MADISON, Wis.—Wisconsins presidential primary election will proceed Tuesday under an order from the state Supreme Court that came just hours after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers tried to postpone voting as part of a last-ditch effort amid growing fears over the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
The court ruled 4-2 on Monday that Evers lacked the authority to move the election on his own. Conservatives control the court 5-2, but one of the conservative justices is up for reelection Tuesday and didnt participate in the ruling.
Evers had previously opposed moving the election and said he didnt have the authority to shift the timing unilaterally. But he changed course Monday, ordering a delay of in-person voting to June 9, as poll sites closed because nervous volunteers were unwilling to staff them and as criticism about holding the election grew.
The governor said his order was the last hope for stopping the election. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice, which represented Evers, did not immediately respond to a message about possible further legal action.
The Wisconsin election is being viewed as a national test case in a broader fight over voter access in the age of the CCP virus with major implications for the presidential primary contests ahead—and, possibly, the November general election. Many other states pushed their primaries back as the CCP virus swept across the nation.
Meanwhile, Republicans have also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a lower courts order extending absentee voting to April 13. There was no indication on when the top court would rule.
At the presidential level, Joe Biden already has a commanding delegate lead over Bernie Sanders, and the Wisconsin results arent likely to dampen his march to the Democratic nomination. But the tumult in one of the most critical general election battlegrounds underscored the challenge of voting during a pandemic when public health officials are discouraging groups from gathering for virtually any reason to prevent the spread of the virus.
Evers himself had questioned whether he had the power to reschedule the election, but said the worsening situation, including an increase in COVID-19 deaths from 56 on Friday to 77 on Monday, made it clear there was no way to safely move forward. Evers said he was motivated by protecting public health, not politics.
“The people of Wisconsin, the majority of them, dont spend all their waking hours thinking about are Republicans or Democrats getting the upper hand here,” Evers said earlier Monday. “Theyre saying theyre scared. Theyre scared of going to the polls. Theyre scared for their future. At the end of the day, someone has to stand up for those folks.”
Republicans quickly took their case to the conservative-leaning Wisconsin Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor. Dan Kelly, one of the conservative judges who is also on the ballot on Tuesday, recused himself from the case and then commented on Twitter that the election can be done safely and should be allowed to proceed.
“We urge clerks, poll workers, and voters to stand ready to conduct the election tomorrow,” Kelly tweeted.
A separate legal fight over absentee ballots was pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Given the expected “fast-moving” legal action, the Wisconsin Elections Commission told local election clerks it should proceed with planning as if the election would still occur on Tuesday.
Evers and Republicans initially agreed that it was imperative for the election to proceed because thousands of local offices are on the ballot Tuesday for terms that begin in two weeks. There is also a state Supreme Court election.
Ohio saw a similar eleventh-hour flurry the day before its primary last month. After the states governor and secretary of state failed to persuade a judge to shift the election date, the state health director stepped in and ordered voting shut down. Legislators set a new, almost all-mail primary for April 28, sparking new legal challenges from voting rights groups, but a federal judge on FRead More – Source[contf] [contfnew]