Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ refusal to push for a delay of his state’s Tuesday primary has infuriated fellow Democrats in the state, who are now openly accusing him of failing to prevent an impending train wreck.
As the nation hurtles toward 5,000 coronavirus deaths and governors across the country take extreme steps to keep people at home, Wisconsin is forging ahead with the election despite having its own stay-at-home order. The likely outcome is that Wisconsinites will wake up on election day being told to stay put at the same time they’re greenlighted to head to crowded polling sites.
Other Democrats in the state say the conflicting signals will disenfranchise voters. Already, the sanctity of the vote has been called into question by snafus with early voting: In Milwaukee, some voting sites were closed for a period of the designated voting before being reopened.
“There’s this enormous conflict between what we need to do in a democracy in the midst of a pandemic. You can’t have a stay-at-home order but then tell millions of people to go stand in line and congregate near one another across the state,” said Racine Mayor Cory Mason. “Having an election in the middle of a stay-at-home order makes no sense. It did not have to be this way.”
The intraparty conflict in Wisconsin is a bad look in a state that’s central to the party’s hopes of beating President Donald Trump in November. It also doesn’t bode well for a unified message in the run-up to the Democratic convention in Milwaukee, an event that was just pushed back a month to August.
While Democrats across Wisconsin have called for postponing the election, pointing to health concerns and the inability to staff polling sites, Evers has cited his limited authority to impose a delay against Republican resistance in the Legislature.
Evers has advocated that residents vote by mail and called on lawmakers to ease up on election day requirements to allow more flexibility on when ballots could be turned in and counted.
On Thursday, a federal judge provided some relief. While refusing to move the primary, U.S. District Judge William Conley extended the deadline by one day to request absentee ballots and is allowing voters six additional days after Election Day to return them. Conley in a Wednesday ruling said his hands were tied to postpone the election and called out both Evers and the legislature for not taking the action themselves.