Judge declines to postpone Wisconsin elections, extends absentee voting – POLITICO
It was not immediately clear when the election results would be available. Under Conley’s order, in-person voting will continue on April 7. But with a return deadline of April 13, voters could theoretically put their ballots in the mail after in-person voting has been concluded and still have it count. Meanwhile, short-staffed election offices may not be able to process the record number of absentee ballots coming in as quickly as usual.
Wisconsin does not have a date for when ballots must be postmarked for them to count in elections, only a time in which they must be received. Conley explicitly declined to add a postmark date requirement in his order.
In a virtual meeting that stretched late into the night on Thursday, the state’s elections commission was also confounded by the ruling. The commission signaled it would seek clarification on whether it must abide by existing state laws to report results on Election Night, despite the extended deadline to accept absentee ballots.
“Unless this is appealed” or clarified by the court, said Dean Knudson, the chair of the state elections commission and a former Republican lawmaker, “we’re going to have a real mess.” The commissioners indicated their counsel will send a letter to the court seeking clarification on reporting results, among other issues.
Some Democrats in the state are furious with Evers for not pushing for the election to be postponed. Evers has maintained that his hands were tied by the Republican-led legislature, but some Democrats in the state believed he should be pushing for the election to be postponed.
“In the absence of the Legislature doing its part to ensure a fair and safe election, I appreciate that the court chose to implement some of the common-sense solutions that I’ve been advocating for,” Evers said following the order.
Officials in the state have been hesitant to postpone the election because, in addition to the Democratic presidential primary between Biden and Sanders, there’s general elections being conducted across the state as well. Races include a contested fight for a Wisconsin state Supreme Court seat and the mayor of Milwaukee.
In an interview with POLITICO, a spokesperson for Evers ruled out the governor unilaterally postponing the election, as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine did. “It’s not going to happen,” spokesperson Melissa Baldauff said. “He doesn’t want to do it and he also doesn’t have the authority to do it.”
The Democratic National Committee, which was also a party in the lawsuit, praised the ruling.
“We are glad that the court came to the right decision today,” DNC chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “Expanding access to absentee voting is critical in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and we continue to encourage all states to pursue vote-by-mail and no-excuse absentee voting to ensure that all eligible voters who want to cast a ballot have the means and ability to do so.”
Perez has publicly discouraged states from postponing their primaries, instead urging states to expand mail-in voting. However, in the hearing in Wisconsin on Wednesday, a lawyer representing both the DNC and the Wisconsin Democratic Party said the groups would support the election being postponed, if the court decided to do so.
Throughout his ruling, Conley was effusive in his praise for the Wisconsin Elections Commission and its administrator, Meagan Wolfe, for their efforts ahead of the April 7 election.
“If there is a hero to this story, it is the Administrator, her staff and municipal workers, all of whom continue to improvise election practices,” Conley wrote.