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Evers Calls Legislature To Cancel In-Person Voting Tuesday, Move To Mail-In Election In May


Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is calling lawmakers into a rushed special session on Saturday, asking them to stop in-person voting for Tuesday’s election and send an absentee ballot to every registered voter in the state.

It would also allow an additional month and a half for voters to submit ballots and clerks to count votes.

It’s the latest move to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in the state.

“One of those glitches along the way has been the upcoming election.  Folks, there’s no real good answer to this.  It’s not an easy situation.  Frankly, no one wishes this was easy as much as I do," Evers said Friday.

The state faces a dire lack of poll workers for Tuesday’s election.  Evers told reporters Friday he was also concerned about risks from crowds of people, and transmission of disease, if Tuesday’s election goes forward as planned.

Evers’ plan would have clerks send ballots to all registered voters who have not already requested one by May 19.  Voters would have until May 26 to return them.

"Municipal leaders from Green Bay to Milwaukee to Waukesha significantly condensed the number of polling locations available, creating a dangerous situation where voters, staff, and volunteers will not be able to avoid large groups or practice social distancing when they go out to vote.  This is a significant concern and a very unnecessary public health risk," Evers said.

Republican leaders in the state legislature may not approve Evers’ plan.  They’ve said they think in-person voting is safe.

If Evers plan is not approved and voting does move forward on Tuesday, we won’t learn the results until almost a week after in-person voting is held. 

U.S. District Judge William Conley on Friday ordered clerks not to release election results until April 13.  That’s the last day they’re able to receive absentee ballots under a court decision made Thursday.

Clerks generally report unofficial results on election nights, and the winners of most races are known within a few hours.

But more than one million Wisconsinites, attempting to avoid polling places, have requested absentee ballots for next week’s election.

On Thursday, Conley allowed absentee ballots to be received and counted until April 13, six days after election day.  Usually, absentee ballots need to be received by election day.

Then, on Friday, Conley ordered clerks not to report results until April 13.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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