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Wisconsin Republicans challenge election delay in state's top court

Top Wisconsin GOP lawmakers have mounted a legal challenge in the state’s Supreme Court over the Democratic governor’s postponement of Tuesday’s election.

Hours after Gov. Tony Evers (D) signed an executive order moving Tuesday's election to June 9 due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate majority leader issued a joint statement announcing the forthcoming litigation.

“We are immediately challenging this executive order in the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. The clerks of this state should stand ready to proceed with this election. The governor's executive order is clearly an unconstitutional overreach,” wrote Speaker Robin Vos and Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

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Earlier on Monday, Evers pushed back the in-person voting date until June 9, and said that all mail and absentee ballots sent up to that date would be counted. He also directed the Wisconsin state legislature to convene a special session on Tuesday to address the fallout from his executive order.

Explaining the move, Evers said he could not "in good conscience stand by and do nothing" as the state braced for a crush of voters despite social-distancing guidance from public health officials.

But the Republican lawmakers accused the governor of a “last-minute flip-flop,” after Evers previously said he couldn’t move the election.

They also noted that a federal judge last week ruled that he was powerless to alter the timing of the vote, despite concerns that holding an in-person vote on Tuesday could result in lower voter turnout and increase the spread of COVID-19.

“The governor himself has repeatedly acknowledged he can’t move the election,” the lawmakers said in their statement. “Just last week a federal judge said he did not have the power to cancel the election and Governor Evers doesn’t either. Governor Evers can’t unilaterally run the state.”

A flurry of election-related activity played out elsewhere in the state, sowing confusion about the status of Tuesday’s vote.

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At least one mayor, Eric Genrich of Green Bay, and one county executive issued orders that mirrored Evers’ move to block in-person voting on Tuesday, according to reports from the Green Bay Press-Gazette and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Yet at the same time, the Wisconsin Election Commission told election clerks to continue “making preparation in earnest for tomorrow,” citing the pending litigation to be filed with the state's top court.

“I know too much has already been asked of you, but we ask you to proceed with your Election Day preparations as we do not know the outcome of any possible litigation and we need to be prepared if the election is held tomorrow,” Meagan Wolfe, the administrator of the Wisconsin Election Commission wrote in a memo.