The Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled Governor Evers’ executive order to postpone Tuesday’s election to June amid public health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday, reinstating in-person voting.
Following Evers’ order, Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) released a joint statement announcing their plan to challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
“This is another last minute flip-flop from the governor on the April 7th election,” read the press release. “The governor himself has repeatedly acknowledged he can’t move the election. Just last week a federal judge said he did not have the power to cancel the election and Governor Evers doesn’t either. Governor Evers can’t unilaterally run the state.”
According to the City of Madison’s Deputy Clerk Jim Verbick, the city transitioned exclusively to curbside voting last week as a more sanitary alternative to the traditional voting styles to minimize the chance of infection as a result of voting.
Though curbside voting was an option for voters that were unable to get into the polling sites in previous elections, Verbick said that it is necessary for the staff to bring the ballot out to the voter due to the particular state of the city.
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“It just became safer for voters, and for our hourly staff who are assisting those voters, to switch to curbside voting,” Verbick said.
According to Verbick, many of the city’s poll workers canceled as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, given many workers are in the at-risk age population. Verbick said the city is in need of more officials to help facilitate the demands of curbside voting.
The city encourages healthy, low-risk individuals to consider helping with the next election, Verbick said. Verbick added that poll workers will get paid a living wage for their time and can easily apply by filling out an online application form.
“I think we have had about at least 500 cancellations, which is about a quarter of our staff,” Verbick said. “We are certainly encouraging anyone who is willing and who does not feel that it would be unsafe for them to assist us.”
University of Wisconsin Professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of the Elections Research Center Barry Burden said in an email that the biggest change in voting habits evident so far is the massive shift to absentee voting. Burden said in an email to The Badger Herald that he expects the majority of people in Wisconsin to use absentee voting to cast their ballots.
According to Burden, with the record-breaking number of absentee ballots already requested, the limited staff of clerks are struggling to keep up with the requests and will struggle to count the ballots when they receive them.
“Counting of those ballots is likely to take significantly longer this year because of the greater volume and the smaller number of workers available to process them,” Burden said.
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According to Burden, Joe Biden is “extremely likely” to become the Democratic nominee for president, meaning the turnout impact may not be as important in Wisconsin as previously thought for the Democratic primary. Burden said that the marquee contest on the ballot is the statewide Supreme Court race.
Burden noted that there are a fair number of important city and county races across the state that could be decided by a small number of voters due to a lower anticipated turnout. The full effects of the crisis on elections across the state is subject to variation, according to Burden.
“Voter turnout will be lower than initially expected and may be somewhat uneven across the state,” Burden said. “It is difficult to say how the crisis will affect the outcome.”
Due to compounding factors involved for the UW students with COVID-19 restrictions, Burden said that students will have a significantly more difficult time voting in the primary and face a unique set of challenges. Students displaced from campus may also be burdened by the restrictions to vote.
Burden said students without a valid Wisconsin ID will find it nearly impossible to vote in Wisconsin as a result of the need for a Wisconsin registration address for absentee voting. Combined with the lack of available options to obtain an ID at this time, Burden said this limits students’ ability to vote.
“For students who lack a Wisconsin driver’s license or other form of ID, it is probably impossible for them to acquire a campus ID for voting,” Burden said. “Getting an ID at an operating DMV office is probably the only option and it comes with some risk.”
Burden advised students to get a Wisconsin ID and request an absentee ballot, and for students to be certain that the ballot is sent to their current address and not their Wisconsin address if they are displaced.
According to Burden, people that are isolated due to the COVID-19 outbreak will have the hardest time voting, as they will need proof of ID and a signature from a witness in order to validate the ballot.
“Meeting these requirements by the deadline for returning absentee ballots will be challenging if not impossible for voters practicing social distancing and abiding by the Governor’s Safer at Home directive,” Burden said.
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When it comes to witnesses for the absentee voting, Verbick advised people that are self-quarantining alone to ask a neighbor to watch them sign the ballot through a window and put the ballot in their mailbox to sign or to Facetime someone while signing and mail them the ballot to sign as a witness.
Additionally, Wisconsin State Statute permits that voters “indefinitely confined because of … physical illness … for an indefinite period” may obtain a ballot without an ID. In a legal opinion from both the Dane County Counsel and the Wisconsin Elections Commission, sheltering at home per COVID-19 restrictions does meet this requirement. Though there are pending legal complaints against the admission of this format, according to Fox 11 News.