Legislative leaders immediately pledge a court challenge regarding Tuesday’s scheduled vote

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Monday afternoon issued an executive order suspending in-person voting for Tuesday’s Spring Election.

The order moves in-person voting to June 7 and calls the legislature into special session on Tuesday to discuss election-related issues.

The order – and Evers’ ability to make it – were immediately challenged by the state’s Republican Legislative leaders.

“The clerks of this state should stand ready to proceed with the election,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a jointly issued news release. “The governor’s executive order is clearly an unconstitutional overreach.”

Vos and Fitzgerald said they plan to take the matter directly to the state Supreme Court, where conservatives hold a 5-2 majority.

The order, made with less than 24 hours before polls were scheduled to open statewide, creates yet another layer of uncertainty for the state’s municipal clerks who oversee elections and voters who’ve seen issues surrounding the election become a political football amidst a global pandemic.

Until late last week Evers, a Democrat, and the Republican legislative leaders were united behind the idea that in-person voting should take place on Tuesday.

However, late last week, as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise, Evers changed course and called for a special session of the Legislature on Saturday with a request to convert the election to a mail-in format.

The leadership of both houses scoffed at the suggestion. The Assembly and the Senate adjourned within seconds of convening Saturday.

Since then Evers has aligned with public health officials, a consortium of mayors and other municipal officials in calling for in-person voting to be delayed or replaced with alternative methods due to the threat that coronavirus could be spread through in-person polling.

“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 said. “But as municipalities are consolidating polling locations, and absent legislative or court action, I cannot in good conscience stand by and do nothing. The bottom line is that I have an obligation to keep people safe.”

According to the governor’s office, all ballots already cast in the 2020 Spring Election will remain valid and will be tallied in conjunction with the new in-person voting date.

Now it appears it will be up to the courts to decide whether Evers’ order is legal and whether Tuesday’s election will proceed.

Vos and Fitzgerald challenged the notion that Evers has the power to suspend the election.

“The governor himself has repeatedly acknowledged he can’t move the election,” they said. “Just last week a federal judge said he did not have the power to cancel the election and Gov. Evers doesn’t either. Gov. Evers can’t unilaterally run the state.”

 
 

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