Wisconsin Election Chaos Forces Voters To Wait In Line For Hours Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Conservative justices on the Wisconsin and U.S. Supreme Courts ruled that in-person elections in the state must continue without delay.

There were reports of long voter lines and large gatherings of people in Wisconsin Tuesday after Republicans constituting majorities in the state and U.S. Supreme Courts overruled efforts to postpone or alter the state’s election amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans in Wisconsin successfully appealed to conservative majorities on both courts, suppressing efforts by civil rights groups and some Democrats in the state to mail each voter a ballot or postpone the vote to a later date. Wisconsin is holding its state Supreme Court election on Tuesday, and Republicans are hoping to keep Justice Dan Kelly, a conservative backed by President Donald Trump, in his seat.

On Friday, the Milwaukee Election Commission, which oversees elections for the largest county in the state, announced Milwaukee was consolidating its polling stations from the usual 180 polling stations to merely five that were open on Tuesday, effectively guaranteeing long lines and massive groups of people.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) issued a stay-at-home order for the state on March 24. He announced Monday that primary and local elections would be postponed until June to prevent spreading the deadly virus. But later that day, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the votes back on.

Also on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled a lower court’s decision to allow Wisconsin to extend the deadline for absentee voting an extra six days, until April 13, to encourage voting by mail. Voting by mail would comply with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which has urged Americans not to gather in large groups during the pandemic. 

Notably, the Supreme Court decision to disallow an extension for absentee voting was issued remotely, as justices are no longer gathering for in-person arguments due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus. 

On Wednesday, Ben Wikler, the chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said in a tweet that the Supreme Court “legislated from the bench,” and added the court’s ruling will “disenfranchise untold thousands of Wisconsin voters and consign an unknown number of Wisconsinites to their deaths.”

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