Wisconsin’s controversial election is back on for Tuesday and voters will get no extension on the deadline to return absentee ballots despite the coronavirus crisis, thanks to two top courts that sided with Republicans on Monday.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, issued an executive order Monday afternoon postponing the election to June 9, citing the public health risk. But the Wisconsin Supreme Court hours later overturned the governor, siding with the Republican-controlled legislature that had appealed his order.
Later in the day, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Wisconsin Republicans on a separate issue, voting 5-to-4 along ideological lines to overturn a lower federal court’s decision to extend the deadline for absentee balloting.
Election officials have faced an unprecedented crush of requests for absentee ballots from voters looking to avoid the polls during the pandemic, so a federal judge Thursday granted voters and officials an extra week to cast ballots and have them counted.
But the U.S. Supreme Court rejected that extension, meaning that absentee ballots received after 8 p.m. Tuesday will no longer be accepted. The four dissenting justices, all on the court’s liberal wing, said the decision will result in the “massive disenfranchisement” of tens of thousands of voters who did not want to show up in person because of the spread of the coronavirus, but could not cast their absentee ballots in time.
“The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the dissenters. By cutting off the absentee ballot extension, she wrote, the court’s decision forces voters to choose between endangering their safety by showing up in person, or losing their right to vote.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party said it will not be mobilizing in-person voting and its chairman Ben Wikler, warned of even graver consequences, saying the decision to force the election to proceed during the epidemic will “disenfranchise untold thousands of Wisconsin voters and consign an unknown number of Wisconsinites to their deaths.”
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