While a legal fight continues over making absentee voting easier in the state, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced Friday he was launching a bid to delay Tuesday’s election, which includes the presidential primary and a high-stakes judicial race.
Evers signed an executive order calling for a special meeting of the GOP-controlled legislature Saturday as he pleaded for lawmakers to delay the election in light of the pandemic. The move was a reversal of sorts for Evers, who previously had opposed aggressive action to postpone the election, while national and state Democrats supported the idea of delaying it.
But on Friday, Evers said he could not ignore the concerns raised by local officials. He said that holding the election Tuesday will create “a dangerous situation where voters, staff and volunteers will not be able to avoid large crowds or practice social distancing when they go out to vote.”
“This is a significant concern and a very unnecessary health risk,” Evers said.
Republicans have shown no interest in delaying the election and are even fighting in court a judge’s order that absentee voting be made easier given the public health issues with in-person voting.
The GOP’s resistance to the changes may be related to a desire to keep turnout low, and thus favorable to Republicans, because a crucial state supreme court race is being decided Tuesday.
Voting rights groups along with Democrats had gone to court late last week seeking various remedies to ease the burden on election officials who were scrambling due to the outbreak. Several jurisdictions, particularly in Democratic-leaning urban areas, have previewed significant reductions in polling places, as there is a major shortage of poll workers willing to staff election sites. It is feared that anyone who shows up at a polling place, either to work it or just staff it, is putting their health at risk.
U.S. District Judge William Conley issued an order on Thursday that stopped short of delaying the election, as he said he did not have the authority to postpone it. But he extended the deadline for absentee voting and loosened some of the rules around the process. He issued a follow up order Friday delaying by a week when election officials could report Tuesday’s results, amid complaints that the absentee deadline extension would allow voters to send in ballots after Tuesday’s results were already in.
Wisconsin Republicans have intervened in the case, and are appealing Conley’s decision to make absentee voting easier. The appeals court has requested that the groups who would be opposed to halting Conley’s orders submit their briefings by 4 p.m.