybe even July without risking lives and lungs. My mind could certainly be changed during that period, I figured. 

Instead, I grabbed my ballpoint pen – I was concerned there was little guidance about what kind of writing utensil needed to be used – and filled in my ovals, one at a time. 

As inked in those ovals, I was angry that I was doing it today. I was relieved that I had the foresight to act when I did. And I was sad – and angry all over again – for those who did not act when I did. 

I am angry because this is stupid. 

The justices that met to settle the questions of when and how the election should happen did so virtually, because it is not safe for people to meet face to face. I don’t know whether Evers’ Monday order to delay the election two months was legal; he acknowledged last week that it wasn’t within his authority but tried anyway in what seemed like a Hail Mary. 

Evers and lawmakers had weeks to act to change this stupid election, but they didn’t. The Wisconsin Supreme Court made clear yesterday that the governor did not have authority to do so. It wasn’t legal. The law had to change. On Friday, a day after a judge told the governor and lawmakers to get their act together, Evers called on the Republicans controlling the Legislature to change the law.

They didn’t. They thought this, what’s unfolding today, was OK. 

Thousands of voters in the city of Milwaukee, the Wisconsin place already wracked most intensely by COVID-19, will cast their ballots in just five polling places. They will make a calculation: Is my vote for mayor or county executive or state supreme court justice, or for Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, worth risking my health for? 

Intelligent, informed people who want badly to vote will decide to stay home. Other intelligent, informed people who want badly to vote will wait in line for hours to do so, hopefully far enough from other people to not get infected with a ruthless virus.

Today is already a metaphorical disaster, but it might also be the seed of a real disaster that costs untold people their lives. It is surely an unfair and unfree election. 

So, yeah, I voted in an election today. And I felt safe doing it. But I hated it. 

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Executive editor, Milwaukee Magazine. Aficionado of news, sports and beer. Dog and cat guy. (Yes, both.)