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Dane County Clerk issues guidances to city, village elections officials for possible Coronavirus complications

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The man in charge of overseeing elections in Dane County said Tuesday he's preparing for the novel coronavirus to potentially impact the April 7 spring presidential primary in a number of ways.

Scott McDonell said he had a call last Friday with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. McDonell said while elections officials are used to having contingency plans, the challenges the coronavirus presents are unique.

"Really, it's a little different than some of the other problems we might face - flooding, snow or other issues that can come up that can disrupt an election," McDonell said, "In this instance, really the fear of it is a factor even if we don't have a lot of cases here."

McDonell said he's preparing city and village clerks in the county for the possibility that some polling locations, particularly health clinics or senior living facilities, could opt out of the upcoming primary.

In a statement, Madison Metropolitan School District Public Information Officer Tim LeMonds said MMSD's procedures for preparing to host a number of voters is "something that is being looked at. However, at this point, we do not have any restrictions in place nor any cleaning procedures that would supercede the already strict sanitary measures that have already been put in place at our schools."

McDonell noted, for some voters, it may be best for them to not go out to vote on election day and submit their ballot in advance.

"I would recommend this specifically for voters who have compromised health - maybe they're older, maybe they have asthma - is request a ballot by mail," he said.

Voters can request an absentee ballot online via the MyVote Wisconsin website. McDonell advised anyone considering that route to make sure they send back their ballot no later than April 3, the Friday before the election.

McDonell said with a rapidly changing situation across the country, election officials know they'll have to be even more nimble in the coming weeks.

"We don't know what it's gonna be like a month from now so that's one of the challenges here," McDonell said.

McDonell added one of those challenges is poll workers, particularly elderly volunteers and those with pre-existing health conditions, may not feel safe working this particular election. In those cases, he asks poll workers to give their municipal clerks advance notice so they can ensure all sites have enough staff.