Oak Creek clerk reports 'lower turnout, but very consistent' amid election during pandemic

OAK CREEK -- Despite federal health recommendations, thousands of Wisconsin voters waited hours in long lines outside overcrowded polling stations on Tuesday so they could participate in a presidential primary election that tested the limits of electoral politics in the midst of a pandemic.

Thousands more stayed home, unwilling to risk their health even as Republican officials pushed forward with the election amid a stay-at-home order. But many of the potential voters who remained in their homes complained that the absentee ballots they had requested never showed up.

"The only state in the U.S. that's voting today," said Daryl Draeger, Oak Creek voter.

"Just taking extra precautions," said Josh Canon, Oak Creek voter. "I have young kids. We thought that maybe they would push it off a little bit, but that's not how it went."

In Oak Creek, in-person voting was consolidated to the high school gymnasium.

"Well organized," said Jaci Urbaniak, Oak Creek voter. "I didn't know what to expect. Everyone was pleasant, efficient."

Poll workers were busy enforcing social distancing and sanitizing, protected behind plexiglass -- the National Guard on hand to help.

Catherine Roeske

"This election has been challenging," said Catherine Roeske, clerk. "With those always comes opportunities. It's a lower turnout, but very consistent."

In nearby Franklin, a steady stream of voters dropped off absentee ballots Tuesday.

"This morning, we had 248 dropped either in person, or in the drop box," said Sandi Wesolowski, clerk. "Today is the last day that they can physically drop them off or get them postmarked."

Inside City Hall, inspectors sifted through thousands of ballots.

"We have mailed out over 10,000," said Wesolowski. "On Sunday, we had over 7,000 back in."

In Oak Creek, with roughly 20,000 registered voters, 7,000 absentee ballots had been returned as of Tuesday afternoon.

"Certainly, this has been a topsy turvy election with some twists and turns," said Roeske.

In Franklin, many young people stepped up to work the polls, assisting during a crucial time.