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A couple leaves after casting their ballots during the April 7, 2020, election in Kenosha, Wisconsin. | Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus has a chance to spread through long voting lines and cramped polling stations.

In the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, Wisconsin is voting on Tuesday.

Gov. Tony Evers (D) has repeatedly tried to delay the state’s elections, citing fears that in-person voting could bolster the spread of coronavirus. But Wisconsin Republicans and the state’s Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservatives, rebuffed Evers. Republicans also fought off Evers’s efforts to mail ballots to every voter and allow ballots to be counted beyond the original April 7 election date.

The result is long lines at the polls as voters turn out for the presidential primary and a batch of local and state elections, including a particularly controversial Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

Public health experts are not mincing words: This is not good. People across the country are being asked to stay home as much as possible to avoid the spread of the Covid-19 disease. Requiring them to show up to long lines and cramped schools, gyms, and churches to vote obviously goes against that.

As of April 7, Wisconsin has 2,440 reported coronavirus cases and 83 deaths. The state is currently under a stay-at-home order.

Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, called the decision to continue on with Election Day “a serious unforced error” and “very unwise.” While it’s theoretically possible for people to do their best at social distancing under these circumstances and keep six feet away from each other, Kates explained, that will require a lot of coordination and can be especially risky to poll workers, who could spread the virus to the rest of their community once this is all over.

“This is a highly infectious virus with no cure or vaccine,” Kates said. “Anything that public officials can do to minimize crowding is critical.”

Tara Smith, an epidemiologist at Kent State University, said that the long lines are “really concerning”: “It puts voters and poll workers at risk. I doubt they’re going to be consistently able to maintain distance, and either way they’ll be touching the same objects inside the voting areas and the doors when they enter and leave.”

Citing her own state’s experience, Smith argued that “this doesn’t have to be a partisan issue.” Ohio, under the leadership of Gov. Mike DeWine (R), postponed its primary election from March 17 to April 28, citing concerns about the coronavirus.

Wisconsin Republicans, however, refused to do the same — and now people are at greater risk for Covid-19.

Author: German Lopez

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