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Amid Pandemic, Voters in Nebraska, Wisconsin Go to Polls Tuesday

Doorman Dilon Moore controls the number of customers allowed to shop at one time at a Trader Joe's supermarket in Omaha, Nebraska, May 7, 2020.

Despite the pandemic, voters in the midwestern U.S. states of Nebraska and Wisconsin will be voting in elections on Tuesday.

For the mostly rural Wisconsin 7th Congressional District, it is the second time they will leave their homes in five weeks to cast ballots in the middle of a stay-at-home order issued to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Citizens there will be voting to fill the final few months of Republican Congressman Sean Duffy’s term, who stepped down last fall.

Last month’s Wisconsin Democratic primary and state supreme court election was controversial after the governor sought to postpone the election because of the pandemic. But state Republicans insisted it go on. It took a U.S. Supreme court ruling to ensure the election was held as scheduled.

But election officials in the district, which covers a the northwestern third of the state, say they feel confident moving forward. The district has been largely unaffected by the coronavirus and they are taking precautions.

Nebraska is holding a statewide election, with the primary on the ticket. The primary will decide a Democratic contest to pick a nominee to face Republican Congressman Don Bacon in the Omaha area's 2nd Congressional District, traditionally the only U.S. House seat in Nebraska where Democrats are competitive.

Voters will also pick candidates in dozens of ostensibly nonpartisan legislative races, which could help determine whether Republicans gain a super-majority in the Legislature.

Republicans, who hold all statewide offices and control the Legislature, have encouraged people to cast early absentee ballots. However, they argue state law requires polling sites to be open and that it is important for voters to have a choice for how they vote, even amid health concerns.

Like Wisconsin’s April election, absentee voting in Tuesday’s special election has been high. Nearly 105,000 people requested absentee ballots as of Wednesday, and nearly 59,000 had been returned.