Republican Assembly and Senate leaders sticking with April 7 and the extension for absentee ballots
Following harsh criticism aimed at the governor and legislature from a federal judge who ruled early Friday it was not within his purview to postpone the April 7 election, Wisconsin’s governor is proposing a last-minute idea to cancel the in-person election set to occur in four days.
Instead, Gov. Tony Evers is calling lawmakers into a special session at 4 p.m. Saturday to consider his new plan to send a ballot to every registered voter who has not already requested one by May 19. Voters would then have until May 26 to return their ballots.
That idea, however, is going nowhere.
Less than two hours after Evers’ announcement, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, released a joint statement saying it was “disappointing that Gov. Evers has flip-flopped” on the topic of the election that they had been discussing for over a month.
“If the governor had legitimate concerns, we could have come to a bipartisan solution weeks ago,” read the statement. “This discussion would have happened long before today. The only bipartisan discussion we’ve had was to ensure the election would continue safely and to maximize the opportunity to vote absentee.”
Barring any change of heart by Vos and Fitzgerald, the election will take place Tuesday according to the federal judge’s ruling announced earlier Friday, with the exception that clerks are not allowed to release results until Monday, April 13, when they count the record number of absentee ballots that have been requested.
Evers told reporters on a conference call he had not discussed his plan with either lawmaker. Evers said he had called and left messages for both but had not heard back.
To date, more than 1 million absentee ballots have been mailed out to voters and more than 380,000 have been returned.
When repeatedly asked why he did not call for the election date to be moved sooner, Evers said he had.
“The idea that this is brand new news is news to me,” Evers said.
Clerks from across the state have been voicing concerns over the past weeks that they were in desperate need of poll workers.
Many expressed concern that the governor had issued a “safer at home” order but was still expecting people to leave their homes to vote, forcing them to choose between their health and civic obligation.
Vos told reporters Wednesday he and his wife were volunteering at polling places in their district and felt safe in their decision to do so.
Evers said Friday he had learned a clerk in southwest Wisconsin had quit and Waukesha only had one polling place.
Milwaukee election officials said they only had enough poll workers to open five voting locations for Tuesday’s elections, which could draw as many as 50,000 voters, raising significant health concerns, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Evers said Friday the closure of the polling locations has “significant healthcare ramifications.”
“I’m not sitting here trying to point fingers. I’m trying to solve this thing. This is an issue the legislature and I need to figure out,” Evers said. “That’s exactly why I called the session for tomorrow and I believe we can get to a place that works for all of Wisconsin. Clearly if the number of polling places are down that means it will be much, much more difficult for social distancing.”