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US elections: Wisconsin Governor asks judge to mandate mail-in voting

Bloomberg April 2 | Updated on April 02, 2020

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers asked a federal judge on Wednesday to direct the State to hold its primary through mail-in voting, but did not ask for the April 7 vote to be postponed, as many States have done.

On Monday, the states Republican-controlled legislature rejected a proposal from Evers, a Democrat, to ensure that Wisconsin’s 3.3 million registered voters receive absentee ballots and to delay the absentee ballot deadline, which is currently April 2.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party, along with nearly a dozen other Democratic advocacy groups, have filed lawsuits calling for a primarily mail-in voting election.

But on Twitter on Wednesday night, Ben Wikler, the party chairman, said that his organisation endorses the call by civil rights groups & mayors across Wisconsin to postpone our April 7 election & remove barriers to safe voting by mail.

Nobody should have to choose between their health and their vote, he said in a statement. “We look forward to the courts ruling, and we urge Republicans in the state legislature to take immediate action to protect the public health and voting rights of Wisconsinites.”

Drop boxes

In a brief to the court, the Governor asked the judge to extend the deadline for obtaining an absentee ballot and to make it easier to vote by mail by easing a state law that requires another US citizen to sign the absentee ballot as a witness and to mandate drop boxes for mail-in ballots.

Such an approach will promote stability and avoid the uncertainty inherent in extending the election date into the future, given that Wisconsin’s exposure to COVID-19 continues to expand, and it remains unclear when the situation will improve, Assistant Attorney General Hannah Jurss wrote on Everss’behalf.

Evers declared a state of emergency in the state on March 12, but both he and Republican leaders in the legislature opposed any move to delay Tuesday’s primary. Several states have postponed primaries amid the coronavirus pandemic, including Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio and Connecticut.

More than 1,300 cases

Wisconsin has more than 1,300 cases of coronavirus, with 130 cases added since Monday. The governor argued that social distancing guidelines could prevent voters from finding witnesses. Some physical polling locations would still be open, though 111 jurisdictions reported not being able to find enough polling staffers amid the pandemic.

Bernie Sanders issued a statement on Wednesday calling on the State to delay the primary and issue absentee ballots.

People should not be forced to put their lives on the line to vote, which is why 15 states are now following the advice of public health experts and delaying their elections, Sanders said. We urge Wisconsin to join them.

As of Tuesday, 972,232 voters have requested absentee ballots though only 942,350 have been sent.

Published on April 02, 2020

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