After Wisconsin Gov. Postpones Election Over Coronavirus, GOP Lawmakers Vow to Challenge in State's Supreme Court

Update (6:00 p.m.): The Wisconsin Supreme Court decided 4-2 to block Gov. Tony Evers' order to postpone Tuesday's election. The vote was along party lines with conservative justices in favor of conducting the election tomorrow, and liberal justices dissenting.

Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers announced on Monday that he was postponing the state's elections, originally scheduled for Tuesday, until June because of the threat of community-spread coronavirus. In response, the Wisconsin GOP said they would fight Evers' decision in the state Supreme Court.

Along with general elections for Wisconsin lawmakers, the state was also expected to hold its Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday.

April polling data from FiveThirtyEight showed former Vice President Joe Biden holding a substantial lead of 62 percent of Democratic voter support over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who held 34 percent.

"Suspending in-person voting on April 7 is necessary to protect the security of the people of Wisconsin and slow the spread of COVID-19," Evers wrote Monday in an executive order.

"Frankly, there's not a good answer to this problem," Evers said in a Monday statement. "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."

"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," Evers continued.

tony evers
GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin announced their intentions on Monday to challenge Governor Tony Evers' executive order which postpones statewide elections. Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty

Whether Evers actually has the power to postpone the elections has been a controversial subject. Evers himself said during a Friday news conference that his "hands are tied" because delaying the elections was a decision he could not make by himself.

Wisconsin Republican Senator Scott Fitzgerald and Speaker Robin Vos said in a Monday statement that Evers' executive order "is clearly an unconstitutional overreach."

"This is another last minute flip-flop from the governor on the April 7th election," the statement read. "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."

"It is tragic to see such a reckless disregard for the Constitution from Gov. Tony Evers who just days ago admitted he did not have the power to change the election," wrote Wisconsin GOP chairman Andrew Hitt in a statement issued Monday. "His admission will weigh heavily on the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision, so we are left to conclude that the Governor is playing politics with something as precious as our democracy. The Republican Party will continue to fight for the rule of law."

Newsweek reached out to Governor Evers' office for comment.

U.S. District Judge William Conley said Thursday that he would not delay the scheduled elections in Wisconsin although he considered in-person voting to be "ill-advised."

"The only role of a federal district court is to take steps that help avoid the impingement on citizens' rights to exercise their voting franchise as protected by the United States Constitution and federal statutes," Conley wrote in his decision.

Data from the Wisconsin Department of Health indicates 2,440 positive cases of coronavirus with a total of 77 deaths. However, 26,574 individuals who were tested for the virus received negative test results.