WASHINGTON — Wisconsin voters braving serious risks to their health headed to the primary polls on Tuesday after a last-ditch effort to postpone in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic failed.
Voters confronted enormous lines as early as 7 a.m. following a dramatic reduction in the number of polling locations in Milwaukee after thousands of volunteers stepped down due to fears they’d become infected.
Some voters, donning face masks and trying desperately to adhere to social distancing guidelines, waited in line for hours after the number of polling stations fell from 180 to just five in Milwaukee, officials said.
Pictures of emerged of voters in line wearing face masks and signs of protest with messages like “VOTE AND DIE,” while one woman said she was being forced to walk for an hour to get to her nearest polling site.
As COVID-19 swept across the US in early March and effectively suspended the Democratic race, the Badger State’s presidential primary remained on the books after more than 15 states postponed their primary races for safety reasons.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers tried to postpone in-person voting until June 9 but was blocked in 11th-hour rulings by a state court and then the US Supreme Court.
Wisconsin has just 77 delegates up for grabs but the primary is important for a number of reasons.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I.Vt) beat Hillary Clinton in the Badger State by just 100,000 votes in a huge 2016 upset and Tuesday’s result will once again be a referendum on Sanders’ appeal to white rural voters, which appears to be waning.
President Trump won Wisconsin’s general race by a razor-thin margin of just 0.77 percent and the state is shaping up to be a key battleground fight in 2020.
Former vice president Joe Biden is the favorite to win Wisconsin — with polling website FiveThirtyEight forecasting he will win with 58 percent of the vote and a Marquette poll out April 1 showing Biden with a 62-34 percent edge.
Robert Wilson reviews his selections on his ballot while voting in Dunn, Wis., while covering his face with a bandana.AP
Biden has become the presumptive Democratic nominee after a series of thumping victories and leads Sanders with a large delegate count, 1,217 to 914.
Sanders however has resisted repeated calls to drop out, insisting he has a “narrow” path to victory, and will remain in the race — setting up a bitter and protracted fight for the nomination.
The 78-year-old released a statement on the eve of Wisconsin’s primary blasting the Supreme Court decision to keep poll stations open during the outbreak and announced he was pulling all of his volunteers.
“Let’s be clear: holding this election amid the coronavirus outbreak is dangerous, disregards the guidance of public health experts, and may very well prove deadly,” Sanders wrote in an email to supporters.
“For that reason, our campaign will not be engaged in any traditional GOTV [get out the vote] efforts.”