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State Supreme Court Overturns Governor Evers' Executive Order

 

April 9, 2020



Wisconsin’s April 7th election took place in person, following a day filled with twists, turns and uncertainty for voters and clerks across Wisconsin.

Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order on the morning of Monday, April 6, suspending in-person voting. This came after a Federal District Court ruled last Thursday in favor of extending the absentee ballot deadline until 4:00 p.m., April 13, a week after Election Day. Later Monday afternoon, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled Evers and the election was back on. Just a few hours later, the United States Supreme Court struck down Thursday’s federal court decision. By the end of the day, as had been the case last week and in previous elections, absentee ballots were due at their normal time, postmarked by Election Day, April 7.

On the morning of April 6, Evers issued Executive Order No. 74, suspending in-person voting. Evers cited several reasons, including poll workers risking exposure to an infected person. The order noted that around 30,000 workers assisted during the election and, in addition to those who would vote in person, all were at risk of infection.

Evers’ order stated that as of Sunday, 2,267 Wisconsinites had tested positive for COVID-19, 624 Wisconsinites have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 68 Wisconsinites had died as a result of the virus. A total of 241,703 individuals in the United States had tested positive for COVID-19, and 5,854 had died as a result of COVID-19, and, worldwide, more than 1 million people have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 62,000 people have passed away as a result of COVID-19.

Evers also wrote about shortfalls in poll worker staffing as a reason for his order, citing the City of Milwaukee losing 97 percent of its polling places, Green Bay moving from 31 locations to two, and a shortfall of 5,250 poll workers statewide.

“No Wisconsinite should ever have to choose between exercising their constitutional right to vote and being safe, secure and healthy...” wrote Evers.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court an hour later struck down Evers’ executive order. The election was then set to take place with the guidelines set forth by United States District Judge William Conley. Conley had extended the absentee ballot deadline to April 13.

But the United States Supreme Court then ruled on an emergency stay filed by the Republican National Committee in response to Conley’s decision. Conley’s absentee ballot extension was overruled, and the Court reset the election back to its standard format and deadlines.

The Supreme Court ruled that Conley had “erred” by extending the deadline.

“Our point is...that the plaintiffs themselves did not see the need to ask for such relief,” wrote the Court in their ruling. “This Court has repeatedly emphasized that lower federal courts should ordinarily not alter the election rules on the eve of an election.”

The ruling further noted that Conley had to issue a subsequent ruling that no election results could be released until April 13.

“It is highly questionable, moreover, that this attempt to suppress disclosure of the election results for six days after election day would work,” explained the Court. “And if any information were released during that time, that would gravely affect the integrity of the election process.”

The Supreme Court then ruled absentee ballots must be postmarked by April 7, Election Day, and received by April 13 or hand delivered on Election Day. Conley’s overturned ruling had allowed ballots to be postmarked up to April 13.

The in-person election did take place, but thousands of voters in Mount Horeb had already cast their ballots through the mail or via early in-person voting.

The Spring 2020 election includes a broad variety of ballot issues, including presidential preference primaries for both major national political parties; a state-wide referendum on a proposed amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution; 132 county, school district, and local referenda; an election for a seat as a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court; elections for three seats as judges of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals; elections for 34 seats as judges of county circuit courts; elections for 102 seats as judges of municipal courts; elections for 1,596 county supervisors and officers; elections for 763 alders, mayors, and other city offices; elections for 464 village board trustees, board members, and other offices; elections for 291 town supervisors, clerks, and other offices; elections for 565 seats on the boards of common, union, and unified school districts; and elections for 12 seats as supervisors on the boards of sanitary districts.

Wisconsin’s elections are overseen by the Wisconsin Elections Commission and are administered by 1,850 municipal clerks or election commissions and 72 county clerks.

Results of the election will not be available until after April 13th.

 
 

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