MILWAUKEE -- It was a monumental morning at Milwaukee City Hall on Tuesday, April 23; the first meeting of the 2020-2024 term looked more different than ever for many reasons.
One of those reasons was the virtual teleconference for the charter meeting of the 2020-2024 Milwaukee Common Council. It began with a special swearing-in by Judge Valarie Hill.
Among the newly elected are Alderwomen Marina Dimitrijevic and Jocasta Zamarripa. With their addition, the council has the largest percentage of women ever serving simultaneously -- a moment that was recognized by all 15 members.
"Things are very good for the City of Milwaukee and the people," said Zamarripa. "I'm honored to be a part of it and history."
A notable item on the agenda was the creation of a "SafeVote program" which the council approved unanimously. The resolution, authored by Alderwoman Dimitrijevic, directs the executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission to create (by the end of May) the SafeVote program, which, for the first time in city history, would prompt the mailing of an absentee ballot application to all registered voters in the city.
“The right to vote is sacred in our democracy, and I am grateful for the support of my colleagues on SafeVote,” Alderwoman Dimitrijevic said in a news release. “The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has made congregating in groups a threat to public health, and we recognize that voting by mail must be seen as the best way to ensure the best possible participation in a vital election."
Alderwoman Zamarripa stood strongly behind the program after the April 7 election was still held in the midst of a pandemic.
"We shall see if it results in folks getting sick," she said. "Marina wanted to make sure that doesn't happen again by taking the initiative to make sure folks receive their mail-in ballot so folks can vote safely by mail."
The measure’s primary co-sponsor, Alderman Khalif Rainey, said the scenes across Milwaukee on April 7 during the spring primary election must not be repeated in November.
“The spectacle of thousands of citizens gathering to vote on April 7, while in a way inspiring, was an unacceptable danger to their own well-being and that of others,” Alderman Rainey said. “Affording residents the opportunity to vote by mail in an efficient and safe manner is the right way to go this fall."
All registered voters in the City of Milwaukee would receive an application for an absentee ballot along with a postage-paid return envelope in time for them to participate in the fall 2020 general election.
Another major change was the appointment of a new common council president. Alderman Cavalier "Chevy" Johnson was elected on an 8-to-7 vote, replacing Alderman Ashanti Hamilton.