The City of Madison filed a brief asking for the federal court to postpone the April 7 election and make it an all mail-in election due to health and voter turnout concerns.
The brief, filed on March 30, said continuing with the election as normal during the COVID-19 pandemic would prevent many voters from casting their ballot. Because of the low number of poll workers and Governor Evers’ Safer at Home order, the City estimates half or more of eligible voters who would normally go to the poll will be unable to do so, according to the brief.
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According to the brief, the City Clerk has issued over 40,000 absentee ballots for the April 7 election already but still has a backlog of over 10,000 ballots.
“We are thus left with the inevitable conclusion that the Clerk will be unlikely to fulfill all requests under current statutory deadlines and that many responses will be received after the deadline for submission of absentee ballots,” the brief said.
Additionally, the City of Madison argued in the brief holding an election during the COVID-19 crisis poses a health concern for citizens. A report from Public Health Madison and Dane County, included in the brief, said holding elections during this stage of the pandemic could lead to a significant number of new cases.
The University of Wisconsin Applied Population Lab sent a letter to Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and City of Madison Attorney Mike May supporting the city’s proposal to postpone the election.
“Given the speed of COVID-19’s spread … we feel strongly that asking voters to attend in-person voting as usual presents an unreasonable risk to individual voters, poll workers and the general public,” the Wisconsin Applied Population Lab wrote.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway issued a statement stating her support of the brief. Rhodes-Conway said Wisconsin is a national outlier for not postponing the election — all other states have postponed elections scheduled to occur during this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The City of Madison asked in the brief for the election to be postponed at least three weeks and for all officeholders to remain in office until successors are elected and approved.
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Rhodes-Conway said Judge William M. Conley will hear the issue in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin this week.
“This Court must act to assure that the Spring Election will be a full and fair election and that it is conducted in a manner that protects the health of Wisconsin residents,” the brief said.