Case surge in key battleground states a worry as Election Day inches closer
MADISON, Wis. — Rising coronavirus cases in key presidential battleground states a little more than two weeks before Election Day are the latest worry for election officials and voters fearing chaos or exposure to the virus at polling places despite months of planning.
The prospect of poll workers backing out at the last minute because they are infected, quarantined or scared of getting sick has local election officials in Midwest states such as Iowa and Wisconsin opening more early voting locations, recruiting backup workers and encouraging voters to plan for long lines and other inconveniences.
Confirmed virus cases and deaths are on the rise in the swing states of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Wisconsin broke records this week for new coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations, leading to the opening of a field hospital to handle COVID- 19 patients. Gov. Tony Evers said he plans to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to fill any staffing shortages at election sites.
While holding a competitive presidential election during a pandemic is “tricky business,” the governor said, “People are ready to have this election over, and I think it will be a successful election with very few hiccups.”
In Iowa, Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz opened additional early voting sites in and around Davenport, the state’s third- largest city, to try to reduce the number of people casting ballots on Election Day and to keep the virus from spreading in large precincts.
“We have to remember that there is this thing called COVID,”
Ms. Moritz said. “Our numbers aren’t getting any better. The more people Ican get to early vote, the better.”
The pandemic’s recent trajectory close to home has some voters reconsid-ering a lifetime habit of en-tering a voting booth on Election Day.
Tim Tompkins, a welding engineer in Iowa, took theday off work to cast an early ballot at the Bettendorf Com-munity Center. Mr. Tomp-kins, 62, said he and his wife, Pat, were afraid of coronavi-rus exposure in Election Day crowds but were deter-mined to vote, so they brought their own sanitizer to the community center Fri-day.
“We’d go through a vat of boiling COVID to get the current president out of of-fice,” Mr. Tompkins said.
In some states, voting early still has carried health risks. Voters in Georgia, Texas and else-where encountered hours long lines that re-quired congregating with hundreds of other people this week. In Georgia, nearly a quarter of theworkers in a warehouse where Fulton County’s election supplies are kept and voting equipment is readied tested positive for COVID-19.
The positive test results for 13 of the preparation center’s 60 workers shouldn’t delay election op-erations, county elections director Rick Barron said. Georgia’s most populous county is working to hire replacement staff and to implement additional safety measures, including daily rapid testing.
Voters in several Mid-west states contested by President Donald Trump and his Democratic chal-lenger, former Vice Presi-dent Joe Biden, encoun-tered lines when they wentto cast early ballots on Fri-day. Some described thedecision to vote this year asone that required delibera-tion and even courage.
Robert Baccus, 52, an in-dependent contractor from Columbus, Ohio, was among hundreds in line atthe Franklin County Boardof Elections early voting cen-ter. He said he doesn’t trust voting by mail, so early vot-ing was his best option forcasting a ballot while trying to safeguard his health.
“It’s a choice between life and death, really,” said Mr. Baccus, a supporter of Mr. Biden. “We could not do it and our votes won’t be counted. It’s a choice I’ve got to make for my chil-dren and grandchildren.”
At some polling places, workers wore masks, gloves and face shields. Lines and voting stations were set up 6 feet apart, andthe stations and pens were sanitized between users.