Portraits of a pandemic: Milwaukee voters go to the polls

Despite the pandemic, these Milwaukee residents showed up to vote at Marshall High School on April 7. “We need some changes in the city and the country, and I’m here and I’m going to vote come hell or high water,” says Glenda Davenport, center. Also pictured are Fred Real, left, and Greg Michel, right.

Milwaukee voters turned out by the thousands to cast their ballots Tuesday during an extraordinary time in history. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a “Safer at Home” directive on March 12, ordering most residents to stay inside and away from each other if possible — in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Evers launched a last-minute effort to delay the election, only to see Republican lawmakers outmaneuver him in court. Health experts called in-person voting dangerous during the crisis. But the process went forward, looking nothing like a typical election. Milwaukee whittled its usual 180 polling places to five, citing a lack of poll workers willing to staff the election during the pandemic.

Risking their health, these Milwaukee residents — many clad in protective gear, showed up. They waited, sometimes for hours, to participate in democracy. These are my portraits from the pandemic election.

In addition to the photography, I recorded this first-person audio journal for the podcast “Inside Stories” about my experience covering the election during the pandemic.

More of my reporting for Wisconsin Watch can be read here.