More states adding National Guard support for Election Day
By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 30, 2020
AUSTIN, Texas — About 400 members of the Wisconsin National Guard will serve as poll workers during Tuesday’s presidential election, joining Guard troops in about 10 others states to support voting in various capacities.
“The Wisconsin National Guard has played a critical role in our response to the [coronavirus] pandemic and this mission is no different,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement. “As Wisconsin faces an urgent crisis with more than 200,000 positive cases of [coronavirus] across the state, the help of the Guard will be needed to ensure that Election Day goes smoothly and that voters and election officials alike have the assistance they need.”
More than 10 states were planning to use troops as of Friday to support elections in various missions including cyber security, said Wayne Hall, spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, located at the Pentagon. Because elections are conducted by state governments, Guard members working election-related missions are not deployed on federal active duty.
Another five states are anticipating the need to deploy troops next week, Hall said. Those numbers could change because not all states report nonfederal activations to the National Guard Bureau. Hall said he did not know which states were considering Guard deployments or how many troops could be activated.
In Washington, D.C., some National Guard troops have been placed on standby because of next week’s election, if needed, said Master Sgt. Craig Clapper, spokesman for the D.C. Guard. The mission and amount of troops would be determined once the Guard receives an official request.
The 400 troops in Wisconsin will report Sunday to complete necessary training and begin receiving assignments, according to Wisconsin Guard officials. They’ll report Monday to receive site-specific training and assist with polling place setup before fulfilling the role of traditional poll workers on Tuesday during the election. The troops will be released from duty Wednesday.
Tuesday will be the fourth election in Wisconsin this year supported by Guard troops because of a shortage of poll workers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to 2020, troops had never supported the state’s elections.
Kentucky National Guard announced earlier this week that 280 troops will serve as poll workers and Tennessee National Guard officials said it will provide 13 facilities to serve as polling locations, along with about two service members as support staff at each site.
Officials in Washington state, Illinois and Tennessee have said they are actively providing troops to state and county officials to conduct cyber missions related to election security.