2020 Spring Election Presented Unique Challenges Due to Coronavirus Pandemic
Marshfield, WI (OnFocus) Five members of Common Council will take their Oath of Office at a meeting on Tuesday, April 21 after being elected in the spring election.
Mayor Bob McManus returns for a second 2-year term, followed by 1st District Alderman Mike Feirer, 3rd District alderman Quentin Rosandich, 5th District Alderman Ed Wagner, 7th District Alderman Adam Fischer, and 9th District Alderman Tom Buttke.
The local election on April 7 faced unique challenges this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Absentee ballots were encouraged to maintain social distancing. The Wisconsin Election Commission reported that 13,190 absentee ballots were reported returned in Wood County.
In Marshfield, 3,197 absentee ballots were counted (out of 3,500 issued) while 1,542 voted in-person at three polling locations, leading to a 47 percent voter turnout, according to City Clerk Deb Hall.
“Overall things went very well. My staff was at all three polling locations all day helping oversee everything,” said Hall. “Between the National Guard, City staff and residents that were willing to work, we were able to keep all three polling locations open. It was certainly a team effort. During these very trying times when staff would have preferred to work from home, they stepped up, worked very long hours and we got the job done.”
Precautions taken during the election included purchasing sanitizing supplies, building shields for pollworkers, reducing hours for in-person absentee voting, providing every voter an individual pen, and maintaining a 6-foot distance between voters.
Many regular pollworkers decided not to return due to coronavirus safety concerns. The City put out notices for workers and continually altered its work schedule as people changed their minds about manning the polls. Due to the arrival of new workers, Hall needed to conduct extra training classes.
The large number of requests for absentee ballots was more than her office could keep up, but by soliciting help from other City Hall employees along with many post office runs to purchase stamps for the return absentee envelopes, all of the requests were processed. A shortage of envelopes was resolved with help from the State and Wood County.
Absentee ballots were also mailed for the May special election. “We were required to get the May 12 absentee ballots mailed out while the April election was still going on, which caused confusion to the voters that requested absentee ballots,” said Hall. ”Some of them thought that we were mailing them another ballot for the April election.”
The evolving directions from the State level also added to the confusion. Governor Evers issued an executive order the day before the election to postpone it until June, but this was overturned by the Wisconsin state Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court also blocked a deadline extension for absentee ballots.
“We were getting hundreds of requests for absentee ballots every day so trying to keep up with all those emails and then trying to stay on top of these changes and the other emails that we were receiving was very difficult,” said Hall.
View the new Council below:
|1st||Michael J. Feirer||406 W. Cleveland Street.||715-384-4581||2000|
|2nd||Nick Poeschel||927 Western Street||715-305-4227||2017|
|3rd||Quentin Rosandich||1104 Fairview Dr.||715-305-7778||2020|
|4th||Ken Bargender||206 Hawthorn||715-387-0451||2019|
|5th||Ed Wagner||501 W. 17th Street||715-387-1857||2020|
|6th||Tom Witzel**||1500 S. Cedar Avenue||715-384-6642||2016|
|7th||Adam Fischer||1323 E. 17th St.||715-207-5325||2019|
|8th||Rebecca Spiros||1406 E. Fillmore Street||715-389-2640||2013|
|9th||Tom Buttke||406 N. Vine Avenue||715-384-2261||2000|
|10th||Peter O. Hendler||1701 N Palmetto Avenue||715-384-7671||2007|
* Council members are elected to a two year term.