“The virus directs us as to what our decision-making is, not human beings, and clearly I am following the science, as I always have,” the Democratic governor told POLITICO. Evers said he heard from constituents relaying fear for their safety and their kids ’safety, as he tracked updates about the number of deaths and rate of infections in Wisconsin. “Given that, I felt that the governor is the one who has to step up and stand for those people that aren’t having their voices heard.”
Wisconsin was the last remaining state scheduled to hold in-person voting in April for presidential primaries. Every other state had either postponed its primary or shifted to an entirely vote-by-mail election.
Ever’s executive order suspends in-person voting until June 9, “unless the Legislature passes and the Governor approves a different date for inperson voting. ” Evers also called the state legislature back for a special session on Tuesday to “consider and act upon legislation to set a new in-person voting date for the Spring election. “
His executive order also re-opens the absentee ballot request period in the state, which closed on Friday.
In a statement, state House Speaker Robin Vos and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, both Republicans, indicated they would immediately challenge Evers’ order in state court.
“The clerks of this state should stand ready to proceed with the election,” Vos and Fitzgerald said in a statement. “The governor’s executive order is clearly an unconstitutional overreach.”
“The governor himself has repeatedly acknowledged he can’t move the election,” the statehouse leaders continued. “Gov. Evers can’t unilaterally run the state.”
Evers tweeted on April 1 that he couldn’t postpone the election by himself. “If I could have changed the election on my own I would have but I can’t without violating state law,” he wrote.
“Certainly circumstances have changed,” Evers said when asked about his authority to postpone the election at a Monday press conference, citing increased coronavirus cases and deaths in the state and a shrinking number of polling places open to due staffing issues amid the pandemic.
“Clearly I believe that this falls under my ability to make sure the security of the people of Wisconsin… is taken into account. And that’s why I’m doing this today, ”Evers continued.
The Wisconsin governor had faced increased pressure from within his own party to postpone the election. Some Democrats were furious with Evers for his handling of the primary. Local officials pleaded for the election to be postponed because they feared polling places could serve as hot spots for the spread of the virus, and mayors of some of Wisconsinonsin’s largest cities called for in-person voting to be stopped over the weekend.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission scheduled an emergency meeting for later Monday afternoon to discuss the governor’s executive order and the lawsuit challenging it.
In a letter to the state’s clerks , Meagan Wolfe, the administrator of the commission, said they should still be preparing for the election.
“I know too much has already been asked of you, but we ask you to proceed with your Election Day preparations as we do not know the outcome of any possible litigation and we need to be prepared if the election is held Tomorrow, “Wolfe wrote.
Evers had called the state legislature back for a special session and asked them to act to postpone the election on Friday. The GOP-controlled legislature declined to do so, gaveling in and out of sessions in a matter of minutes on Saturday and earlier on Monday.
Republican legislative leaders in Wisconsin argued that the election had to go forward, though local officials across the state have pleaded for in-person voting to be shut down.
“There’s no question that an election is just as important as getting take-out food,” Vos and Fitzgerald said in a joint statement on Friday, after Evers called for the special session. “Our Republic must continue to function, and the many local government positions on the ballot must be filled so that municipalities can swiftly respond to the crisis at hand.”