Hand sanitizer, face masks, National Guard: Election day in Rhinelander
By Eileen Persike
Polls throughout Wisconsin opened Tuesday morning following an Election Day eve in which three voting related court decisions were made. Ultimately, in-person voting was on after the state Supreme Court backed legislative Republicans who challenged Gov. Tony Evers’ last minute attempt to postpone it.
In Rhinelander, all city residents who wanted to vote did so at Rhinelander High School. Many election workers and voters wore masks; hand sanitizer was a requirement to enter the gym where markings were made at six-foot intervals to preserve physical distancing.
Because of the COVID-19 health emergency, a number of volunteers opted not to participate in the election this time around. In their place, four National Guard troops filled in.
“We got a call saying the governor was asking for assistance with the election,” said National Guard member Ryan Holly of Rhinelander. “I got a call Saturday night to be at the (Oneida County) courthouse Monday morning and if they needed me they’d let me know.”
Holly, a member of Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery Regiment in Marshfield, said he took an online training course and was notified Monday night that he should report for the voluntary assignment at the high school Tuesday morning.
He and the other Guards members were there to help out where needed.
“I started at registration and now I’m in wards two and three, counting absentee ballots and handing out ballots to people who come in to vote,” Holly said, adding that he was only a little concerned about the potential health risks of being at the election site.
According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission website, 1.3 million absentee ballots were requested for this primary election; 9,388 of which did not get sent out. As of April 7, the site reports that 864,750 have been returned.
In Oneida County, 8,018 absentee ballots were requested; 7,987 sent out and 5,299 returned as of April 7.