MADISON, Wis. — More than 2,400 Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard mobilized to state active duty to serve as poll workers across Wisconsin during the April 7 election.
The Guard members, dressed in civilian attire, served at polls in 71 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties – all except Florence County – in support of the Wisconsin Elections Commission and clerks due to a critical shortage of poll workers resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the National Guard members served as poll workers in the counties in which they reside, fulfilling the same roles as traditional civilian poll workers.
“This mission has provided a unique opportunity to serve our communities like we’ve never done before,” said Capt. Alicia Dorsett, a member of the Headquarters Battery of the 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery, based in Oak Creek. She and her mother, Sheila Dorsett, staffed the polls together in Dorsett’s hometown of Poy Sippi.
“Not only am I serving in my own community, but I’m serving alongside the people who watched me grow up, to include my own mom,” she said. “Those voting today get to see a familiar face and feel safe with the hygienic practices implemented by people they know and trust.”
The Wisconsin National Guard has two core missions – serving in its federal role as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force and serving the state during times of emergency. While serving as poll workers is unprecedented for the Wisconsin National Guard, serving the state in a time of need is a familiar concept.
“It was a good experience,” said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Ard, a Green Bay resident assigned as a public affairs noncommissioned officer in the Milwaukee-based 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. He worked at the Allouez Village Hall polling place. “... The Guard is here to provide support in any way we can.”
Sgt. Monica Miggins, a fueler from Madison assigned to the Beloit-based 1158th Transportation Company, hoped the Guard’s efforts helped ease the burden on other poll workers.
“We’re making a positive impact because there a lot of people who volunteer who are elderly,” she said while working at a Fitchburg polling station. “So this helps out with letting them avoid contact with people by letting younger Soldiers take their duties.”
“I did a little of everything,” said Maj. Maria Garcia, a member of the 132nd Brigade Support Battalion and a Wauwatosa resident supporting the City of Wauwatosa and Milwaukee County. “I assisted with the ballots and polling book, feeding ballots into the machine, cleaning the polling location and directing traffic.”
Garcia said she received training from the Milwaukee County Elections Commission and COVID-19 safety guidance.
Spc. Michael Clark, a truck driver from Mosinee, Wisconsin’s F Company, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion, said he was honored to serve his community at a polling station in Marshfield.
“I think that as a Guardsman, it is important to help out the community and nation in any way possible, whether it is a very little thing or a national emergency,” he said. “It is a great way to gain experience and meet interesting, new people and gain great new experiences.”
Staff Sgt. Alan Hughes, assigned to Madison’s 115th Fighter Wing, but also serving in Marshfield in support of Wood County, was grateful for the opportunity to serve his neighbors.
“As a traditional status Guardsman drilling with an Air National Guard unit nearly two hours away from my home, it feels good to be able to support my own friends and neighbors and demonstrate to my local community that there are local Guardsman always willing and able to step up when the need arises, no matter what the situation may be,” Hughes said.
Judy Nagel, Langlade County clerk, appreciated having nine Guard members help out in the county.
“It was valued that they were trained and informed of what they were doing for the community,” she said. "Using local Guardsmen was a plus.”
Barron County Clerk DeeAnn Cook said using Guard Soldiers “was the smoothest part of this election.
“What a nice, polite, respectful group of people they are,“ she said. “They all arrived on time and were patient while their assignments were being decided, then reported for duty.”
Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, Wisconsin’s assistant adjutant general for readiness and training, coordinated the Guard’s response and served as a liaison with the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
“Our unique military and civilian skills make us adaptable to execute any mission across every zip code in our state,” she said. “The Wisconsin National Guard is part of your communities, as we are your family, your friends, your coworkers and your neighbors who live in your communities, and we could not be prouder to be serving the citizens of our state and being part of ensuring they can cast their vote in this election.”
“Thank you to all the service men and women who helped make democracy in Wisconsin possible today,” said Meagan Wolfe, the Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator.
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Ard, Spc. Emma Anderson, Spc. Anya Hanson and 1st Lt. Daniel Yarnall contributed to this report.