WISCONSIN (SPECTRUM NEWS) — The mayors of Wisconsin’s five largest cities have secured a combined $6.3 million in nonprofit grants to fund the “Wisconsin Safe Voting Plan,” they announced Monday. 

The grants, awarded by the nonpartisan Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), will help each municipality administer elections this year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayors of Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Racine, and Kenosha noted the Wisconsin spring election, in which voters were easily exposed to COVID-19 and municipalities scrambled to conduct safe elections.The five cities applied for grant funds from CTCL to create the “Wisconsin Safe Voting Plan” and support elections operations. The program will enable municipalities to prepare for and operate safe elections by investing in priorities that include securely opening an adequate number of voting sites, setting up drive-thru and drop box locations, providing PPE for poll workers, and recruiting and training a sufficient number of poll workers.  

The “Wisconsin Safe Voting Plan” grant applications have been approved in full by CTCL and will soon be awarded to each municipality. Some of the jurisdictions may require approval from their respective city councils to accept the grants.

“The deadly COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a global public health crisis, and seriously impaired the ability of local governments to administer safe and smooth elections,” said Racine Mayor Cory Mason.  “These grants will help each municipality make investments that will ensure smooth, safe and healthy elections in a time of a national health pandemic -- which each municipality otherwise would struggle to do while facing an intense budget shortfall.”  

“We have seen what can happen to elections in the midst of a dangerous pandemic -- long lines, limited locations, threatened exposure to a deadly disease, and voters concerned about going to the polls due to serious health fears,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.  “These resources will help us address these problems, and I thank the Center for Tech and Civic Life for making these important and wise investments.”

“Through an extraordinary effort, Madison was able to pull off a safe election in April, but we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars we hadn’t budgeted doing so,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.  “As we have seen in Wisconsin and across the nation, COVID-19 is not gone; in fact, it’s getting worse in some places. If we are going to meet our obligations as elected leaders to ensure the safe administration of elections during this pandemic, we have to think differently and bring in help where we can. These valuable resources will go a long way to running successful elections this year.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has provided a stress test for our democratic institutions, including our elections, and we know we must do better,” said Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich. “The support of the Center for Tech and Civic Life will enable us to ensure that all Green Bay citizens can exercise their right to vote safely and securely in August and November.”

“These smart investments will allow us to increase safety without burdening taxpayers,” said Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian.  “This is exactly the kind of project that city governments need to pursue in the midst of a pandemic that is still threatening lives.”

CTCL is a nationally-recognized, nonpartisan nonprofit organization. It works with the federal government, as well as local and state governments of all sizes across thenation and regardless of partisanship to highlight best practices, create easy-to-use resources for administrators, and develop infrastructure to better operate elections.

Summary of grants: 

Total by Municipality

  • City of Milwaukee: $2,154,500

  • City of Madison: $1,271,788

  • City of Green Bay: $1,093,400

  • City of Kenosha: $862,779

  • City of Racine: $942,100

Total by Use

  • Support Early In-Person Voting and Vote by Mail: $2,572,839

    • Expand the number of in-person Early Voting sites (Including Curbside Voting).

    • Provide assistance to help voters comply with absentee ballot requests and certification requirements. 

    • Utilize secure drop-boxes to facilitate return of absentee ballots. 

    • Deploy additional staff and/or technology improvements to expedite and improve accuracy of absentee ballot processing.  

  • Launch Poll Worker Recruitment, Training & Safety Efforts: $1,810,028

    • Recruit and hire a sufficient number of poll workers and inspectors to ensure poll sites properly staffed during virus outbreak, utilizing hazard pay where required.

    • Provide voting facilities with funds to compensate for increased site cleaning and sanitization costs.  Provide updated training for current and new poll workers administering elections in midst of pandemic.

  • Ensure Safe, Efficient Election Day Administration: $876,700

    • Procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and personal disinfectant to protect election officials and voters from coronavirus.

    • Support and expand drive-thru voting on election day, including covering additional unbudgeted expenses for signage, tents, traffic control, and safety measures. 

  • Expand Voter Education & Outreach Efforts: $1,065,000

    • Outreach to remind voters to verify and update their address, or other voter registration information, prior to the election