By Morgan Bluma
WAUKESHA, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported a record-high number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus this month of more than 1,000 people and a total death toll of 1,897. As the pandemic surges in Wisconsin, voters are considering the benefits and drawbacks of different methods of voting.
Clinical Nurse Coordinator at Froedtert Hospital Christina Ladwig, 33, said she voted by absentee ballot because of the rise in COVID-19 cases recently. She said she normally votes in-person but wanted to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 as much as possible.
“I try very hard not to judge anybody’s actions on what they choose to do and if someone’s comfortable voting in-person, that’s absolutely their right and their choice,” Ladwig said in a phone interview. “I just personally try to reduce my risk as much as possible.”
She said she enjoyed how easy it was to vote by absentee ballot, she may consider voting absentee again in a future election.
“I would be open to doing mail-in again,” Ladwig said.
Kali Anditon, 21, felt the same way. She said she was originally going to vote in-person but changed her mind due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin.
“I was planning on registering and then going in-person because that’s what, I feel, is excepted of you,” Anditon said in a phone interview, “but once the coronavirus came and a spike in cases, I felt it would be better just to request an absentee ballot and just send it in. And I did it pretty early to make sure that I had plenty of time for it to send in.”
Anditon is a full-time student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and this is her first-time voting.
However, not everyone is quick to vote by absentee ballot. Tom Placzkowski, 69, said he and his wife are planning to vote in-person on Election Day. He is retired but works part-time for First Student, a school bus service for students around the United States. He said he has always gone to vote on Election Day.
“I think it’s just because of habit that we enjoy doing it, we enjoy seeing all the people there and everything else…We’re not too concerned about the COVID,” Placzkowski said in a phone interview.
Even though there are new COVID-19 cases reported daily, Placzkowski said more people are going to vote early, making lines longer rather than on Election Day.
“I know we could go now and early vote but we’re thinking that most people are going to do that and there won’t be much of a line come next Tuesday,” Placzkowski said.
According to the Associated Press, more than 75,000 people have already cast ballots on the first day of early in-person voting. More than 1 million people have already turned in their absentee ballots as well.
Wisconsin has seen a small number of errors on absentee ballots. According to data from the Wisconsin voter database by Wisconsin Watch, as of Oct. 21, 1,400 ballots have been rejected and if there is no action by the voters to fix these errors, their vote will not count. Ladwig said she is slightly worried about mail-in voting and her vote being counted but tries to remain optimistic.
“It’s only slightly, I’m trying to be optimistic though,” Ladwig said. “I did mine early in the hopes that there wouldn’t be any last-minute scrabbles for it to get there, to arrive at the right place.”
Anditon said her ballot was rejected when she mailed it in because her witness did not put down his full address. Anditon said she was also worried about her vote-counting when she voted by absentee ballot.
“I was intentionally but I kind of kept track of it to see if it did make it back to the box,” Anditon said, “so when I got the letter saying it was rejected, I called and just told them the address and they said, ‘ok, well you’re all set then,’ so I know my vote is being counted. I don’t think there’s anything to be worried about with it being opened too early or anything like that. I think they do it how they’re supposed to do it.”
However, others are worried about the potential for voter fraud. President Trump has used the idea of voter fraud to dispute the Nov. 3 election throughout his campaign even though there have been many reports showing that voter fraud is a nonexistent problem. Placzkowski said he is not worried about his vote being counted but is worried about the possibility of voter fraud.
“No because we are doing it in person, but I do feel there is a lot of the mail stuff, I think it’s stuff that’s not going to be counted and I think there’s going to be a lot of fraud,” Placzkowski said.
As voting methods have changed for many Wisconsinites, Ladwig said future voters should be aware of the possibilities because anything can happen during an election.
“It will forever be a memorable first vote,” Ladwig said. “Every election has its own different nuances though, right. You go into it with your own thoughts or hopes for the outcome, the experience feels different every time you vote and I think part of that depends on who you’re hoping for, also depends on where you vote because you can vote in different places. Just be flexible every election because you never know.”