One poll worker and six in-person voters tested positive for the coronavirus, the Milwaukee health commissioner said.
At least seven cases of the novel coronavirus have been tied to Wisconsin's primary election, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said on Monday, according to a local news report. Republicans forced the state to vote in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Right now we have identified six cases that were tied to in-person voting. And one election worker was also positive," Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik told the Intercept. "There are a lot of missing data through the investigations and contact tracing, so we're waiting for 70 percent of the fields to be populated."
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers had tried to postpone the in-person voting until June, saying that forcing voters to cast in-person ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic risked spreading the virus and putting lives in danger.
"Forcing an in-person election during a pandemic that warrants a Safer at Home order is everything but pro-life," Kowalik said ahead of the primary.
However, Republicans blocked Evers' effort, hoping that a low-turnout election would boost the conservative candidate for a state Supreme Court case, which was also on the ballot that day.
Evers appealed the move. But the conservative majority on the state Supreme Court sided with Republicans to force the election to move forward. The U.S. Supreme Court also blocked Evers' attempt to extend the length of time voters had to return absentee ballots.
Ultimately, the liberal candidate defeated the conservative incumbent on the state Supreme Court by a wide margin.
But Democrats' fears that in-person voting would lead to new cases of the coronavirus were realized.
According to the Intercept report, Kowalik traced the cases to in-person voting through the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System, which traces communicable diseases in the state. Those who tested positive reported either working at the polls or having cast in-person ballots in the April 7 primary.
Despite her victory, Karofsky condemned Republicans for forcing in-person voting.
"Although we were successful in this race, the circumstances under which this election was conducted were simply unacceptable, and raise serious concerns for the future of our democracy," Karofsky said in her victory statement on April 7.
"Nobody in this state or in this country should have been forced to choose between their safety and participating in an election. Too many were unable to have their voices heard because they didn't feel safe leaving their home or their absentee ballots weren't counted," she added.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.