US District Judge William Conley ordered Thursday that the Wisconsin primary must still be held on April 7 but added notable adjustments.
Conley heard three consolidated cases that were each filed in response to the growing concerns over COVID-19 and holding elections. The complaints brought a number of statutory requirements and election-related concerns to the court that Conley appeared to agree with as his opinion displays distaste for his own ruling.
Conley opened his opinion with stating that:
Contrary to the view of at least a dozen other states, as well as the consensus of medical experts across the country as to the gathering of large groups of people, the State of Wisconsin appears determined to proceed with an in-person election on April 7, 2020.
Conley shared his disappoint in Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and the Republican-led legislature’s unwillingness to reschedule the election despite the obvious risk to the people.
During a hearing this week regarding this ruling, Conley indicated that he was uncomfortable overruling state leaders’ decision to carry on with the election date. Conley wrote,
as much as the court would prefer that the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor consider the public health ahead of any political considerations, that does not appear in the cards, nor is it appropriate for a federal district court to act as the state’s chief health official by taking that step for them.
Conley did however extend the deadline to submit absentee ballots from April 7 to April 13 and waived the requirement to have the ballot signed by a witness. Wisconsin voters have already requested more than 1.1 million absentee ballots which already holds the record for the most requests for absentee ballots in the state.
Conley’s decision seems to have created a compromise between the requests to postpone and those eager to maintain the election’s schedule. Tom Perez, the Chair of the Democratic National Convention, applauded Conley’s decision, saying that,”Expanding access to absentee voting is critical in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and we continue to encourage all states to pursue vote-by-mail and no-excuse absentee voting to ensure that all eligible voters who want to cast a ballot have the means and ability to do so.”
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