Heavy turnout in Milwaukee led the city Election Commission to call out the reserves Tuesday.
Extra poll workers were sent to polling places at Becher Terrace, Bradley Tech High School, Keenan Health Center, Morse Middle School, Rufus King International School Middle Years Campus and Cass Street, 53rd Street, Grantosa and Parkview schools, said Sue Edman, the election commission’s executive director.
The backup workers were needed to handle long lines, partly because a significant number of new voters were registering at the polls, Edman said.
“We knew things would be busy, but we didn’t know how busy,” Edman said.
In some cases, poll workers were shifted from less-crowded polling places to busier ones, Edman said. In other cases, she used poll workers who had agreed to be on call or city administrators who had volunteered to help out, she said.
Voting machines broke down or jammed twice at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and once each at Manitoba School and the OASIS Senior Center, Edman said. Each time, voters were asked to place their ballots in secure bins so that poll workers could feed them into the machines after they were repaired, usually within 15 or 20 minutes, she said.
That was a smaller number of voting machine problems than the city usually encounters, Edman said.
And confusion arose at the Zablocki Library, when poll workers told some registered voters their names weren’t listed in the poll books.
The first time Megan Knudson went to vote, she was informed that her name did not appear in the poll book for Ward 260 and she was offered the opportunity to re-register.
“I chose to leave the polls,” Knudson said.
Redistricting is to blame for Knudson’s and other residents’ confusion, Edman said.
In previous rounds of redistricting, state law required county boards to draw supervisory district lines first. Then municipalities drew municipal ward lines and aldermanic district lines to avoid splitting wards between supervisory or aldermanic districts. Finally, the Legislature used the wards to build legislative and congressional districts.
But in 2011, the Legislature amended the law to let legislative redistricting take precedence, as Republican legislative leaders rushed to push their redistricting plan through before the first round of Senate recall elections. That forced county and municipal governments to re-draw their maps to conform to the state lines.
During the revision process, Milwaukee County officials accidentally left two city wards that were each split between two supervisory districts, one on the southwest side and one on the west side, Edman said. That included Ward 260, where part of the ward was temporarily designated 260Q, she said.
Poll workers in the recall primary were aware of the issue, but election officials forgot to tell those working in Tuesday’s election, Edman said. The workers did not know that a separate poll book had been printed for Ward 260Q and that it was behind the book printed for Ward 260, said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board.
After she had learned from the Milwaukee Election Commission about the Ward 260Q situation, Knudson returned to the poll at the library. She explained the situation to a poll worker who found her name in the correct book.
“My main worry is that there would be many people in my situation, and they would not be comfortable advocating for themselves,” Knudson said.
Problems with the ward lines are expected to be corrected in time for the fall primary in August, Edman said.