Federal Judge Won’t Postpone Wisconsin Primary, But Expands Voting

April 3, 2020 by Dan McCue
Katherine Katsekes, and Diane Scott, both paid volunteers, help sort absentee ballots by ward to be opened on election day at Brookfield City Hall, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

A federal judge on Thursday refused to push back the date of Wisconsin’s April 7 presidential primary despite concerns about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. District Judge William Conley’s ruling came after listening to arguments Wednesday over whether the primary should be moved while dire warnings about the outbreak from the White House are forcing many Americans to stay at home, practicing social distancing.

Compounding the situation, Wisconsin is facing a shortage of poll workers next week.

“As much as the court would prefer that the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor consider the public health ahead of any political considerations, that does not appear in the cards,” Conley wrote.

But he did try to mitigate the potential harm caused by Tuesday’s election.

Specifically, he extended the deadline to request an absentee ballot to 5 p.m. Friday, April 3, and gave voters until April 13 to get those ballots to county clerks.

The judge also lifted a witness requirement for absentee ballot applications, writing that voters can provide a written affirmation that they could not safely obtain a witness signature due to coronavirus fears.

In his ruling, Conley makes plain that despite his reservations about the “ill-advised” upcoming election, he nevertheless believes that it is inappropriate for a federal judge to take on the role of state health officer.

“The only role of a federal district court is to take steps that help avoid the impingement on citizens’ rights to exercise their voting franchise as protected by the United States Constitution and federal statutes,” Conley wrote. “That is what the court attempts to do … understanding that a consequence of these measures may be to further the public health crisis in this state. Unfortunately, that is beyond the power of this court to control.”

The ruling marks a partial victory for Democrats and liberal groups who argued that thousands of voters might be disenfranchised because time is running out to file absentee ballots.

The party and the groups had filed three lawsuits demanding that Conley postpone in-person voting, extend the deadlines for filing absentee ballots and lift requirements that absentee voters supply photo IDs with their ballot applications and get a witness to sign the ballot before returning it.

“We are glad that the court came to the right decision today,” said Democratfc National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. “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.”

Several states have postponed elections or shifted to all mail in the face of the pandemic. But Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican leaders have been committed to Wisconsin’s date. 

They argued there’s no guarantee conditions will improve in a couple of months and postponing the election risks leaving many local offices unfilled for an extended period.

2020 Elections

For Nation's Birthday, Trump Stokes the Divisions Within US
Political News
For Nation's Birthday, Trump Stokes the Divisions Within US

WASHINGTON (AP) — On a day meant for unity and celebration, President Donald Trump vowed to “safeguard our values” from enemies within — leftists, looters, agitators, he said — in a Fourth of July speech packed with all the grievances and combativeness of his political rallies.... Read More

‘It Is Historic’: Women of Color Dominate Joe Biden’s List for Vice President
Presidential
‘It Is Historic’: Women of Color Dominate Joe Biden’s List for Vice President

As Joe Biden weighs potential running mates, he has been asked repeatedly about the women he is considering. The Democrat has responded repeatedly that multiple women of color are on his list. The former vice president’s statement has all the makings of a coy dodge, keeping... Read More

Pete Buttigieg on Running as a Gay Man and His Struggles With Black Voters
Political News
Pete Buttigieg on Running as a Gay Man and His Struggles With Black Voters

Pride 2020 is officially in the books and man, it was complicated: The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to cancel parades; the horrific deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery sparked monthlong Black Lives Matter protests, many joined by the LGBTQ community in a show... Read More

Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting in Alabama
2020 Elections
Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting in Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision Thursday blocked a lower court ruling allowing curbside voting in Alabama and waiving some absentee ballot requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative justices granted Alabama’s request to stay a federal judge’s order that would... Read More

Trump's Rushmore Trip Draws Real and Figurative Fireworks
Political News
Trump's Rushmore Trip Draws Real and Figurative Fireworks

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — President Donald Trump will begin his Independence Day weekend on Friday with a patriotic display of fireworks at Mount Rushmore before a crowd of thousands, but even in a part of the country where many remain supportive of the president, the... Read More

Virus Concerns Grow — As Do Crowds Flocking to Jersey Shore
Health
Virus Concerns Grow — As Do Crowds Flocking to Jersey Shore

BELMAR, N.J. (AP) — As coronavirus-related restrictions are eased and temperatures climb, people are flocking back to the Jersey Shore. And with the July Fourth holiday weekend upon us, that's making some people nervous, particularly given the large crowds that have surfaced at some popular shore... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top