Many Milwaukee voters 'afraid' to vote Tuesday, but here's what you should know if you are voting

NOW: Many Milwaukee voters ’afraid’ to vote Tuesday, but here’s what you should know if you are voting

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Despite mounting pressure at city, state and even national levels, Tuesday's election will go on as planned.

Cities all over the state had to drastically consolidate polling locations on Election Day due to shortages of poll workers. Milwaukee is down to five, compared to the usual 180.

"At this point, we are locked into these five voting centers without any opportunity to expand," said City of Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht during a video conference Saturday afternoon.

Albrecht said the city of Milwaukee has requested 500 members of the National Guard to help work the polls and was waiting to find out how many members would be assigned. Albrecht also said he was concerned about the amount of training the National Guard members would need to help with the assignment.

On Tuesday, the city will not allow more than 50 people in each voting space at a time. Each voting center will have a holding room outside of the voting room to help with social distancing.

Albrecht said voters who plan to vote in person Tuesday should expect long lines and recommends they bring their own supplies, such as a black ballpoint pen.

The drive-up early voting offered at the Zeidler Municipal Building was so busy Saturday morning that Milwaukee police had to shut down several blocks nearby. Albrecht said the site has seen about 800 voters per day, and the city has since expanded the hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Voter Rigoberto Hernandez said he wanted to take advantage of the drive-up option because he is "afraid" to vote on Election Day.

He, like many casting their ballots, asked why Tuesday's election hasn't been postponed.

"Some other states have done it already. I don't know why it took so long for Evers and the Republicans. I blame both of them. They don't care about us," Hernandez said.

In a tweet Saturday morning, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said: "Milwaukee could easily use city staff to open polling places like many other municipalities are doing in addition to their poll workers. Gov Evers has also offered the National Guard. It appears they want problems instead of an actual solution."

Mayor Tom Barrett criticized Vos for "blaming Milwaukee."

"If (Vos) knew how much work our election commission, how much work our health department, others who are working for the city and this county have done to try to control the spread of this pandemic, and then to suggest that we are trying to do something to create a problem. Mr. Speaker, it's a worldwide pandemic," Barrett said.

But Barrett's challenger in the Milwaukee mayoral race, state Sen. Lena Taylor, said she believes there is validity to Vos' statement and the city should open more polling places. 

She said her plan would be to have three polling locations in each of the 15 aldermanic districts with 10 to 15 workers per site, plus members of the National Guard if necessary.

"I believe that state staff, county staff and individuals who were with MPS who have asked to be able to work the polls could be used to have minimized this," Taylor said.

She said she also is concerned that the five voting centers chosen were not the biggest and best sites available.

Albrecht said the five schools were selected because they offer "spacious hallways" outside the voting rooms to establish holding areas to help maintain social distancing. 

He said he is also concerned that voters will go to their normal polling places instead of the five voting centers selected by the city. He said signs will be posted at the neighborhood sites.

He also encourages voters to continue dropping off absentee ballots. In the city, about 87,000 absentee ballots have been issued by mail but only a third had been returned as of Saturday afternoon.

Voters are encouraged to confirm their ward number and voting center location at by clicking the "Find My Polling Place" prompt at the top of the screen, or by visiting and clicking the "Where Do I Vote?" link.

Information about absentee ballot drop-off sites can also be found on the city's website.

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