Poll workers get active shooter training before Election Day

A few weeks ahead of the 2022 midterms, city staff and election workers in Stoughton participated in active shooter training with law enforcement officers to prepare for potential violence on Nov. 8.

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

October 21, 2022 • South Central Region

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With guidance from election and law enforcement officials, poll workers across the state have been training for potential disruptions, even violence on Election Day.

In one small city in south-central Wisconsin, the election clerk there hosted trainings about what to do in the event of gun violence, while trying to balance between creating awareness and scaring the daylights out of poll workers.

“Hopefully we don’t need it,” said Stoughton City Clerk Candee Christen.

“Let them know it’s an active threat, active shooter,” said Sgt. Nate Olson of the Stoughton Police Department.

A room full of election inspectors have gathered for active shooter training in Stoughton in Dane County.

Christen and her deputy look on after arranging the training in preparation for Election Day.

“You seem almost emotional right now, why? They’re my responsibility and this is just a tough time right now,” Christen said. “All the clerks are so stressed out right now working up to November 8.”

It’s stress born of rapidly changing voting procedure and today’s political vitriol where a room full of poll workers could be sitting ducks.

“Is it targeted? Could it be?,” Christens asks. “I, we, hate to think that way, but I feel that the environment is dictating that we really need to be aware.”

Awareness and preparation also includes teaching these election inspectors how to pack gunshot wounds to stop bleeding.

“This blood is going to soak into this gauze and clot up,” said an EMS trainer.

Trainees learn to have their head in the game at all times. From consideration of barricading against assailants to hiding.

“So when you go to the polling location, just kind of take a glance around and see — is there a nearby room where then I can barricade myself into that room?” asked Olson.

“Again, when you’re hiding — don’t hide all together. You want to be spread out among the room as far away from each other as you can, because if you all go into one spot, it makes it one really big, easy target,” he added.

Officers also described how the election inspectors can subdue shooters if they’re up to it.

“This is the point where you believe that this person is potentially going to kill you or kill someone else. Do you have what it takes?” Olson asked.

For veteran poll workers whose mastery lies in voting rules and regulations, learning active shooter response seems a sad reality of the current political climate.

“I think it says a lot about our current political situation,” said Linda Lane, one chief inspector in Stoughton. “I wish it wasn’t this way. It’s good to have the training and hopefully we won’t need it.”

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