Wisconsin Supreme Court Trends After Judges Block Governor Evers' Order to Postpone Tuesday's Election

Wisconsin's Supreme Court has voted along party lines in a 4-2 vote to block Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' executive order to delay the state's primary election until June 9 over fears of spreading coronavirus while poll workers and voters crowd in public polling stations.

Concurrently, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a plan to extend absentee voting in Wisconsin's spring primary by six days to April 13. The extension was meant to allow voters more time to mail-in ballots amid stay-at-home orders meant to slow the virus's spread.

Wisconsin Republicans had opposed both attempts, and the U.S. Supreme Court's five Republican-appointed justices sided with them—all four liberal justices dissented.

The state's Republican-led legislature refused to postpone the election even though hundreds of polling places have shuttered statewide and thousands of poll workers have decided not to help out of fear contracting the virus, writes Mark Joseph Stern at Slate. The denial of an extension for absentee ballots means that tens of thousands of people won't get to vote at all since many absentee ballots haven't even been mailed by the state yet due to epidemic-related delays.

"We agree with the state Supreme Court's ruling that affirms the separation of powers spelled out in our Constitution. The state's highest court has spoken: the governor can't unilaterally move the date of the election," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said in a joint statement.

"We are proud that Wisconsinites have come together to meet the challenges that this pandemic has created," Vos and Fitzgerald continued. "The safety and health of our citizens have always been our highest concern; that's why we advocated for everyone to vote absentee. Wisconsin has responded in droves. Over a million ballots have been requested for tomorrow's election. We continue to believe that citizens should be able to exercise their right to vote at the polls on Election Day, should they choose to do so."

Evers responded, "Tomorrow in Wisconsin, thousands will wake up and have to choose between exercising their right to vote and staying healthy and safe. In this time of historic crisis, it is a shame that two branches of government in this state chose to pass the buck instead of taking responsibility for the health and safety of the people we were elected to serve."

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers speaks to the media following a shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Co. campus on February 26, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty

"This ruling is deeply troubling and raises grave concerns that this Supreme Court is poised to unnecessarily interject itself in voting rights battles this presidential election season," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

"This a Court putting its thumb on the scale in terms of how a state chooses to run a fair and free election in the face of insurmountable obstacles. Contrary to the majority opinion's claims, this case involved more than a 'minor, technical' question and will likely result in the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters as 500,000 absentee ballots have not been returned as of Monday night. As states make 11th hour voting changes in the middle of a pandemic, we need the Court to err on the side of ensuring access instead of reducing it."

U.S. President Donald Trump reacted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision by tweeting, "The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that tomorrow's election will proceed as scheduled. VOTE for Justice Daniel Kelly tomorrow, and be safe!"

Trump had replied to an earlier tweet, where the president wrote, "Highly respected Justice Daniel Kelly is running for the Supreme Court in the Great State of Wisconsin. Justice Kelly has been doing a terrific job upholding the Rule of Law and defending your #2A. Tough on Crime, Loves our Military and our Vets. He has my Complete Endorsement!"

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) tweeted, "No one should have to make a choice between exercising their right to vote and staying safe during a public health crisis."

Criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, comedian Sarah Silverman tweeted, "Hm now why do you think they would do that? Make voting less easy? Doesn't take a genius".

Wisconsin Supreme Court Trends After Judges Block Governor Evers' Order to Postpone Tuesday's Election | Politics