UPDATE: Democratic Gov. Tony Evers reversed his longstanding position on Friday afternoon and said Wisconsin's primary set for Tuesday should be delayed. He called a Saturday special session of the Legislature, run by Republicans, to debate a bill creating an all-mail election with a May 26 deadline. The headline above is new, the story below is not.
Wisconsin's primary is on course for Tuesday after a federal judge ripped the state's leaders for not postponing the election in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic but said he did not have the authority to delay it.
Every other state that scheduled an April contest has postponed or transformed it to almost all vote-by-mail. But Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the Republican-led Legislature agreed on no delay and only relatively minor changes — leaving voting rights groups and campaigns predicting confusion, anger and maybe a wave of illness next week.
U.S. District Judge William Conley on Thursday did extend until Friday evening the deadline for applying for absentee ballots, which more than 1.1 million Wisconsinites have already done. He also ordered ballots received as long as six days after election day to get counted and waived a requirement that a witness sign every absentee ballot, which would mean hundreds of thousands of social distancing violations.
A federal judge in Wisconsin is hearing arguments Wednesday afternoon that next week's primary must be either postponed altogether or made much more permissive for voters since it would happen near the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The battle is by far the most prominent story this week at the intersection of public health and electoral democracy. While Wisconsin remains in conflicted limbo, however, Republican officials are taking modest steps to make it easier to vote in Iowa and North Carolina until the Covid-19 outbreak has subsided, while prominent Republicans in Georgia asked the state to delay its primary a second time. At the same time, the GOP went to court as soon as most of New Mexico announced plans to conduct the June 2 primary by mail.
These are the latest developments:
Eight days to the Wisconsin primary and almost every aspect of it remains up in the air, from the rules for how people will vote to whether the election will even take place.
The state, which already looms as the essential presidential battleground in November, has quickly become the heart of the national debate about the propriety of voting during a pandemic. It is the only state that has not in some way delayed an April presidential primary, the main rationale being that some state and local contests on the ballot are for jobs that become vacant without a timely election.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers shifted course Friday and, after saying the polls should be open April 7 as usual, proposed that 3.3 million ballots be printed and delivered to every voter in the state in time for them to be filled in and sent back on schedule. Republicans in charge of the Legislature, who would have to pass a bill for that to happen, said the idea was a logistical impossibility.
Advocates for making the coronavirus pandemic the time for changing American voting habits are taking heart there won't be any polling places for three of the next four Democratic presidential contests.
Voting in Alaska and Hawaii will now join Wyoming's caucuses in being conducted entirely remotely, among the latest wave of changes in the world of elections during a historic public health emergency.
While several states moved to make voting easier, Wisconsin pressed ahead with plans for a traditional primary April 7 and has now been confronted by four federal lawsuits hoping to force changes. And Florida reported the first known cases of poll workers subsequently testing positive for coronavirus.
Here are the latest developments: