USA

Republican Wisconsin assembly speaker wears protective gear while telling voters they are 'incredibly safe to go out'

Washington (CNN)Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, wore a mask, gloves and other protective gear as he sought to assure voters it was "incredibly safe" to vote in person for Tuesday's election amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"You are incredibly safe to go out," Vos told The Journal Times in a Facebook livestream. Vos said he was serving as an election inspector and that wearing the personal protective equipment, or PPE, was mandatory.

Standing in front of cars lined up for curbside voting, Vos said people working at polling locations and those voting in person face "very minimal exposure."

"Actually, there's less exposure here than you would get if you went to the grocery store, or you went to Walmart, or you did any of the many things we have to do to live in the state of Wisconsin," Vos said.

Vos' message was strikingly disconnected from his PPE-heavy outfit, in which the speaker looked more like a surgeon than one of the state's most powerful politicians. Vos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vos and Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald opposed all efforts to stop in-person voting from taking place Tuesday because of the pandemic. Every other state with an election scheduled for April postponed their contests or shifted it to voting-by-mail only because of fears that holding an election in the middle of a pandemic could put the health of poll workers and voters at risk.

The state Supreme Court on Monday evening blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' executive order, signed Monday, to delay the primary until June. The state Supreme Court's ruling was the culmination of days of efforts by Evers to delay the primary or shift it to voting-by-mail only.

Vos told the Journal Times on Tuesday that it "made no sense to cancel the election and just push it off to a future date." He praised election officials and said, "I am super proud of the job that they did, and I am glad that we are able to have the election."

So many poll workers quit ahead of Tuesday's election that Milwaukee consolidated its 180 polling places down to just five locations, and nearly 300 of the state's National Guard troops replaced volunteers who quit. Voters wearing face masks stretched around multiple blocks in those locations early on Tuesday.

Thousands of people requested absentee ballots ahead of last week's deadline, but they won't receive those ballots in time to mail them back, according to data reported by local clerks to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Those people will be forced to choose between voting in person or skipping the election.

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