Iron County Progressive

Wisconsin State AFL/CIO

Today, has been equal parts infuriating and inspiring. No voter should be asked to do what Wisconsin voters are doing today -- in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic. It is the latest shameful example of the Wisconsin Republican Party and their allies in the courts putting naked partisan politics above the public interest.

No voter should have to choose between personal health and safety, and expressing our democratic freedom and constitutional right to vote in our American electoral process. Placed in this untenable position, Wisconsin voters bravely rose to the occasion.

Too many voters were left with impossible choices. Absentee ballots that were requested and never came. Deadlines and requirements that changed by the second. Self-isolating voters who couldn’t find a witness to sign their ballot. Young voters like my son, who turned 18 over the weekend, with no options to register and receive a mail-in ballot in advance.

The inspiring turnout in the face of unnecessary obstacles in no way diminishes this reckless disregard of public safety and our cherished democratic process. Republicans in Wisconsin pulled out all the stops to proceed with in-person voting during the COVID-19 public health emergency because they thought it was to their own, partisan advantage. They were willing to risk our lives for it.

Today was inspiring, because risking life, but not liberty, Wisconsin voters showed up. We waited for hours in lines that wrapped around city blocks, standing 6 feet apart. Sometimes in the pouring rain. We wore our masks, and gloves. We had our hands sprayed with sanitizer. Poll workers wore appropriate PPE and bravely served alongside the National Guard to give us direction and make attempts to keep us safe. While the resilience, courage, and determination of Wisconsin voters is unparalleled, we should have never been put in this position in the first place.

We sincerely hope no voter and no poll worker is infected at the polls today. But if anyone does get the coronavirus at the polls, Wisconsin voters will remember this day and know whose hands the blood is on.

In Solidarity,

Stephanie Bloomingdale, President

Special Update from Your Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair

No matter how the vote tallies wind up, the fact that Wisconsin Republicans forced an in-person election during a pandemic is unforgivable.

The last few days have been intense. Let’s talk about it. I’m writing to invite you to a conversation about what just happened, and what comes next, this
Thursday night at 7:00 PM, on Zoom at this link.

Here’s what on my mind as I write this.

There’s a concept in psychology called “moral injury.” It refers to the profound mental anguish of witnessing (or perpetrating, or failing to prevent) an action that violates your deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. It’s the feeling of wanting to scream from deep within when you experience something that is fundamentally wrong.

That’s the feeling that many of us—and many watching around the country and the world—had over the last few days.

When the GOP refused to postpone the election. When the state Supreme Court ruled on party lines that Governor Evers couldn’t postpone it. When the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the lower court judges were wrong, and even the six-day extension on absentee ballots had to be eliminated.

And then when we woke up yesterday and saw the videos on social media of lines, stretching far and yet farther still, of voters risking their lives to cast their ballots because, with righteous defiance, they refused to be suppressed.

Righteous but tragic. Because nobody should have to choose between risking their health and casting their vote.

Three sets of numbers will emerge from what just happened.

The first, between now and Monday, will be turnout: how many people voted in person, and how many absentee ballots arrived in the final day. People will try to game out projections for who won or lost. (Don’t put much stock in those.)

On Monday, we’ll get the second numbers: results. We’ll find out who won the Supreme Court race—and the 3830 other downballot races, the referenda, and the presidential primary.

The third set of numbers will take longer to unfold, and may never be quantified. That’s the number of people who get infected because they were exposed while trying to vote today, or because the personal protective equipment that would have saved them during a hospital shift was diverted to a polling place, or because their loved one voted and brought the virus back home. The downstream infections spread by those who caught COVID19 at the polls. Or the number of deaths that result from all those infections.

We might see coronavirus numbers rise in 2-4 weeks. Or maybe they’ll be lost in the general rising tide. But just because we might not be able to measure them won’t make the numbers any less real.

That third set of numbers—that set of human tragedies—should not exist. It did not have to exist. It was foreseeable, and foreseen, and a group of people in power decided that it was worthwhile to cause it to happen. We will not forget.

We will, however, thank those who have worked so hard—who made phone calls, sent texts, disinfected polling places, did all of the work in front of and behind the scenes to make democracy function and to make it as safe as possible. To those who put their names on the line and ran for office. To everyone involved in an unprecedented virtual organizing drive over the last several weeks, who adapted to the surreal reality we’re living in and rose to the moment.

This week’s events drove home just how high the stakes are in our work. Between now and November, we may face choices just as excruciating as the ones we faced this week. The best we can do is remain firm in our resolve, hold fast to our principles, and fight like hell for what we know to be right.

Proud to be in this party with you, no matter what comes our way.