Wisconsin’s primary election was canceled for a few hours on Monday, but then it was back on. After working with legislative Republicans for the past week to try to reach an agreement to postpone the election, Gov. Tony Evers (D) issued an Executive Order moving the election to June 9. A few hours later, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court overturned the order and decreed that the election must go on.
Politico reported over the weekend that 10 mayors representing more than a million people had signed a joint letter asking the state government to delay the election. Following the letter, Evers called a special session on Saturday to consider a delay after weeks of party squabbling had failed to produce an agreement.
Evers, who had not called for delaying the election before last Friday, proposed a measure that would allow an all-mail election and extend the deadline for ballots. Republicans did not act on the measure, saying that the move was too late.
Before issuing his Executive Order delaying the election, Evers had tweeted only five days ago, “If I could have changed the election on my own I would have but I can’t without violating state law.” There were no known changes to the Wisconsin constitution or election laws over the past week.
The order from the state Supreme Court does lay the seeds for more competent handling of future elections. Per the Wisconsin State Journal, the court let stand Gov. Evers’ call for a special session that could set rules for elections in future crises. Republicans are not expected to take action, however.
The back-and-forth over the election has led to an unprecedented level of requests for absentee ballots. The number of requests has led to delays in receiving absentee ballots, which must be postmarked by Election Day per the US Supreme Court.
For those voters choosing to vote in person, there will be problems as well. Shortages of poll workers and concerns about infections mean that there will be far fewer polling places than normal. The city of Milwaukee normally has 180 polling places but this on Tuesday will only have five. Long lines at polling places are expected, which probably represents a nightmare for Drs. Fauci and Birx.
Joe Biden is expected to win the presidential primary handily but turnout will be a wild card. Three polls taken in March showed Biden with a growing lead over Bernie Sanders. The most recent poll, by Marquette University, gave the former vice president a 28-point lead.
With most states delaying elections due to the pandemic, Wisconsin may be the only state to hold an in-person election in April. In terms of epidemiological studies, the sole election in the midst of a pandemic could be a valuable case study on the spread of a communicable disease. However, in terms of governance, it represents a political system that has failed to protect the citizens of the state from an existential threat.