Supreme Court blocks governor’s order
By Press Times Staff
MADISON – The April 7 spring general election is back on after the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked an executive order of Gov. Tony Evers.
The court ruled 4-2 Monday, April 6, to prevent Executive Order No. 74 issued earlier in the day from taking effect and suspending in-person voting for the April 7 spring election until June 9 with justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet dissenting.
The court agreed with a petition submitted on behalf of Republican lawmakers that the governor wasn’t authorized on his own to change the election date.
However, the court majority allowed one provision of the order to stay in effect to direct the Legislature to meet in special session Tuesday, April 7, to address the election date.
Evers sought the Legislature to convene to change the election date, or else his order, before being blocked by the court, called for in-person voting to occur June 9.
“Today, I signed an executive order suspending in-person voting for tomorrow’s election. 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,” said Gov. Evers. “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, and that’s why I signed this executive order today.”
All ballots already cast in the 2020 spring election remain valid, while absentee ballots may still be mailed and count if postmarked by Tuesday, April 7, and received by 4 p.m. April 13.
Executive Order #74 is available here.
The governor previously signed Executive Order #73 calling the Legislature to meet in a special session to send a ballot to every registered voter, allow an all-mail election, and extend the time for those ballots to be received and counted.
The Legislature did not take up these changes in special session.
Gov. Evers also proposed legislation that had several provisions aimed at making voting easier and more accessible during the public health emergency.
Local leaders voice support
More than 100 elected local officials across Wisconsin signed onto a letter urging Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to exercise emergency measures before the election.
“As leaders of communities throughout Wisconsin, we write to ask you to exercise the emergency powers delegated to you under section 252.02 of the Wisconsin State Statutes,” the letter reads. “We implore you to implement all emergency measures necessary to control the spread of COVID-19, a communicable disease. Specifically, we need you to step up and stop the State of Wisconsin from putting hundreds of thousands of citizens at risk by requiring them to vote at the polls while this ugly pandemic spreads.”
Locally, Brown County Supervisors Megan Borchardt, Erik Hoyer, Paul Ballard and Alex Tran, along with Green Bay Alders Barbara Dorff and Craig Stevens and Green Bay school board members Rhonda Sitnikau, Kristina Shelton, Laura McCoy and Eric Vanden Heuvel, signed the letter.
State Republican response
Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) released the following statement announcing their challenge of the executive order:
“The clerks of this state should stand ready to proceed with the election. The governor’s executive order is clearly an unconstitutional overreach.”
“This is another last minute flip-flop from the governor on the April 7 election. The governor himself has repeatedly acknowledged he can’t move the election. Just last week a federal judge said he did not have the power to cancel the election and Governor Evers doesn’t either. Governor Evers can’t unilaterally run the state.”
In the wake of the governor’s order to postpone in-person Election Day voting and Republicans announcing they would challenge that order, local preparations were still being made Monday, April 6, in the event the spring general election would take place as originally scheduled.
In the Village of Suamico, where no village board meeting was scheduled as normally held on the first Monday of the month to set up the village hall as a polling place, Village Administrator Alex Kaker said Suamico continued preparations as it had to be able to hold an election April 7.
He said precautions were planned in advance, such as separating the voters from poll workers with plexiglass.
Kaker said many village voters also planned to stay away from the polls on Election Day with more than 2,000 requesting absentee ballots beforehand.
The village’s facilities closed to the public through at least April 30 except for voting.
In the Village of Howard, Village Administrator Paul Evert said not a lot of voters were expected at the polls on Election Day because of the high number of absentee ballots requests.
Evert said the village has face masks and protective eye wear for the poll workers to use on Election Day as a precaution.