Wisconsin Supreme Court blocks governor’s effort to delay election
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday overturned Gov. Tony Evers’s (D) executive order to postpone Tuesday’s elections, sowing confusion and chaos around a critical election featuring a Democratic presidential primary and a pivotal state Supreme Court seat.
The state Supreme Court ruled 4–2 that Wisconsin’s elections on Tuesday should carry on, overruling Evers’s earlier decision to delay the elections until June 9 because of the coronavirus. Republicans had challenged Evers’s order, arguing that the move violates state law.
Evers had previously said he did not have the power to change the election. However, pressure mounted on the governor to take drastic measures to postpone the election as Wisconsin dealt with the coronavirus crisis and a severe shortage of poll workers.
Over the weekend, Evers sought to cancel in-person voting and to hold the entire election by mail. However, Republicans refused that request at a brief special legislative session.
The state Supreme Court decision means that in-person voting is back on for Tuesday.
The ruling by the state court was followed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which on Monday night ruled that Wisconsin cannot accept absentee ballots postmarked after its voting day Tuesday.
A federal judge had extended the absentee voting deadline by a week to allow for the high demand for absentee ballots. Wisconsin Republicans challenged that ruling, arguing that only ballots that are received by Tuesday should be counted.
In a 5-4 vote along ideological lines, the conservative justices in the Supreme Court sided with Republican state lawmakers by halting the lower court order to extend absentee voting to April 13, a measure that would have expanded options for avoiding in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A federal judge extended the absentee voting deadline by a week to allow for the high demand for absentee ballots. Wisconsin Republicans challenged that ruling, arguing that only ballots that are received by Tuesday should be counted. That case is presently with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The in-person voting tomorrow will be dogged by coronavirus fears as well as severe polling and polling worker shortages.
In Milwaukee, which has a population of nearly 600,000, only between six and 12 polling stations are scheduled to be open, compared with 180 during the 2016 election.
Officials are worried that the polling place crunch will lead to longer lines and bigger crowds, which cuts against warnings from public health officials to avoid gathering in public.
In addition, the high demand for absentee ballots is straining the public election system.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission has received requests for more than 1.2 million absentee ballots. About 725,000 have been mailed back so far.
County clerks are struggling to get all of the absentee ballots out to those who have requested them, and they’re working around the clock to count the new ones that have been sent back.
The state Supreme Court ruling means the Democratic presidential primary between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is back on for Tuesday.
Polls show Biden with a massive lead over Sanders in Wisconsin.
The latest Marquette University survey of Wisconsin found Biden with a 62 percent to 34 percent lead over Sanders.
Neither candidate has been advertising or visiting the state. The primary race has effectively ground to a halt as Biden is marooned at home and Sanders works from Washington.
Wisconsin also has a full slate of general elections on tap for Tuesday, including one for a hotly contested state Supreme Court seat.
Updated at 8:54 p.m.
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