Wisconsin Primary Continues Despite Coronavirus Ravaging Black Neighborhoods

A low angle view of a long line of people waitng to vote in the elections.

Wisconsin Primary Continues Despite Coronavirus Ravaging Black Neighborhoods

More than 2,000 Wisconsin National Guard members have been deployed to help staff polling places.

Published April 7th

Written by Paul Meara

After much back and forth, today’s primary in Wisconsin will continue. 

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers wanted to delay the primary until June but due to push back from Republicans, the Supreme Court blocked Evers ultimately reversing the lower court’s ruling that allowed voters an additional six days to mail back their ballots, according to CNN.

There are now reports of long lines, some saying for more than a two hour wait, to vote which goes against the national advice of social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Sadly, COVID-19 has devastated Black communities in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to the Washington Post, “As of Monday, 33 of the 45 residents who died of COVID-19 in Milwaukee County were Black, according to the medical examiner. That's 73 percent, though Black residents made up fewer than half of the county's coronavirus infections and about 28 percent of the total county population.”

As Wisconsin now has the dubious distinction of being the first (and so far only) state to hold a primary election between former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders with in-person voting, the question remains, what does this mean for Black voters? Especially when a vital seat on the State Supreme Court is also on the ballot.

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Milwaukee in particular has reduced its number of polling locations from 188 to just five. More than 2,000 Wisconsin National Guard members have been deployed to help staff polling places to deal with the lines and the shortage of volunteers. 

As of today, almost 1.3 million absentee ballots have been sent to voters across the state, however more than 408,000 still have not been returned. Per an order made by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, only ballots postmarked by Tuesday, April 7 will be counted.

Christopher Sullivan, a voter living in the western Wisconsin village of Holmen says he was “ashamed to be from Wisconsin today” given the voting conditions.

“I have voted many times in my life (and at this location) and have never experienced something so eerie,” Sullivan told the Sentinel & Enterprise. “Because it is this unsafe to vote, maybe we should have postponed the election or done mail-in ballots.”

More than 2,400 cases of coronavirus have been reported across the dairy state as of Monday.

While polls will remain open until 8 pm, the results will not be made available until April 13, per federal court ruling.

Photo: SDI Productions

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