Wisconsin Supreme Court blocks Evers' move to delay election

Courtesy: AP Images
Courtesy: AP Images(WIFR)
Published: Apr. 6, 2020 at 1:03 PM CDT
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Wisconsin's Supreme Court has ruled that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers could not postpone the state's presidential primary, striking down his order to move the election to June over coronavirus outbreak fears.

The court ruled 4-2 that Evers lacked the authority to move the election on his own. The decision means the election will occur as originally scheduled on Tuesday.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers had ordered Tuesday’s Spring Election and Presidential Primary should be delayed by more than two months.

On Monday, a day before voting, he signed an Executive Order on Monday to push in-person voting to June 9.

In a statement announcing the move, the Democratic Governor said his action comes after the Republican-led legislature adjourned from the special session he ordered last week without moving the election. On Monday morning, lawmakers gaveled into session and ended it almost immediately afterwards without plans to meet again until Wednesday.

“[A]bsent legislative or court action, I cannot in good conscience stand by and do nothing,” Evers said, announcing the action. “The bottom line is that I have an obligation to keep people safe, and that’s why I signed this executive order today.”

The order would have let the ballots already cast will remain valid and will be tallied with the results of the now-June election. It also called for those elected officials whose terms expire before the June 9 election would have those end dates extended until the new election date.

“Frankly, there’s no good answer to this problem—I wish it were easy. I have been asking everyone to do their part to help keep our families, our neighbors, and our communities safe, and I had hoped that the Legislature would do its part—just as the rest of us are—to help keep people healthy and safe,” Evers had said.

Evers order also calls for a second special session of the Assembly, which is set for Tuesday.

Senate Leader Scott Fizgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos released a joint statement within minutes of the Governor’s declaration saying they would immediately challenge the order in the state Supreme Court.

““This is another last minute flip-flop from the governor on the April 7th election. The governor himself has repeatedly acknowledged he can’t move the election,” they said in the statement.

Vos and Fitzgerald pointed to last week’s decision by a federal District Court in which they said Judge Conley claimed he didn’t have the power to cancel the election nor does the governor.

“Governor Evers can’t unilaterally run the state,” they added.

Expecting Evers' order would likely be challenged in court, the Wisconsin Election Commission said it would continue planning for a vote on Tuesday in an open letter to municipal and county clerks.

"While the Governor has called for moving the election, we can be certain there will be very fast moving litigation," WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe said in an open letter to the clerks.

Wolfe told clerks if the election is moved, the agency will make the necessary adjustments and let them know what they will need to do.

"Our state is so incredibly lucky to have each and everyone of you. Thank you for your continued public service and we will let you know if there are any additional developments," she added.

The Wisconsin election is being viewed as a national test case in a broader fight over voter access in the age of the coronavirus with major implications for the presidential primary contests ahead and, possibly, the November general election.

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