Wisconsin state senator Tom Tiffany won a special election on May 12 to fill the vacancy in the state’s 7th congressional district.
The seat was left empty when Rep. Sean Duffy resigned last fall. Tiffany, a Republican, defeated Democratic rival Tricia Zunker with 57 percent of the vote. Polk County mirrored the district wide results with 58 percent of the vote going to Tiffany. But the village of Osceola went narrowly for Zunker, who received 260 votes to Tiffany’s 251.
Many of these votes came by absentee ballots, which left the polls fairly empty in Osceola on Tuesday.
“We issued around 300 absentee ballots and we did get back around 250,” said Osceola village clerk Fran Duncanson. “It is definitely slower than it was in April.”
The April 7 Wisconsin primary election left the village scrambling to gather protective equipment and sanitation products before the vote that was temporarily postponed by Gov. Evers, before the state’s Republican controlled Supreme Court rejected his order. This time around the village was better prepared, and with fewer voters in attendance, it made for a fairly smooth day at the polls.
“It’s a lighter election and a smaller turnout with only one issue on the ballot,” Duncanson said. “People are also able to vote more quickly now than in April because the ballot is so much shorter.”
Duncanson said voters are still treating the safety precautions seriously and following social distancing guidelines.
“A lot of the voters are wearing masks and everyone has been using the sanitizer and the gloves,” Duncanson said. “We haven’t had any pushback on any of that. People are being respectful and nice, which is the best we can hope for.”
Getting enough volunteers to man the polls was a major issue for the village in April, so this time around two members of the Wisconsin National Guard were dispatched to assist voting.
“Polk County was allocated 30 National Guard members to be available to help out the municipalities,” Duncanson said. “I knew we’d have a lighter turnout today but I was still a little concerned with whether or not we’d have enough staff so I asked to have two.”
Michael Conde of River Falls, Wisc. and Chyna Briggs of Spooner, Wisc. worked in plain clothes throughout the day, organizing absentee ballots and running voting machines. Briggs worked the polls in Barnes, Wisc. during the primary election in April. She said more voters in Barnes were wearing masks, but that Barnes is also an older and more vulnerable population.
“It seemed everyone in Barnes was wearing a mask,” she said. “But they have a higher age range. They’re more of an older population so it’s a little bit more understandable that everyone was wearing a mask.”
Duncanson said the assistance of Briggs and Conde was invaluable throughout the day.
“They’ve been a pleasure to have here,” she said. “And I want to thank them for their citizenship and for helping us out.”