Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a last-minute order halting in-person voting on Tuesday amid coronavirus concerns, calling for suspending the statewide and local elections until June 9.
“The virus directs us as to what our decision-making is, not human beings, and clearly I am following the science, as I always have,” Evers told POLITICO in an interview Monday. Evers said he heard from constituents relaying fear for their safety and their kids’ safety, as he tracked updates about the number of deaths and rate of infections in Wisconsin. “Given that, I felt that the governor is the one who has to step up and stand for those people that aren’t having their voices heard.”
Evers expects a court challenge from state Republicans, who this weekend rebuffed a late request that the GOP-controlled legislature take action to postpone the election. Evers said if Republicans don’t challenge the order, it will go into effect immediately.
Evers called the state legislature back for a special session and asked them to act to postpone the election, which includes the Democratic presidential primary and votes for state and local offices. The GOP-controlled legislature declined to do so, gaveling in and out of sessions in a matter of minutes on Saturday and Monday.
Republican legislative leaders in Wisconsin argued that the election had to go forward, though local officials across the state have pleaded for in-person voting to be shut down.
“There’s no question that an election is just as important as getting take-out food,” state House Speaker Robin Vos and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a joint statement on Friday, after Evers called for the special session. “Our Republic must continue to function, and the many local government positions on the ballot must be filled so that municipalities can swiftly respond to the crisis at hand.”
Evers said he reached out to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, this morning to seek his guidance on how to go about postponing the election using his executive authority.
“We talked about how it worked in Ohio and we are in very similar circumstances,” Evers said.
DeWine’s administration had made a similar move to postpone his state’s primary elections, which was originally scheduled for March 17. Ohio’s top public health official closed physical polling places hours before they were scheduled to open. The move did not formally postpone the election, but it eventually led to the Ohio state legislature extending absentee voting in the state through April 28.
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