Clad in gloves, a mask and full-length gown, Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos assured voters that it is “incredibly safe to go out” on Election Day despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vos is one of the main reasons the in-person election went ahead Tuesday, as he and his fellow Republicans fought both delaying the election and Democrats’ attempts to provide voters with more mail-in options.
“Actually there is less exposure here than you would get if you went to the grocery store or Walmart,” Vos added in a video captured by the local Journal Times at a polling place in Burlington that he volunteered to help staff. Polling sites across the state have been shuttered amid a drastic scarcity of elections workers.
The city of Milwaukee, for example, offered five polling places, down from its usual 180, leading to long lines and voters forced into close contact with each other.
“We are not receiving reports of any major problems,” the Wisconsin Elections Commission reported Tuesday afternoon. “The lines have been long in Milwaukee and some other places.”
Vos added that voters should “use their own best judgment” and take advantage of absentee options if they’re afraid to vote in person. He promised that voters whose absentee ballots have not arrived yet can get a ballot emailed to them, but that is incorrect. According to guidance from the Elections Commission, that provision only applies to ballots that have been “soiled.”
The state has been embroiled in last-minute legislative and legal chaos as Democrats, headed by Evers who flip-flopped on the issue, sought to delay the in-person primary like every other state did that had a contest in April.
Republicans stymied all of those efforts. A critical state Supreme Court race will also be decided, and low turnout favors the GOP candidate, incumbent Dan Kelly.
Monday evening, Evers lobbed a Hail Mary in the form of an executive order pushing the primary back until June 9. He himself wasn’t sure that he had authority to give such an order, saying just days before that his “hands are tied” when it comes to unilaterally pushing back the date.
Vos and the Senate Majority Leader immediately lodged a challenge to the order, calling the move “unconstitutional overreach” and declaring that “Governor Evers can’t unilaterally run the state.”
The state Supreme Court sided with the Republicans and knocked down Evers’ order in a 4-2 ideological split; Kelly abstained.
Soon after, the U.S. Supreme Court also weighed in, giving the Republicans another win. The decision, made along party lines, curtailed a lower court ruling that absentee ballots would be counted until 4 p.m.local time on April 13, no matter when they were postmarked. The high court ruled, late Monday night, that the absentee ballots must be postmarked by April 7 to count.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote a stinging dissent, warning that the ruling “will result in massive disenfranchisement.”
Watch Vos here, via the Journal Times: