April 8, 2020

Wisconsin Election

“Thousands of Wisconsin voters waited hours in long lines outside overcrowded polling stations on Tuesday so they could participate in a presidential primary election that tested the limits of electoral politics in the midst of a pandemic.” AP News

“The Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Monday to reverse an order extending the absentee ballot deadline for voting in the Wisconsin elections… Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, signed an executive order suspending in-person voting in the state earlier on Monday after trying and failing to convince the GOP-dominated state legislature to postpone elections until May. His order was blocked by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the evening.” CNBC

See past issues

From the Left

The left is critical of Republicans in Wisconsin for not delaying the election and opposes the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Evers tried to move the date to June 9, first by calling a special legislative session this weekend and then through executive order on Monday night. Both times, he was overruled by Wisconsin Republicans in the state legislature and the state Supreme Court. Republican leaders in the state legislature gaveled out of the weekend special session almost immediately after it was convened…

“Many voters who had requested absentee ballots had yet to receive them as of Monday evening, meaning that people probably wouldn’t be able to postmark them by the required Tuesday, April 7, deadline. According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, roughly 408,000 absentee ballots still hadn’t been returned across the state as of Tuesday morning… Absentee ballots in Wisconsin also require a witness to sign the ballot, a requirement that’s incredibly limiting during the current public health crisis, where people are being advised to stay away from others…

“The handling of Tuesday’s primary is expected to hurt specific subsets of voters disproportionately, including black voters, older voters, and voters with disabilities.”
Ella Nilsen and Li Zhou, Vox

“The motivations of [the Republican legislators] require little speculation. The marquee race in Wisconsin on Tuesday was not the Democratic presidential primary but the retention election for a highly conservative state Supreme Court justice, a race in which Wisconsin Republicans have a large stake. Before Tuesday’s election, Republican state lawmakers had already imposed an extremely gerrymandered legislative district map on Wisconsin, mandated strict voter-ID requirements and stripped powers from Mr. Evers…

“Forcing voters to make a potentially deadly decision about whether to show up, thereby discouraging turnout, was yet another move in their bare-knuckle fight to hold on to power, even at the expense of democracy.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

Regarding the Supreme Court decision, “In the main body of the opinion, you would never learn that a deadly pandemic even existed, let alone that it was the driving motivation of the district court’s decision. This is cowardly. If you want to make a case that the law is the law and it needs to be followed even in the middle of a destructive plague, then go ahead. But at the very least, you need to have the integrity to make the case. You need to be willing to say forthrightly that legal technicalities need to be followed even if they will either (a) deprive thousands of people of their votes or (b) drive them to the polls, where they run the risk of contracting a deadly disease.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

“[The Supreme Court decision is] the opening salvo in what is likely to be a seven-month long series of legal battles about how the 2020 elections will be accomplished with Covid-19 disrupting the voting process. So it’s highly unfortunate that the justices split along partisan lines in this first case, a case with relatively low stakes. The nation badly needs the court to avoid a scenario reminiscent of the 2000 Bush v. Gore case, in which the justices were perceived to have decided the election for Bush along roughly ideological lines…

“Given the likely effects of the pandemic on that election, there exists a substantial likelihood that both political parties will be poised to question the fairness of the election results. The only way to avoid a potentially serious legitimacy crisis is not to rely on the Supreme Court to resolve it. States need to put electoral processes in place early so that the rules are clear in advance. And we should avoid the temptation, however powerful, to expect the courts to tweak those rules to make them more ‘fair,’ as measured by our own lights.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

It is imperative that states get busy now ordering absentee ballots… There are downsides to vote-by-mail, though not necessarily the ones Trump has in mind. Rapidly going from in-person voting to exclusively mail-in ballots is likely to disenfranchise some voters. At the very least, a state would need to engage in a fairly robust publicity and outreach campaign to pull this off. And more realistically, it would need to plan for some in-person voting, perhaps through a reduced footprint of sites, with expanded early-voting hours and public-health precautions…

“None of this is cheap. Furthermore, the states, which are already facing huge public safety costs amid declining tax revenues, are limited in their ability to borrow and will need help from Washington… The legislation sets aside $500 billion for bailouts for airlines and companies deemed to be of national security importance. Certainly, safe and fair elections are a matter of urgent national security as well.”
Editorial Board, USA Today

From the Right

The right is critical of both parties in Wisconsin for not delaying the election and supports the Supreme Court’s decision.

The right is critical of both parties in Wisconsin for not delaying the election and supports the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Rather than come together in an emergency, the scorched-earth politics of the last ten years — initiated by a legislative walkout and a union-backed futile recall election — rendered the state government incapable of the simple task of delaying the primary by a few weeks

“Evers has been all over the place on this point rather than demonstrating any real leadership on it. However, the Republican-controlled legislature hasn’t fared much better. They could have passed a delay when they were finally called into special session over the weekend, but chose not to act instead. Evers’ flip-flopping didn’t give them much political cover for delaying the primary, but they probably didn’t need much political cover for it, either. Voters who have to go out and stand in line today are likely to say a pox on both houses as a result, irony fully intended. And they would not be wrong.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“Why did Evers, a Democrat, wait until April 3, just days before the polls would open, to call a legislative session to postpone the election? Of course, struggles with absentee ballot requests overwhelming the system, and poll volunteers withdrawing over health concerns surely held the governor and district judge’s feet to the flame. But with a global health crisis that had been ramping up for months and other states taking early measures to postpone their elections, is it possible the last-minute decisions regarding the Wisconsin election were actually the result of poor leadership and planning rather than of GOP-fueled partisanship within the Supreme Court?…

“While much of this saga could have been avoided absent obvious blunders in the Dairy State, this coronavirus-prompted mess certainly could have serious implications not only for other state primaries and even the upcoming Democratic National Convention, but even for the general election this fall. If we can learn anything from Wisconsin about coronavirus and election panics, maybe it’s that it’s time to start thinking about November.”
Kylee Zempel, The Federalist

“We might beat COVID-19 by fall. But if we don’t, what happens to our November election? Two principles are paramount. The election must be held. And people who want to vote must be able to do so without fear of infection and without worsening the pandemic. To uphold those principles, we must expand no-excuse absentee voting and make drive-through voting possible

“These changes will neither clearly help one party at the other’s expense, nor increase voter fraud. The No. 1 group that votes by mail now are the elderly, who tend to vote Republican. As the elderly are also the group most affected by COVID-19, voting by mail might help them the most. On the other hand, increased turnout is typically good for Democrats, who benefit from greater youth and minority votes…

“The truth is that no one knows whom expanded absentee voting and drive-through voting would favor in November 2020. That should make it easier to set aside our partisan identities and do what is right for democracy. So long as the change is a one-off, which can be written into state and federal legislation, it should overcome partisan bickering.”
Rachel Kleinfeld and Joshua Kleinfeld, National Review

Under the ruling overturned by the Supreme Court, “absentee ballots were eligible to be counted regardless of when they were mailed in or otherwise delivered, as long as they came in by the April 13 deadline. In effect, that meant absentee ballots could be cast after in-person primary voting had closed on April 7...

"Obviously, this could mean the election would be materially altered by events occurring after formal conclusion of the primary election — not least, news about the apparent election result. To address this problem, Judge Conley further ordered the Wisconsin Election Commission and election inspectors to suppress any report of the voting results until after the new April 13 deadline… the district court’s resolution worked a significant change in election rules. This ran afoul of Supreme Court precedent.”
Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review

“It would have been better to keep the courts out of the case entirely, but that was not an option here: A single federal district judge had extended the deadline until April 13, a week after the election. Had the Court refused the case, the election laws of Wisconsin would have been rewritten by one judge instead of nine. Even the plaintiffs in the suit had not asked for the April 13 date… Getting the case the night before Election Day with a pandemic ongoing and nobody trying to act responsibly to postpone the election, the Court selected what it considered the least of evils.”
Dan McLaughlin, National Review

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