The Slatest

Scenes of Wisconsin Voters Going to the Polls Amid a Pandemic Are Profoundly Worrying

People in masks line up outside.
People line up to vote at Riverside High School in Milwaukee on Tuesday. USA Today Network/Reuters

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Voters in Wisconsin started going to the polls Tuesday morning. Yes, you read that right. In the midst of a global pandemic, one with a growing death toll in the U.S., the state is going ahead with in-person voting. Wisconsin is currently under a two-week-old stay-at-home order from Gov. Tony Evers, who, on Monday, issued a last-minute executive order seeking to postpone the vote until June, a time when there would at least be some chance it could be held safely and, therefore, fairly. The state’s Republican-held Supreme Court, however, was having none of it and quickly overruled the state’s Democratic governor. The postponement order was ruled to be a breach of the state’s constitution, which gives the state Legislature the power to change the date of an election. The Republican-controlled Legislature, however, refused to even consider a change during an emergency session called by the governor over the weekend. GOP lawmakers also refused to make it easier to vote by mail to allow people to avoid showing up at the polls.

So here we are. While the presidential primaries are being held on Tuesday, the real issue was the fate of thousands of local races for offices ranging from county supervisors to school district board members and state judges, whose terms are set to change over this month. Evers’ order would have kept current officeholders on the job until the new postponed election could be held. The underlying logic of the state’s Republican Party refusal to budge is that lower turnout will be good for its electoral chances, particularly the state Supreme Court seat that’s up for grabs.

Every other state with a contest scheduled for April either postponed or shifted to a mail-in vote. Voters in the state of Wisconsin, however, now must choose between voting and their health. The scenes are already absurd and worrying, as expected.