Wisconsin Gov. Evers suspends in-person voting for Tuesday primary amid coronavirus concerns

Wisconsin Gov. Evers suspends in-person voting for Tuesday primary amid coronavirus concerns

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Monday signed an executive order suspending all in-person voting for Tuesday's primary and moved the date of the election to June 9 amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The order also convenes the state legislature for a special session on Tuesday to deal with the issue.

“Today, I signed an executive order suspending in-person voting for tomorrow’s election,” Evers said in a statement. “Frankly, there’s no good answer to this problem — I wish it were easy.”

“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,” he added.

Evers' order suspends in-person voting for the April 7 primary and moves it to June 9. The order also states that if the legislature does not enact legislation to change the new election date during its special session, in-person voting will occur on June 9.

The move comes days after a judge declined to postpone the primary, which Republicans have been fighting to hold Tuesday. All ballots already cast for the election will remain valid and will be tallied in conjunction with the new in-person voting date, the governor's order said.

Wisconsin officials had faced heavy criticism for planning to go ahead with the Tuesday primary despite the coronavirus pandemic. Every other state that was supposed to hold a presidential primary contest in late March or April had postponed its election or switched to vote-by-mail, which left one of the most critical battleground states in the country alone in a deserted stretch of the electoral calendar.

The stakes are especially high in Wisconsin because the election is not just a presidential primary between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., but also a general election for down-ballot offices, including a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat that could influence voting rules in a state crucial to President Donald Trump’s reelection in November.

But Evers, as well as Republican legislative leaders, had resisted calls to move the election, prompting lawsuits, strains on election infrastructure and outcry that voters will have to choose between their health and their right to vote.

Evers has said he's powerless to change the date of the election because it's set by state law and would require the Legislature to come back into session and act. On Friday, he called on state lawmakers to allow the state to send an absentee ballot to every voter, as other states have done in response to the pandemic, but Republicans and nonpartisan experts said it would be difficult, if not impossible, to print and mail enough ballots on short notice.

Originally published