Barack Obama Criticizes Wisconsin Elections, Says 'Everyone Should Have the Right to Vote Safely'

Former President Barack Obama called Tuesday's Wisconsin primaries, in which ballots were cast in person despite the threat of community spread coronavirus, a "debacle."

Although Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers attempted to have the primaries postponed to a later date, a federal judge dismissed his motion and the elections went on as originally planned.

"No one should be forced to choose between their right to vote and their right to stay healthy like the debacle in Wisconsin this week," Obama tweeted Friday. "Everyone should have the right to vote safely, and we have the power to make that happen. This shouldn't be a partisan issue."

Everyone should have the right to vote safely, and we have the power to make that happen. This shouldn't be a partisan issue.

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 10, 2020

Newsweek reached out to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and Governor Evers' office for comment.

Wisconsin has been under a safer-at-home order since March. "All Wisconsinites must stay at home as much as possible and non-essential businesses and operations must cease, with limited exceptions for minimum basic operations and working from home," read information on Governor Evers' website. "All public and private gatherings of any number of people that are not part of a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited exceptions contained in the order."

barack obama
Former President Barack Obama took a swipe on Friday at Wisconsin's primaries which conducted voting in person during the coronavirus pandemic, saying that "Everyone should have the right to vote safely." Scott Olson/Getty

Evers signed an executive order Monday, the day before the primaries were expected to take place, calling for the suspension of in-person voting.

"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.

Evers also attempted to extend the deadline for voting officials to receive mail-in ballots until June.

However, both the primary postponement and the deadline extension for mail-in ballots were denied by U.S. District Judge William Conley, although another six days for mail-in and absentee ballots to be received was allowed.

In his April ruling, Conley wrote that in-person voting in the statewide primary was "ill-advised," but noted that "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."

While Conley recognized that asking people to physically go to the polls during the coronavirus pandemic could compound the health situation in Wisconsin, he wrote "that is beyond the power of this court to control."

Results from the Wisconsin primary, which included the Democratic presidential primary vote for the state, are not expected to be released until Monday.

Recent data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows 3,068 confirmed positive cases of coronavirus in the state.