Wisconsin National Guard provides election support across state
By Vaughn R. Larson, Wisconsin National Guard
/ Published August 14, 2020
MADISON, Wisc. -- Nearly 700 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen completed their mission supporting local officials as polling station volunteers across the state Aug. 12, 2020.
The Citizen Soldiers and Airmen supported polling places in 40 counties across Wisconsin.
Due to a lack of poll workers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the third time this year the Wisconsin National Guard has provided such support.
“I could not be prouder of our service members who coordinate and plan these election call-ups on short notice, as we have to ensure the county clerks have exhausted their recruiting efforts and have a critical need,” said Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, a lawyer as well as the assistant adjutant general for readiness and training, who is the Wisconsin National Guard’s liaison with the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Guard members reported for state active duty Aug. 9, receiving general training before getting more site-specific training from local clerks.
Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order July 30 authorizing the Wisconsin National Guard to provide personnel to support the Aug. 11 primary, in addition to its ongoing role operating community testing sites across Wisconsin. Currently nearly 1,100 Wisconsin National Guard members are serving in direct support of the state’s COVID-19 response effort.
Blader said the Guard mission was similar to past elections — obtaining and delivering supplies such as hand sanitizer, spray bottles, pens, masks and paper towels in partnership with the Civil Air Patrol. Soldiers and Airmen, in civilian clothing, helped set up polling stations and performed poll worker duties during the primary election.
“The biggest lesson we have learned is that we have to procure supplies as soon as possible, as supply channels are strained,” Blader said.
The general officer also said that the Wisconsin National Guard developed a joint reception, staging, onward movement and integration plan to identify which county Guard members resided in, as volunteers are required to reside in the counties where they serve as poll workers.
Blader said the Wisconsin National Guard has not been asked yet to provide polling support the November general election, but has been asked to help obtain and deliver supplies.
“Time and again the Guard has stepped up to help their neighbors, friends and communities,” Evers said Aug. 5, “helping to ensure that every Wisconsinite can vote safely without fear for their health.”