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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Wisconsin spring primary raises concerns, legal questions among local, state officials

If election is close, voters will question election legitimacy in court, UW political science expert says
Molly DeVore

With yesterday’s election results pending, state and local officials weighed in on the controversial election proceedings and its potential aftermath in the days to come.

While Wisconsin’s spring election results will not be available until next Monday, according to Vote Wisconsin, many legal hurdles and political battles remain ahead of the state. According to The Wisconsin State Journal, elections clerks are not allowed to disclose voting results, as absentee ballots postmarked on or by April 7 will be received and counted until Monday in accordance with federal court rulings.

In the most recent update from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the WEC received just over 1 million absentee ballots, when they issued over 1,275,000.


Dane County had 142,265 returned after issuing 178,498.

Wisconsin holds primary election as scheduled, amid public concerns over COVID-19

According to a statement released by Gov. Tony Evers, while he was “deeply concerned” about the public health implications of voting in person brought on by the inaction of the state legislature and various judicial decisions, Evers applauded individuals who made an effort to get to the polls in spite of the prevailing circumstances.

“I am overwhelmed by the bravery, resilience and heroism of those who are defending our democracy by showing up to vote, working the polls and reporting on this election,” Evers said. “Thank you for giving our state something to be proud of today.”

Local government officials worked to ensure voting across the state went on as scheduled, and many of the state’s largest cities and counties operated with significantly less polling places and workers than usual. Madison carried out the election with 66 polling places, down from 92, and Milwaukee operated with just five polling places open, down from 180, according to reporting from The Cap Times.

In a statement emailed to The Badger Herald from Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, city clerk staff predicted around 22,000 absentee ballots were not returned as of yesterday morning. Rhodes-Conway said while the final numbers are not in, the city clerks reported low voter turnout, which may not be made up in missing absentee ballots.

Gov. Evers signs executive order suspending in-person voting

“Photos and videos show long lines of people and large gatherings at polling locations around the state,” Rhodes-Conway said. “Vulnerable and fearful voters, who tried to vote absentee and were given a grace period to get in the ballots by a federal court judge last week, were forced to change plans and rush to the polls because their absentee ballots didn’t arrive on time this week.”

Rhodes-Conway said the election proceeded against “all public health guidance and common sense,” making Wisconsin the only state in the nation to go forward with an in-person election yesterday. Rhodes-Conway said holding the election was a “travesty” and mounting problems with absentee and in-person voting are likely to come in the upcoming days.

Given the circumstances under which the election took place, there is a high probability many legal challenges will ensue following the results, University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor and Election Research Center director Barry Burden told the State Journal. Burden said voter complaints about voting barriers will likely fuel the fire and result in legal action, questioning the legitimacy of the election’s results.

Madison officials work through primary voting uncertainties amidst COVID-19 outbreak

“In every election there’s a stray story of a voter who got stuck in a long line or had difficulty getting their ballot, but those stories are pretty widespread in this election, and especially in some communities like Milwaukee,” Burden said. “That will certainly lower people’s confidence that the election was run properly and that all voters were treated equally and fairly.”

With Bernie Sanders suspending his campaign this morning, multiple news outlets, including National Public Radio, report  Joe Biden will likely claim the Democratic nomination despite the pending results of the Wisconsin primary.

Though, for the state Supreme Court election, Burden said the results may be close, which might erode trust in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election results.

“If there is a narrow outcome in this April election and there are obvious flaws in the election as everyone can see, it just becomes so easy to say the winner is not legitimate,” Burden said. “That temptation is always there, but it will be stronger and easier to allege if the election’s close.”

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