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Wisconsin's Governor Is Making a Last-Ditch Effort to Stop a Coronavirus Election

The Democratic governor's last-minute reversal comes after GOP intransigence to loosen voting rules. But it might not hold up in court.

by Cameron Joseph
Apr 6 2020, 6:44pm

Wisconsin’s Democratic governor just made a last-ditch move to suspend elections set for Tuesday and postpone in-person voting until June, in the latest twist in the state's nasty partisan battle over the election.

Gov. Tony Evers’ abrupt move came after the GOP-controlled state Legislature refused to vote this weekend to move the election and end in-person voting in response to the coronavirus crisis.

It’s unclear whether Evers’ move will hold up in court. And the partisan intransigence in the face of this crisis could foreshadow election chaos in November across the country if coronavirus remains a problem.

“We expect more cases, we expect more deaths, we expect our tragedies. With that in mind, I cannot in good conscience allow any types of gathering that would further the spread of this disease, and to put more lives at risk,” Evers said in a Monday afternoon press conference. “There's not a sufficiently safe way to administer in person voting tomorrow. That's why earlier today I signed Executive Order 74 to suspend or in person voting for the spring election until June 9."

Republicans immediately moved to block Evers’ declaration, slamming him for a “last-minute flip-flop” and promising a legal challenge. That sets up a dramatic last-minute court fight that will occur with just hours before polls are set to open in the state.

“At the end of the day, this is about the people of Wisconsin,” Evers said in an interview Monday. “They frankly don’t care much about Republicans and Democrats fighting. They’re scared. We have the surgeon general saying this is Pearl Harbor. It’s time to act.”

Evers’ push to move the election came at the last minute, after both he and state Republicans sought to push ahead with the election for weeks even as 14 other states moved their primary elections to avoid the kind of coronavirus-fueled chaos taking place in Wisconsin.

It’s unclear what will happen now. But with a state supreme court seat at stake, Wisconsin poll workers — not to mention voters — will need answers fast.

Cover: Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency Thursday March 12, 2020 in response to a growing number of cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, in Wisconsin. The announcement was made at the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs in the State Emergency Operations Center in Madison. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)