|A worker leaves the the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building Monday March 30, 2020, in Milwaukee. The city is now allowing drive up early voting for the state's April 7 election. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)|
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s attempt to conduct an election in the midst of a coronavirus crisis lurched forward Friday, with a Democratic governor pushing for an all-mail election to replace in-person voting and Republican leaders refusing to budge.
Just three days before Tuesday’s spring primary — which features the Democratic presidential contest plus a high-stakes state Supreme Court race — a federal judge had extended absentee voting through April 13 but refused requests to postpone the election.
With thousands of poll workers quitting, Gov. Tony Evers for the first time Friday called for an all-mail election, ordering a special session Saturday and asking the Republican-dominated Legislature to agree.
“I sit here telling you the time is now for leadership and all the people that are part of the Senate and Assembly to step to the plate and do what’s necessary to ensure we have safety in the state and we have an election we’ll be using mail ballots for,” Evers said, expressing confidence that the state would “get there” on shifting the election.
Republicans swiftly made clear their feeling that the election should continue as planned, and accused Evers of waffling under pressure from liberal groups.
“It’s so disappointing that Governor Evers has flip-flopped on the very question that we have been discussing over the last month,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a joint statement. “The only bipartisan discussion we’ve had was to ensure the election would continue safely and to maximize the opportunity to vote absentee.”
Evers wanted the session to begin Saturday afternoon and for lawmakers to take up bills that would allow clerks to mail absentee ballots to voters who haven’t requested one by May 19 and give voters until May 26 to return them.
U.S. District Judge William Conley on Thursday ordered absentee voting deadlines extended from Election Day on Tuesday to April 13, in effect extending the election by six days. Republicans appealed, but the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined late Friday to stay Conley’s order. The court didn’t explain its decision.