'Aggressive hygiene habits' expected at polls during primary amid coronavirus concerns

MILWAUKEE -- The presidential primary election in Wisconsin is April 7, and in-person absentee voting in Milwaukee County begins Monday, March 16. One week before early voters hit the polls, FOX6 looked into preparations to protect the polls amid coronavirus concerns.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said election officials should take steps to protect polling places, and in a memo, urged poll workers to stay home if they're sick. They also called for hand sanitizer at each polling place. Officials with the Wisconsin Elections Commission shared the CDC guidelines with all clerks. 

"Right now, we are watching coronavirus very closely," said Ann Jacobs, commissioner. "We're going to see a lot of very aggressive hygiene habits at the polls. People at the polls are going to be encouraged to use hand sanitizer. Polling staff are going to be cleaning all the different things people touch."

Ann Jacobs

Wisconsin already has emergency plans for things like natural disasters or virus outbreaks.

"It's sort of new arena for us," said Jacobs. "Usually, voting problems are local. With one particular voting location, we'll have a problem. One county will have had tornadoes. One locality will have a fire alarm go off. This is a much more statewide issue."

Coronavirus worries could prompt some to avoid the crowds and vote early.

Betty Glosson

"Your vote counts," said Betty Glosson with Souls to the Polls. "Your vote is very important. There are people who died for your right to vote, so it's important that you continue that legacy."

Glosson said Monday, March 9 she hadn't noticed an increase in people looking to vote by absentee ballot. FOX6 caught up with Glosson as she registered people to vote at the Isaac Coggs Heritage Health Center.

"I would die for my right to vote," said Glosson.

Glosson grew up in Arkansas during Jim Crow, where laws kept African Americans from voting.

"I saw all that as a kid, so this is just so important for people to get out and vote," said Glosson.