MADISON – Wisconsin residents will have the opportunity to cast a ballot during the spring election set for Tuesday, April 7 after the Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated the election.
The 4-2 ruling overturns Gov. Tony Evers’s order, which called for the election to be postponed. That order had been issued Monday morning amidst concerns of spreading the coronavirus pandemic. Justice Daniel Kelly — who is up for re-election — abstained from voting.
House Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) released the following statement:
“We agree with the state Supreme Court’s ruling that affirms the separation of powers spelled out in our Constitution. The state’s highest court has spoken: the governor can’t unilaterally move the date of the election.
“We are proud that Wisconsinites have come together to meet the challenges that this pandemic has created. The safety and health of our citizens have always been our highest concern; that’s why we advocated for everyone to vote absentee. Wisconsin has responded in droves. Over a million ballots have been requested for tomorrow’s election. We continue to believe that citizens should be able to exercise their right to vote at the polls on Election Day, should they choose to do so.
“We want to thank the hardworking clerks around the state who have been working around the clock to ensure a safe and fair election. We also appreciate the assistance of the National Guard members who have been activated to play an important support role.
“This election will proceed as planned.”
ORIGINAL STORY: Invoking emergency management authorities laid out in state statute, Governor Tony Evers today announced in a press release that he is suspending in-person voting for the April 7 spring election, moving in-person voting to June 9, 2020.
The order also directs the Legislature to meet in special session on Tuesday to address the election date. If the Legislature does not enact legislation to change the new election date, in-person voting will occur on June 9, 2020, according to the press release.
“Today, I signed an executive order suspending in-person voting for tomorrow’s election. Frankly, there’s no good answer to this problem—I wish it were easy. I have been asking everyone to do their part to help keep our families, our neighbors, and our communities safe, and I had hoped that the Legislature would do its part—just as the rest of us are—to help keep people healthy and safe,” Evers said in a statement. “But as municipalities are consolidating polling locations, and absent legislative or court action, I cannot in good conscience stand by and do nothing. The bottom line is that I have an obligation to keep people safe, and that’s why I signed this executive order today.”
Evers said weeks ago that postponing the election would do little good, instead encouraging everyone to vote absentee.
“Moving the date isn’t going to solve the problem,” Evers said in a conference call with reporters on March 20. “We could move it to June, and (the virus outbreak) might be worse in June.”
Since then, Evers and the legislature have faced increasing pressure from civil rights groups to postpone the election for the health and safety of both voters and poll workers. The City of Milwaukee faces such a shortage of poll workers that it intended to conduct the election with just five polling places tomorrow, rather than the usual 180.
A federal judge ruled last week that he did not have the authority to allow the election to be rescheduled, but did allow absentee ballots to be counted until April 13. The Republican National Committee has challenged that order in the United States Supreme Court.
Evers called the legislature into special session to take up the matter of the election over the weekend, but the Republican leadership opened and closed the session without taking action.
Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) released the following statement:
“We are immediately challenging this executive order in the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.
“The clerks of this state should stand ready to proceed with the election. The governor’s executive order is clearly an unconstitutional overreach.
“This is another last-minute flip-flop from the governor on the April 7th election. The governor himself has repeatedly acknowledged he can’t move the election. 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.”
All ballots already cast in the 2020 Spring election will remain valid and will be tallied in conjunction with the new in-person voting date, according to the press release.
In the text of the order, Evers cited a lack of poll workers and consolidated polling places that would make voting especially dangerous. The order also cites a rapid increase in coronavirus infection in Michigan following that state’s March 10 election, which proceeded as normal.
Executive Order #74 is available here.
A court challenge is likely.
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