VOTE 20

Voters Risk Health in Wisconsin Primary After Governor’s Extension Request Denied

After a voting extension debacle, residents were left with the choice to vote in person and potentially compromise their health — or not vote at all.

Getty Images/People wait in line to vote in a Democratic presidential primary election outside the Hamilton High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Voters in Wisconsin risked their health Tuesday to participate in the primary election after the federal and state Supreme Courts shot down the governor’s attempt to postpone voting amid the coronavirus pandemic and the state’s current stay-at-home order.
 
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order on Monday postponing in-person voting until June 9. The order was then challenged by the GOP-controlled state legislature and eventually blocked by the conservative-majority state Supreme Court.

Then in a 5-4 vote, the conservative majority U.S.  Supreme Court reversed the lower courts’ order that had allowed absentee voting to be extended for six days amid coronavirus concerns, saying the change “fundamentally alters the nature of the election.” However, all of the court’s four liberal justices dissented, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing that, “the court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement.”

According to an CNN report, so many poll workers quit over the voting debacle that Milwaukee consolidated its 180 polling places down to just five locations, which resulted in polling lines stretching down multiple blocks.

While state officials said there “will be procedures in place to allow for six feet between voters and poll workers to ensure a safe voting experience for everyone,” groups of voters could be seen standing next to each other while waiting, defying widespread orders to maintain distance. Many were also without masks, which the CDC has now urged everyone to wear.

Thousands of people also requested absentee ballots ahead of last week’s deadline, but won’t receive the ballots in time to mail them back, which is forcing them to choose between voting in person and potentially compromising their health or not voting at all.

“Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong with this election, not because of the pandemic, but because of cruel choices made by Republican politicians and their pet judges,” Madison, WI Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said of the Supreme Court decision.

Meagan Wolfe, the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said in a statement Monday that local election officials have “sanitation supplies” and were “trained on social distancing procedures.” 
 
“Now, we’re asking voters to be careful and patient if they go to the polls on Tuesday,” Wolfe said.  

As of Tuesday, Wisconsin has reported over 2,500 cases of the virus and 45 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Tracker.