MARINETTE — Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot thanked City Clerk Lana Bero and all of the poll workers for their efforts in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Genisot, speaking during his report at Tuesday’s common council meeting, said all workers deserve praise. “We all know the challenges that COVID-19 has placed on both the folks that were working before with absentee ballots, sending out ballots and certainly on election day,” he said. “I want to thank them for the many, many hours they put in.”
Bero said she and the workers were prepared for most obstacles presented by COVID-19. “We felt very confident going into this election as we already had almost 3,000 voters of the 5,738 registered voters as of election day cast votes via either absentee or (in person) at the clerk’s office.”
She said social distancing requirements were in place, a police presence was on site (which wasn’t needed), sanitation stations were set up, plexiglass was at the tables, student workers cleaned pens and sanitized tables, all election workers wore masks and every voter was given a Q-tip so they didn’t have to physically touch the touch screen.
As Bero found out, even the best plans don’t always work out perfectly.
“What we did not expect was a line of about 300 people before we even opened the polls,” she said. “Right off the bat we were behind.”
Well before the 7 a.m. opening, lines snaked through the parking lot at the Community REC Center.
Bero said she got the word out about potential lines, but it still didn’t help. She also said some people kicked over the cones that were set up to encourage social distancing, including one mom who let her child gather and play with all the cones.
“Needless to say the six foot social distancing was difficult,” Bero admitted. “I had a worker trying to (enforce it), but with that many people, it’s hard.”
Bero said there also were numerous residents who voted curbside and some of those indicated they had COVID-19-related issues.
“It was a challenge for us, but we had proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and we were ready,” she said.
Genisot asked Bero to comment on some people stating there weren’t enough voting machines.
“This wasn’t a machine problem,” Bero said, adding that delays came at the poll books when voters had to show their photo ID, state their name and address and such. “That takes time.”
Bero said for future big elections, voters will be divided into smaller groups based on the first letter of their name. Maybe four or five letters to a group, she said.
This year, voters were divided into the wards in which they live and many didn’t know their ward, Bero explained.
About 87% of registered voters took part in the election, including about 400 who registered Nov. 3. Bero said the last voters cast their ballots at about 9:30 p.m.
Alderman Rick Polzin also thanked Bero and the poll workers. “They did the best they could in a very difficult situation, with a turnout far greater than they could have anticipated,” he said.