Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers attempted to single-handedly postpone the Spring Election scheduled for Tuesday by executive order, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court said the election will go on as scheduled including in-person voting.
“Today, I signed an executive order suspending in-person voting for tomorrow’s election. Frankly, there’s no good answer to this problem—I wish it were easy. I have been asking everyone to do their part to help keep our families, our neighbors, and our communities safe, and I had hoped that the Legislature would do its part—just as the rest of us are—to help keep people healthy and safe,” said Evers in his statement accompanying his order to postpone the election. “But as municipalities are consolidating polling locations, and absent legislative or court action, I cannot in good conscience stand by and do nothing. The bottom line is that I have an obligation to keep people safe, and that’s why I signed this executive order today.”
Evers attempted to postpone the election to June 9 and called upon the legislature to consider his plan to mail ballots to every registered voter. The legislature has been called into special session twice, Saturday and Monday, by the governor to consider the plan and has rejected it without debate twice.
Republican legislators quickly asked on Monday for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to act and the court ruled 4-2 that Evers’ order was unconstitutional. Four conservative Supreme Court Justices ruled against Evers: Patience (Pat) Roggensack, Brian Hagedorn, Rebecca Bradley and Annette Ziegler. Liberal Supreme Court Justices Rebecca Dallet and Ann Walsh Bradley sided with Evers. Justice Dan Kelly who is running for a full term on the court in Tuesday’s election declined to participate.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to explain its decision immediately, saying a full decision would be released later.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) praised the Supreme Court decision in a joint statement:
“We agree with the state Supreme Court’s ruling that affirms the separation of powers spelled out in our Constitution. The state’s highest court has spoken: the governor can’t unilaterally move the date of the election.
“We are proud that Wisconsinites have come together to meet the challenges that this pandemic has created. The safety and health of our citizens have always been our highest concern; that’s why we advocated for everyone to vote absentee. Wisconsin has responded in droves. Over a million ballots have been requested for tomorrow’s election. We continue to believe that citizens should be able to exercise their right to vote at the polls on Election Day, should they choose to do so.
“We want to thank the hardworking clerks around the state who have been working around the clock to ensure a safe and fair election. We also appreciate the assistance of the National Guard members who have been activated to play an important support role.
“This election will proceed as planned.”
Rick Esenberg, President of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, praised the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision.
“The Court correctly decided that the current public health emergency does not create new and unlimited powers for the governor to violate the Constitution,” Esenberg said. “It is precisely when circumstances are most uncertain that we must commit to following the Constitution.”
Ironically, Evers himself had questioned the constitutionality of issuing an executive order to postpone the election in a Twitter post on April 2.
Evers’ decision to try to issue an executive order to postpone the election is just the latest in a series of a position reversals by the governor. As late as March 29, the governor’s administration had stated in a legal brief in federal court that limited in-person voting on April 7 could be done safely. Evers publicly supported keeping the April 7 Election Day on numerous occasions until he was sharply criticized by his fellow Democrats for not doing more to postpone the election and make it a mail-in election only.