Citing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order Monday postponing Tuesday’s primary election. In the order, Evers postponed the elections until June 9 and extended the deadline for absentee ballots until then.
Though Evers was initially reluctant to postpone the elections, as he was unsure if he had the power to do so, he asked Wisconsin’s legislative branch to pass a law postponing the elections 11 days ago. However, the legislature did not take up the issue before adjourning on Saturday. A number of state and local officials have asked for the elections to be postponed, including the mayors of 10 of Wisconsin’s biggest cities. In a letter to Wisconsin’s top health official, the mayors advocated for switching entirely to mail-in ballots. Further, last week US District Judge William Conley implored state officials to move the date of the elections, but said he lacked the power to order them to so. In a decision under review by the US Supreme Court, Conley extended to deadline for absentee ballots until April 13.
One of the reasons cited by Evers for postponing the elections is the difference in the spread of COVID-19 between Ohio and Michigan. Ohio opted for mail-in ballots, whereas Michigan kept in-person voting and saw a faster spread of the disease. Other concerns include the severe manpower shortages facing the state Election Commission. The city of Milwaukee reduced their number of polling locations from 182 to 5 due to manpower shortfalls. According to the Election Commission, they still need more than 5,000 people statewide. Further, state and local health officials determined that in-person voting would make controlling the spread of COVID-19 much more difficult.
The Republican leaders in the state legislature have threatened to take the issue to Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. They have accused Evers of acting unilaterally and have stated he does not have the authority to move the election dates. In his executive order, Evers has required the legislature to meet for an emergency session on April 7 to set a new election date. If they do not, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds Evers’ order, the elections will be held on June 9.
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