Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Will Legislature Delay Election?

Life-and-death issue poses the most danger for Milwaukee. Only the Legislature can act.

By - Mar 25th, 2020 02:50 pm
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Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald.

Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald.

Yesterday Mayor Tom Barrett called on state officials to both delay the April 7 election and make it a ballot-by-mail election only. Barrett said the COVID-19 pandemic had made an in-person election unsafe, and would endanger the lives of both voters and poll workers.

Barrett sent a letter Monday to Governor Tony Evers, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, asking for this change.

It’s now Wednesday and there has been no response. A request for comment sent by Urban Milwaukee to Evers, Vos and Fitzgerald has so far received no answer. 

But under the Wisconsin Constitution, Evers can’t really do anything about it. Nor can the Wisconsin Elections Commission. 

Only the Legislature has the power to make the changes called for by Barrett, says Reid Magney, communications director for the election commission. “The Legislature absolutely has the authority to change it.”  

Which means it’s all up to Vos and Fitzgerald, who have generally shown a disinterest in issues that affect the City of Milwaukee. And so far it is Milwaukee that, overwhelmingly, is endangered by the pandemic. The most recent count shows that 290 of the 485 cases of coronavirus in Wisconsin were in Milwaukee County, with another 88 in Dane County. More than a dozen counties have barely been touched, with three or less cases each.

And within Milwaukee County, the problem is further concentrated, with most cases occurring on the north side among African Americans particularly in low income neighborhoods. Odds are the cases in Dane County are also concentrated in the city of Madison.

In short, the people who will be most endangered by turning out to vote will be urbanites in heavily Democratic Milwaukee and Madison. And as it happens, these are also the voters most likely to vote for liberal Jill Karofsky in the election for Wisconsin Supreme Court against conservative Dan Kelly, who is backed by Republicans. A fear of catching the virus could greatly lower the turnout in the state’s two largest cities, thereby electing Kelly. 

That might suggest an additional reason why Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele favor delaying the election, and why advocacy groups working with minority voters in Milwaukee have called for officials to postpone the election.

The might also explain why the Democratic National Committee, with support from the state Democratic Party, filed suit in federal court to extend the deadline for online registration of new voters to April (a federal judge ruled in favor of a March 30th deadline) and the Democratic-leaning City of Green Bay has just filed suit in federal court asking to delay the spring election in Wisconsin and transition to a mail-in ballot election only. 

Meanwhile what is the response from Vos and Fitzgerald to this issue? This afternoon, the two Republicans announced that they support Gov. Evers’ current plan to proceed with in-person voting in the  April 7 election, as the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The timing of this was interesting as Evers has yet to respond to Barrett’s call to delay the election. The Republicans are putting pressure on Evers to stick with his earlier pronouncement, while also noting that only the Legislature has the power to change the date. Meanwhile they said not a word about the concerns of Milwaukee’s mayor, who is closest to the situation here, that an in-person election on April 7 will endanger lives. 

Should either Vos or Fitzgerald ever respond to Barrett’s concerns, I will update this story.

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

One thought on “Murphy’s Law: Will Legislature Delay Election?”

  1. jnor says:

    The Republicans are playing politics with people’s lives.

    That says all anyone should need to know about them.

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