During Shelter in Place order, Supreme Courts say Wisconsin vote will go ahead

The court overturned Gov. Tony Evers executive order to delay Tuesday's election by two months.
Author:
Publish date:

Wisconsin's presidential primary and state election will go ahead on Tuesday, despite Gov. Tony Evers' attempt to delay it by two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday blocked the Democratic governor's decision to delay the election to June, overturning his executive order after it was challenged by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature.

Hours later, the Supreme Court of the United States decided in a partisan 5-4 vote to overturn the ruling by a lower court in Wisconsin that would have extended the deadline for absentee ballots by 6 days, at a time when many voters are still waiting for their ballots to arrive in the mail.

As well as the Democratic primary between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, Wisconsinites are also voting on a crucial seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The Legislature had been adamant that the election go ahead, while Evers himself had intended for Tuesday's vote to take place as recently as last month, before having a change of heart as the COVID-19 crisis continued to escalate in Wisconsin.

As of Monday, Wisconsin had documented 2,440 positive COVID-19 tests, 77 deaths and 668 patients who have required hospitalization. 

Wisconsin is under a "Shelter in Place" order until April 24, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the state's top health official has warned that voting in person will "without question" lead to more illness and death.

The huge demand for postal votes has meant that election day has arrived while many thousands are still waiting for their mail-in ballot to arrive, leaving them with a choice of either voting in-person and risking their health, or not voting at all.

Meanwhile those whose ballots have arrived have to ensure that their vote is postmarked no later than Tuesday and must arrive by April 13. 

Many other states with primaries planned for March and April have pushed them back because of COVID-19.

Evers issued the order after a Special Session convened by the Legislature on Saturday ended within seconds with no action taken to delay the vote.

"People have bled, fought, and died for the right to vote in this country," Evers wrote in his order. "But tomorrow in Wisconsin, thousands will wake up and have to choose between exercising their right to vote and staying healthy and safe."

Sign up for our BREAKING NEWS newsletters

But the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the Evers didn't have the authority to unilaterally move the date of the election.

Later, an unsigned opinion by the Republican-leaning justices on the U.S. Supreme Court said the lower court's decision to extend absentee voting violated the "Purcell principle," which says courts shouldn't meddle in elections immediately before the vote.

This is despite the unprecedented situations created by the pandemic that has seen the Supreme Court itself delay oral arguments for the duration of April due to the risk of coronavirus.

Dissenting were the liberal-leaning justices, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing that Wisconsinites will "have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety. Or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own."

Next Up

Related