Jeramey Jannene

Online Voter Registration Reinstated by Federal Judge

You still have time to register to vote absentee. Republican Party sought to have suit dismissed.

By - Mar 21st, 2020 09:05 am
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Late Friday U.S. District Judge William Conley issued a ruling requiring the state to reopen online voter registration

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic Party against the Wisconsin Election Commission, sought changes to state laws in order to make it easier for voters to vote by mail in the April 7th Spring Election. The state and national Republican parties had asked for the suit to be dismissed.

In accordance with existing state law, online and by-mail registration was closed at the end of the day on March 18th. Conley’s ruling pushes that date back to March 30th. An absentee ballot cannot be requested unless a voter is registered at their current address.

Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald both publicly said they oppose rescheduling the election, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conley’s decision was praised by Evers, who earlier Friday signaled support for conducting the entire election by mail. “I’ve always believed we need more access to democracy, not less, and am pleased to see the court take steps to ensure we can hold a fair, safe election,” said Evers in a statement.

But the state website isn’t immediately accepting new voter registrations. It could take up to 72 hours. “With the election underway, we need to be very careful to test this change to ensure it does not adversely affect other functions, including absentee ballot requests,” said the election commission via Twitter.

The lawsuit had also asked for ballots to be counted if they arrive after April 7th and for voters to be able to register without a photo ID. Conley did not grant either of those requests. Under current law, absentee ballots must arrive by 8:00 p.m. on election day.

Registered voters have until April 2nd to request an absentee ballot, but are being encouraged to do so earlier. As of Friday, approximately 380,000 absentee ballots have been requested statewide.

The City of Milwaukee is expecting over 50,000 votes to be cast by mail in the election, far exceeding the 12,000 cast in the 2016 Presidential election.

Why not delay the election? Evers, speaking with reporters on a conference call Friday, said the election is different than the purely Presidential primaries held or delayed in other states. It includes a number of local races and one statewide race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In Milwaukee the ballot races for mayor, county executive, Circuit Court, Common Council, and Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

In a joint city-county media briefing Friday, held before the ruling came in, Mayor Tom Barrett said the city still has a number of concerns with how the election will play out including registration timelines and counting the substantial increase in mail-in ballots while following a state order on gathering sizes. “We have a lot of very, very serious problems with the election as it is right now,” said Barrett. He did not explicitly ask for it to be delayed.

Early Voting Underway

If you’re not comfortable voting by mail, early voting is underway at three city sites.

Voters can cast ballots and register from 8 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at either the Zeidler Municipal Building (841 N. Broadway), Midtown Center (5700 W. Capitol Dr.) or Zablocki Library (3501 W. Oklahoma Ave.). Weekend voting starts Saturday, March 28th and runs from 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Early voting ends April 5th. You can register in-person at any of the sites through April 3rd.

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Categories: Politics

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