How Milwaukee’s Black voters leapt hurdles to vote during pandemic — 11/11/20

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Today we highlight our story about advocates’ efforts to increase voter turnout among Black residents in Milwaukee — and why those efforts did not spur more to cast ballots during the pandemic. 

The story reported by Anya van Wagtendonk with assistance from Nora Eckert and Bram Sable-Smith documented the efforts by groups such as Black Leaders Organizing for Communities and Leaders Igniting Transformation to encourage Black Milwaukee residents to weigh in on the presidential election. 

Despite those efforts, total votes cast in all 17 Milwaukee wards where at least 85% of voters are Black dropped compared to 2016. Advocates attributed the lower vote totals among majority-Black wards to fears of contracting COVID-19, lack of face-to-face voter engagement due to the pandemic and suspicion about mail-in voting.

But organizers saw signs of resilience in those numbers and bristled at the suggestion that Black voters haven’t done their part in the past two elections — particularly in a state where lawmakers have made it disproportionately harder for them to vote.

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Anya van Wagtendonk / Wisconsin Watch

Angela Lang, executive director of BLOC (Black Leaders Organizing for Communities), speaks during a celebration of the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris victory at Zeidler Union Square in downtown Milwaukee on Nov. 7, 2020. “I don’t need to tell you how hard this year has been,” she said. “And for whatever reason, we all had the audacity to still show up anyways and make our voices heard.”

‘Proud of my city’: Turnout down, but Milwaukee’s Black voters leapt hurdles to vote Wisconsin Watch 

Wisconsin health leaders given bleak update on virus Associated Press 

Protests, polls, pandemic: Wisconsin National Guard members faced a busy 2020 Wisconsin State Journal 

Sauk County deputy health director part of emerging group known as COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ Baraboo News Republic 

Milwaukee Health Department asks those with COVID-positive tests to help in contact tracing Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Wisconsin hospitals caring for more than 2,000 COVID-19 patients as state ranks among worst in U.S. for new cases Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Gov. Tony Evers calls for Wisconsinites to change behavior as cases of COVID-19 spread WPR 

Beloit COVID-19 hospitalizations at record high, vaccine preparations underway Beloit Daily News

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“So, I want to be clear tonight: each day this virus goes unchecked is a setback for our economic recovery. Our bars, restaurants, small businesses, families, and farmers will continue to suffer if we don’t take action right now — our economy cannot bounce back until we contain this virus.”

— Gov. Tony Evers in a Tuesday night primetime speech

Watch Evers’ speech:

Data to note

The Department of Health Services on Wednesday reported 7,048 new infections and 62 deaths from a virus that has killed at least 2,457 Wisconsinites since March. 

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 COVID-19 patients were in Wisconsin hospitals Wednesday — the highest total during the pandemic.

WisContext offers these visualizations of Wisconsin’s startling trends in COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalizations.

Resilient Wisconsin

People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us:

Cultural groups from Overture Center to WORT/FM receive crucial COVID-19 relief money Wisconsin State Journal 

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