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Despite Coronavirus Worries, Poll Workers Greet Voters In Wisconsin


Now, despite this pandemic, thousands of people lined up to vote yesterday in Wisconsin's presidential primary. Katherine Wilson is a poll worker in the town of Appleton. We got her on the line in the middle of the day.

KATHERINE WILSON: It hasn't been as busy as I hoped or feared, although at least a third - probably more than half - of the people I have talked to are people who requested and have not yet received absentee ballots.


There were three National Guardsmen there yesterday to make sure people spread out at a proper distance. But Wilson says, a couple of times, people did end up clustering in line outside of the doors. And poll workers got some protective gear, too.

WILSON: They've given us plastic shields, sort of plexiglass things on wooden frames to sit on top of our tables. I'm not sure if those are anything more than a placebo. They're about 3 feet by 4 feet. And sadly, we cannot offer stickers. I'm actually a little sad about that.

KING: No stickers, but they did offer gloves to voters. They also sanitized all the touch screens.

GREENE: Katherine Wilson is 39 years old. When she's not working an election, she is working at a call center, a job that she's doing now from home. She had hoped that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would succeed in delaying this primary, but late Monday, the state Supreme Court overruled him in a lawsuit brought by the Republican-controlled Legislature. And the U.S. Supreme Court said absentee voting could not be extended.

WILSON: I have been very proud of Wisconsin's response, you know? Illinois and Michigan both have over 10,000 cases. We've been doing so well. This seems like a huge risk.

GREENE: Katherine Wilson's husband made her promise to wear that mask, an N95 left over from a home improvement project. She will avoid seeing her mother-in-law for a couple of weeks to be safe.

KING: We asked Wilson how she came to be a poll worker, and she said she's been doing it for two years. She applied after the 2016 elections, when she was feeling pretty discouraged.

WILSON: I realized how satisfying and productive it would feel to actually take a hand in the local elections that matter so much. And the poll workers I've met have all been relatively elderly. I'm hoping that some of my friends follow my example because the more people know about this stuff, the more people will actually come out and vote.

KING: That's Katherine Wilson, one of the essential poll workers in Wisconsin's primary election yesterday. We are expecting results from that election next week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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