Governor Evers Suspends In-Person Voting Until June
UPDATE: Wisconsin Supreme Court overrules Evers, reinstates election.
UPDATE: The Wisconsin Supreme Court has overruled Evers and reinstated the election.
Governor Tony Evers has issued an executive order he’s said for weeks he would avoid and didn’t have the authority to issue. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s postponed in-person voting in the April 7th Spring Election until June 9th.
“The governor could issue an order today and it would result in a lawsuit tomorrow,” said the Governor’s chief legal counsel Ryan Nilsestuen on March 27th when asked why Evers was calling for legislative action to enact a mail-in only election and not just unilaterally suspending in-person voting.
That lawsuit is now certainly coming from the state and national Republican Party that is already appealing a federal court ruling to extend the date by which absentee ballots must be received back.
Evers’ executive order follows one issued Friday that called for a special legislative session on Saturday to address the election. Both houses, led by Republicans, adjourned after meeting for less than a minute.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos have both called for the election to continue as planned. “We are immediately challenging this executive order in the Wisconsin State Supreme Court,” said the legislative leaders in a statement issued shortly after Evers announced his order.
Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht, based on absentee ballot requests and pre-COVID-19 projections, estimated that up to 50,000 people could vote in person in Milwaukee. Because of a shortage of over 1,000 poll workers the city has consolidated its normal slate of 180 polling sites to five. The City of Waukesha will have a single polling site. Municipalities across the state report being short almost 7,000 workers.
Evers announcement drew support from Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik. She said Friday she would close the polls because of public health concerns, but couldn’t because a prior executive order specifically exempted polling locations from local regulation. “I just don’t believe it makes sense to have the election on the seventh of April,” said Kowalik.
But Vos disagrees. “It appears they want problems instead of solutions,” tweeted Vos on Saturday morning regarding Milwaukee. He said the city could use Wisconsin National Guard members to staff its polls. Albrecht said Saturday afternoon the city requested 500 National Guard members, but Milwaukee County will only receive a total of just 264 according to Milwaukee County Clerk George L. Christenson.
Evers had previously said he did not have the authority to postpone the election. “We have three branches of government to ensure a system of checks and balances, and questions about our elections typically rely on all three playing a role. If I could have changed the election on my own I would have but I can’t without violating state law,” tweeted Evers on April 1st.
Over 1.2 million Wisconsin residents have requested absentee ballots according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, including over 200,000 Milwaukee County residents.
Absentee ballots already issued would still be valid under Evers’ order.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
You can read the full order on Urban Milwaukee.
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