Wisconsin will hold in-person elections on 7 April as the governor’s requests to make voting safer meet a wall of opposition in the state’s Republican legislature.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers asked the legislature to approve the state sending vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters in the state, to lift photo ID requirements for mail-in voters and to extend in-person early voting through the weekend prior to the election and extending the deadlines for sending in and counting absentee ballots.
All of Mr Evers’ requests were denied by the state Republicans, who have been accused by Democrats of intentionally trying to suppress voter turnout to help an incumbent state Supreme Court judge, Justice Daniel Kelly.
As of Tuesday, there are more than 1,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state.
According to the Washington Post, Republicans disputed the allegations, saying they were trying to prevent “confusion” on Election Day. The Post notes that Republicans considered changing the date of the Democratic primary in late 2018 to improve the justice’s chances of winning.
“I understand things are getting much different out there, and there are obviously a lot of concerns about what an election would look like on April 7, with the amount of poll workers and volunteers that we’re going to need,” Scott L Fitzgerald, the state’s Republican majority leader, said. “We’re monitoring it very closely, but at this point I don’t see a change really to the April 7 date.”
As a result, the state is getting swamped with mail-in votes and requests for absentee ballots, raising concerns among voters who’ve requested the ballots will not receive them by election day.
As of Tuesday, more than 900,000 people had requested absentee ballots and 337,563 had been returned.
Voters aren’t the only ones concerned; volunteer poll workers are withdrawing their services out of fear of exposure.
CNN reported that the state’s elections commission administrator, Meagan Wolfe, said Wisconsin is in need of nearly 7,000 poll workers. In 111 municipalities, there are no workers at all to man the polls.
Even with workers, it’s unclear if the state will be able to provide necessary sanitising supplies to keep them safe. Local officials have had to rely on local distilleries to find alcohol-based sanitiser products and Wisconsin is still trying to source 1.5 million disinfecting wipes, of which it currently has 750,000.
The state’s election problems extend beyond the polls. A storm of lawsuits have been filed against the state to try to force changes to the voting rules that fell in line with the governor’s requests are still tied up in court.
As a result, the possibility of last-minute changes to the election are not out of the realm of possibility.
The state’s Republicans have opposed any change or delay to the primary.
Thirteen states and territories, led by both Republicans and Democrats, have postponed their primaries due to safety concerns related to the coronavirus.