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Chippewa election officials take precautions

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Spring voting

Ruthann McCullough chats with a Ward 6 poll worker before voting on Tuesday morning at Faith Lutheran Church in Chippewa Falls.

Voters in Chippewa Falls and across the state cast their ballots in Tuesday’s elections amid unprecedented circumstances, with election officials taking extra precaution in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chippewa Falls City Clerk Bridget Givens organized the efforts for the town, sending out a video of the precautions for all workers to examine instead of the city’s standard in-person meeting.

Poll workers practiced social distancing with enhanced cleanliness measures including hand sanitizer stations at entrances, plexiglass dividers between workers and voters and rubber gloves for workers to eliminate the amount of person-to-person contact.

Dennis Doughty has worked at the Ward 6 and 7 polling location at Faith Lutheran Church for a number of years and this spring is his first as a ward chief election inspector.

Doughty also spent time reading online materials to help get up to speed and said his team has a number of experienced workers to help with the transition.

“We have about three or four people here who have done some of this work before so it’s a very cooperative situation,” Doughty said.

Ruthann McCullough said the extra precautions did not slow down the process for her and appreciated the effort.

“I’ve voted here for years and the people are so sweet and they’re pretty patient,” McCullough said. “I thought it was the same. A little different, but kind of fun actually to mix things up.”

The election being held on Tuesday was up in the air as recently as Monday afternoon. Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order to suspend in-person voting until June 9 based on the current health climate.

A few hours later, the order was overturned by the state Supreme Court, which ruled 4-2 that Evers lacked the authority to move the election on his own. Conservatives control the court 5-2, but one of the conservative justices is up for election Tuesday and didn’t participate in the ruling.

Voter Majorie Miles said she believes the later decision might leave many voters in the dark on whether there would be voting on Tuesday.

“I’m glad that they kept the polls open but (I wish) (Gov.) Evers would’ve requested a delay earlier because I’m afraid there might be some confusion with some people thinking the polls are closed,” Miles said.

Results from Tuesday’s elections will not be released until Monday, April 13.

“Although I remain deeply concerned about the public health implications of voting in-person today, I am overwhelmed by the bravery, resilience, and heroism of those who are defending our democracy by showing up to vote, working the polls, and reporting on this election,” Gov. Evers said in a press release on Tuesday. “Thank you for giving our state something to be proud of today. Please stay as safe as possible, Wisconsin.”

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