If there is a silver lining to the dangers that Wisconsin’s Republican leaders forced on the people of their state Tuesday, it is in the stories of voters who turned up to have their voices heard despite the peril. “The polling place next to my house closed down, so I’m here,” Milwaukee voter Clarence Carter, 70, told the New York Times. “It’s the ballot or the bullet,” he said, quoting Malcolm X.
Voters in Milwaukee, the state’s Democratic stronghold and the center of its coronavirus outbreak, saw their available polling places drop from 180 to just five, as polling workers — many in an older, high-risk demographic — stayed away. In consequence, lines snaked for blocks, with waits reported to be up to three hours long. Meanwhile, voters in Republican-leaning areas of the state reportedly had a far easier time.
Yet, understandably, plenty of people chose not to vote, despite having voted regularly for years. These abstainers do not deserve scorn for listening to the warnings of public health officials. The blame lies with the state leaders who put them in this impossible position: state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and state Senate Republican leader Scott L. Fitzgerald.