Wisconsin governor deploys National Guard to help at pollsSubmitted: 04/01/2020
MADISON - Wisconsin's governor said Wednesday that he will use National Guard soldiers to staff undermanned polling sites in next week's presidential primary.

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined others who have called for the state to postpone the election.

Local election clerks across the state say poll workers are quitting in droves out of fears of contracting the coronavirus during Tuesday's election, which also features a state Supreme Court race and hundreds of local races. More than 100 municipalities have reported they lack enough people to staff even one polling site.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers told a federal judge in a filing that he will use members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard to help as poll workers but that even that move likely won't fill all staffing needs. The court filing said the Guard was determining how many soldiers it can make available in each county.

Guard spokesman Joe Trovato told The Associated Press in an email that commanders were working closely with election officials to determine how many soldiers will be needed and how to train them.

Evers submitted the brief Tuesday as U.S. District Judge William Conley considered three lawsuits seeking to postpone the election. The Democratic National Committee, the state Democratic Party and other liberal-leaning groups argue in the lawsuits that in-person voting should be postponed until after Evers' stay-at-home order expires on April 24, voter ID requirements for absentee ballot applications be lifted and voters be given until June 2 to mail them in to clerks.

Conley hinted during a hearing Wednesday that he was looking at a number of options, including extending time for sending in absentee ballots and moving the election to May 12, the same day as a special election to replace retired U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy. Conley asked Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe whether there were so many problems that the election wouldn't be meaningful.

"I never want to underestimate our local election officials," Wolfe said. "(But) it will certainly be challenging."

Conley did not say when he will rule.

Both Evers and Republican legislative leaders have wanted to keep the Tuesday date. Evers says postponement could leave countless local offices vacant. But the two sides have sparred over how to conduct the election, including whether to relax photo ID requirements to make the absentee voting process easier.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, both Republicans, told reporters that they support using Guard soldiers at the polls.

"I think we are up to the task and it sounds like (the election is) going to get done," Fitzgerald said.

Sanders issued a statement Wednesday saying, "People should not be forced to put their lives on the line to vote."

A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows 51% of respondents support delaying the election, while 44% say it should be held as scheduled.

Former Vice President Joe Biden opened a wide lead on Sanders in the Democratic presidential race. Biden had 62% support compared with 34% for Sanders, who won Wisconsin's Democratic primary in 2016.

The poll of 813 registered Wisconsin voters was conducted between March 24 and Sunday. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Story By: Todd Richmond, Associated Press
Photo By: US National Guard / CC BY 2.0

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MADISON - Wisconsin's economy will be harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic in areas where there is more tourism, a study by the Wisconsin Policy Forum released on Tuesday said.

The study found that counties that depend heavily on tourism face the greatest challenges due to the concentration of jobs related to hotels, restaurants, entertainment and recreation. The virus outbreak has forced closures of nonessential businesses across the state, including many that rely on tourists like water parks in Wisconsin Dells, professional and collegiate sporting events and historical sites throughout the state.

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Drive to the entrance at Rib Mountain State Park and you usually have to stop there to pay.

That's no longer the case, after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) waived entrance fees at all state parks and trails to encourage sensible outdoor activity.

"We want folks to use those responsibly and travel within their own communities and maintain social distancing in small groups," said recreation partnership sections chief Missy VanLanduyt

Getting rid of the fees is meant to cut down on potential overcrowding problems at the parks.

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ANTIGO - For Tapped Maple Syrup co-owner Jeremy Solin, harvest season usually means enjoying the outdoors with his four employees, neighbors and family.

"Maple syrup is a big family and community time for us usually," said Solin. "We love to have people out in the woods with us, tapping trees and collecting sap and being part of the cooking process. We just can't do that this year and so its kind of a lonely maple syrup season.

But the growing fears of coronavirus shrunk the team down to just five - making his farm in Antigo eerily quiet.

"I think we'll be okay," said Solin. "It just means a lot more work for fewer people essentially to try and keep up and more stress in a sense during the process of the season."

It's more work for Solin, but still same volume of syrup.

Supply won't be the issue - Solin is concerned about the demand.

"We work with a lot of restaurants, bars, coffee shops who are obviously really struggling at this point," said Solin. "We're concerned about their survival as a small business and partner of ours and friends of ours so as we lose those businesses that's going to affect our business as well."

Coronavirus does not discriminate between essential and non-essential businesses.

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MARATHON COUNTY - In a press release, the Marathon County Public Health Department confirms that a fourth person tested positive for COVID-19.

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WASHINGTON - Former Vice President Joe Biden took his virtual presidential campaign to the next level Monday when he launched a podcast as the coronavirus forces him to get creative in reaching voters otherwise distracted by a global pandemic.

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MADISON - Gov. Tony Evers asked President Donald Trump on Tuesday to issue a major disaster declaration for the state of Wisconsin due to the coronavirus pandemic, as unemployment claims hit a daily high and the state's health secretary warned lawmakers that Medicaid enrollments were going to increase dramatically.

Evers said he hoped the declaration, which also would cover Wisconsin's federally recognized tribes, would allow the states to access critical programs to support its response, including community disaster loans, public assistance, direct assistance and crisis counseling.

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MILWAUKEE - The coronavirus has delivered a severe blow to Wisconsin dairy farmers who rely on selling milk to restaurants, schools and the hospitality industry.

About one-third of Wisconsin dairy products, mainly cheese, are sold in the food service trade, the Journal Sentinel reported.

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WASHINGTON - Trump administration officials are asking India to lift restrictions to give the U.S. access to pharmaceutical ingredients needed to produce a range of drugs, amid fears of a potential U.S. drug supply shortage prompted by the coronavirus outbreak, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

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