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Voters in masks line up to cast ballot in Wisconsin primary

The First Alert Drone captures a line of voters waiting to cast a ballot at Green Bay West High School. April 7, 2020. (WBAY Photo)
The First Alert Drone captures a line of voters waiting to cast a ballot at Green Bay West High School. April 7, 2020. (WBAY Photo)(WBAY)
Published: Apr. 6, 2020 at 12:54 PM CDT
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The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) says there have been no reports of polling places unable to open and no reports of issues as voters cast a ballot in the presidential primary.

Polls are open until 8 p.m. Tuesday. Gov. Tony Evers filed a last-minute executive order in attempt to delay the election, but decisions by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court allowed in-person voting to continue as scheduled.

The WEC tells us if a voter is in line by 8 p.m., they will get to vote no matter how long the line takes.

More than 2,000 members of the Wisconsin National Guard helped with working the polls Tuesday across the state, however the Brown County Clerk tells WBAY that the cities of Green Bay, Allouez and Hobart didn't use members of the Wisconsin National Guard to help with covering the polls.

The WEC says 132 members of the Wisconsin National Guard served at Brown County polls Tuesday.

James Fitzgerald, Chairman of the Brown County Republican Party, issued the following statement Tuesday regarding the City of Green Bay's election issues:

I reached out to Mayor Genrich on March 30, imploring him to apply all the necessary resources to run a smooth election on April 7, and heard nothing. Today, we see the results of his inaction. While other large municipalities, including Madison, had no difficulties processing the vote today, Green Bay, fell short leaving long lines and frustrated voters. Mayor Genrich's refusal to use trained National Guard's men and women exhibited a classic failure in judgement and leadership. We applaud all the resilient poll workers who persevered the integrity of the ballot box."

Voters wearing masks are lined up outside the Green Bay East High School and Green Bay West High School polling places. Rain and thunderstorms are possible, so voters may want to pack an umbrella.

for the First Alert Forecast.

Some voters at Green Bay West told Action 2 News that they waited for hours to cast a ballot.

Video from Milwaukee shows long lines outside polling places.

"The public health procedures being used will slow down some parts of the process when you have to interact with poll workers," says the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Take a tour with us outside Green Bay West High School, one of two polling places in Green Bay today

Posted by WBAY TV-2 on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, also released a statement Tuesday regarding Wisconsin's primary election:

“This was a dark day for our democracy. In the middle of one of the worst public health emergencies in modern history, the Republican Party forced the people of Wisconsin to choose between their safety and their vote. The craven self-interest of the GOP knows no bounds. They suppressed people’s voices and put lives in danger – all in service of their own partisan ambition. Democrats are showing true leadership during this crisis by advocating for the health and safety of the American people and the integrity of our democracy. And come Election Day in November, voters will remember which party had their back.”
VOTER INFORMATION

1. People voting in-person absentee have until 8 p.m. April 7 to return their ballot to a polling place or clerk's office.

2. Voters who are mailing an absentee ballot must have it postmarked by April 7 and no later. The ballot must be received by a clerk by 4 p.m. on April 13.

3. Voters who requested a ballot and did not receive on by April 7 can vote in person.

Not sure where to turn in your ballot? Visit

to find your polling place.

Voters will not find out the results of the election Tuesday night. Vote totals will be released on April 13, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

"The U.S. Supreme Court decision also did not alter the provision in [District Court] Judge [William] Conley’s amended order which prohibits the reporting of results until April 13. In order to ensure consistent compliance with that order, the number of ballots will be counted on Election Night but votes will not be counted until April 13," reads a statement from the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

to follow election updates from the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Monday that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers could not postpone the state’s presidential primary, striking down his order to move the election to June 9 over coronavirus outbreak fears.

The court's conservative majority ruled 4-2 that Evers lacked the authority to move the election on his own. Evers had previously admitted that he did not have the authority to postpone the election.

"Although I remain deeply concerned about the public health implications of voting in-person today, I am overwhelmed by the bravery, resilience, and heroism of those who are defending our democracy by showing up to vote, working the polls, and reporting on this election," Gov. Evers tweeted Tuesday. "Thank you for giving our state something to be proud of today. Please stay as safe as possible, Wisconsin."

Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) released the following statement shortly after the court's decision was announced Monday:

“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.”

Several groups had filed lawsuits to delay the election. A federal judge last week refused to postpone the election, but did rule that absentee ballots could be counted through April 13. State Republicans asked the United States Supreme Court to intervene and stop the count extension.

Monday night, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Republicans and blocked the plan to extend absentee voting until April 13.

The U.S. Supreme Court split 5-4, with the five Republican-appointed justices siding with the national and state party to overturn a lower court ruling that expanded absentee voting.

The WEC raised concerns last week as some locations faced a critical shortage of volunteers willing to work at the polls due to the public health crisis. The WEC said 111 of the state's 1850 jurisdictions reported a "critical" status--meaning they didn't believe they could staff even one polling place.

More than 2,400 Wisconsin National Guard members have been activated to serve as poll workers as needed. The troops gathered Monday for training and received their assignments. They've also been making sure the polls are stocked with hand sanitizer, wipes and spray bottles.

“While potentially serving as poll workers in this election is a new role for the Wisconsin National Guard, serving our state and civil authorities during times of need is one of our core missions,” Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, said. “I’m incredibly proud of the Citizen Soldiers and Airmen of the Wisconsin National Guard for the versatility and adaptability they’ve demonstrated in getting ready to support this request for assistance. Bringing more than 2,400 troops online in a matter of a day is no small task, but our entire team has answered the call and will be ready to serve our state during the election, if needed.”

The WEC is urging patience at the polls.

"Please appreciate the poll workers who will be doing their best under very difficult circumstances," says Dean Knudson, Chair, Wisconsin Elections Commission. "Let's pull together let's pull together, let's ensure we minimize the health risks in polling places, while protecting the integrity of our elections."

NATIONAL IMPLICATIONS

The Wisconsin election is being viewed as a national test case in a broader fight over voter access in the age of the coronavirus with major implications for the presidential primary contests ahead and, possibly, the November general election.

In dissent, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for her liberal colleagues that the lower court acted amid the virus outbreak “to safeguard the availability of absentee voting in Wisconsin’s spring election. This Court now intervenes at the eleventh hour to prevent voters who have timely requested absentee ballots from casting their votes.”

Ginsburg said the coronavirus outbreak had caused a surge in absentee ballot requests and thousands of voters who requested them will not have received their ballots by Tuesday. “The Court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement,” she wrote.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says his staff will not take part in get out the vote efforts in Wisconsin due to the virus.

“It's outrageous that the Republican legislative leaders and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court in Wisconsin are willing to risk the health and safety of many thousands of Wisconsin voters tomorrow for their own political gain," said Sanders. "Let's be clear: holding this election amid the coronavirus outbreak is dangerous, disregards the guidance of public health experts, and may very well prove deadly. For that reason, our campaign will not be engaged in any traditional GOTV efforts.”

The other high profile ticket on the race is for Wisconsin Supreme Court. Justice Daniel Kelly is being challenged by Judge Jill Karofsky.

Kelly has the support of President Donald Trump, who has used his Twitter to urge people to give Kelly 10 more years on the bench.

Monday evening, Evers issued a statement regarding the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision regarding the suspension of in-person voting for the April 7 election, saying:

“There are few things we hold more sacred and that are more American than the right to vote. People have bled, fought, and died for the right to vote in this country. But tomorrow in Wisconsin, thousands will wake up and have to choose between exercising their right to vote and staying healthy and safe. In this time of historic crisis, it is a shame that two branches of government in this state chose to pass the buck instead of taking responsibility for the health and safety of the people we were elected to serve.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Speaker Robin Vos also issued a joint statement following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Monday evening:

“This prudent action by the United States Supreme Court addresses our concerns over ballot security in tomorrow’s election. We look forward to the voting tomorrow being secure – and look forward to seeing the results come in with the rest of Wisconsin by April 13th.”
LOCAL POLLING PLACES

Due to the multiple election updates, the Sandra Juno, County Clerk for Brown County, announced a specific web page with information to help everyone with Tuesday's spring election.

The site will list typical and revised polling locations for the election, and voters are asked to use the web site to confirm your polling location.

to visit the site.

In addition, county officials say resources for contacting the County Clerk's Office, municipal clerks' offices, and the Wisconsin Elections Commission are listed for everyone to use who may have questions, issues and comments.

A special election phone number has been secured to help voters reach staff, which will

only

be active on April 6 and 7. That number is 414-395-1650.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson issued a statement following the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision to reverse Evers' order on postponing the election:

“While I disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling, I respect its decision. As such, the polls will be open in Outagamie County tomorrow.”

Check back for new details in this developing story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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ORIGINAL POST: Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has suspended in-person voting just hours before residents were expected to go to the polls and vote in the April 7 presidential primary.

The move is in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says gatherings of people for voting could increase the spread of COVID-19.

Wisconsin Republicans challenged the governor's order in the state's high court, calling it unconstitutional, however a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice said the election should proceed as the court weighed a legal challenge from Republicans who want to block Democratic Gov. Tony Evers from postponing the election.

A document issued by the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday regarding the challenge stated Evers was ordered to electronically file a response to a petition, created by the Wisconsin Legislature, by 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

to read the governor's executive order.

The governor's order delays in-person voting until June 9. The governor has directed the State Legislature to meet in a special session Tuesday to address the date. If they choose not to change the new date, voting will go forward on June 9.

“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 Gov. Evers. “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.”

The governor's administration says absentee ballots cast early will remain valid and be counted with the June 9 in-person totals.

State Republican leaders say they are challenging the governor's order in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

“The clerks of this state should stand ready to proceed with the election," reads a statement from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. "The governor’s executive order is clearly an unconstitutional overreach."

The statement continues, “This is another last minute flip-flop from the governor on the April 7th election. The governor himself has repeatedly acknowledged he can’t move the election. Just last week a federal judge said he did not have the power to cancel the election and Governor Evers doesn’t either. Governor Evers can’t unilaterally run the state.”

Late Monday afternoon, the Wisconsin National Guard announced more than 2,400 Citizen Soldier and Airmen have been mobilized to state active duty to serve as poll workers in the state's election, if needed.

The members were mobilized to support the WEC and county clerks across the state, and gathered Monday to complete any necessary training before receiving assignments from their county or municipal clerks, and also started helping with polling place setup.

Guard members will serve in the county where they live, and will wear civilian clothes and serve in the roles of traditional poll workers, if needed.

Officials say Guard members live in all 72 counties.

In addition to the presidential primary, the ballot includes a high-profile race for Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission sent this letter to clerks Monday:

In March, Evers issued an executive "Safer at Home" order restricting public gatherings in Wisconsin and non-essential business and travel. The state has more than 2,200 coronavirus cases.

The Wisconsin Election Commission raised concerns last week as some locations faced a critical shortage of volunteers willing to work at the polls due to the public health crisis.

The WEC says 111 of the state's 1850 jurisdictions reported a "critical" status--meaning they cannot staff even one polling place.

Evers had planned to staff some polls with members of the Wisconsin National Guard.

Some polling places consolidated locations.

More than one million Wisconsin voters requested absentee ballots to vote early.

On April 1, Evers stated that he could not change the election "without violating state law."

Several groups filed lawsuits to delay the election. A federal judge last week refused to postpone the election, but did rule that absentee ballots could be counted through April 13. State Republicans asked the United States Supreme Court to intervene and stop the count extension.

Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich applauded the governor's order. The city had filed a lawsuit in attempt to stop in-person voting. That suit was dismissed.

In a Tweet, Genrich said, "The right decision is not always the easy one. Thank you, @GovEvers, for taking appropriate and lawful action to protect the rights and health of our citizenry."

On March 16th, 20th, 23rd and 30th Governor Evers reiterated the need for an election to be held on April 7th and that he was not able to change an election on his own. He also stated that he would never 'wait until the night before the election to make an historic decision like that' when asked about cancelling or moving election dates. Only following a scathing critique on the front page of Politico did Governor Evers decide that in-person voting should be suspended and absentee ballots postponed, clearly ignoring the legal barriers to filling critical local seats in doing so. Now the Governor has decided to unlawfully suspend an election and deny Wisconsin residents their right to vote and further acknowledged today that 'there is no guarantee on how the virus reacts so we might be back on this position on June 9th.' The Governor has declared going to Target, Home Depot, Kwik Trip or Menards is fine, but going to your polling place is life or death? It's ok to go grab a bite to eat from your favorite bar or restaurant, or have takeout dropped off at our door, but the idea of voting, no matter what our talented clerks do to keep people safe is too dangerous to even consider? These are hard times, there is no questioning that, and a lot is being asked of everyone. From our healthcare workers, police and fire departments to staff at grocery stores, people are going above and beyond. However, these are the times when an election must not be moved. I unlike the Governor, believe that voting is the cornerstone of our republic and I continue to value this singular institution which sets us apart from other nations. Our resiliency in the face of adversity is what has allowed the great American experiment to endure for so long. the Governor's authoritarian move has left Wisconsin in chaos as our local clerks struggle to continue their election preparation and voters continue to wonder what information can be trusted coming out of the Evers administration.

The ACLU of Wisconsin also issued a statement on postponement of In-Person voting, saying the following:

“Delaying in-person voting is the only responsible course of action given the urgent need to protect public health and combat the spread of COVID-19. The ACLU and several allied groups on March 18 called for a variety of measures to safeguard voters’ health, as well as to safeguard their right to vote. Since many of these measures have not been put into place, and since the number of polling places has been curtailed so drastically, postponing in-person voting is the safest and best course of action. However, as this is a very fluid situation that will likely be resolved in the courts, we encourage those voting absentee to make every effort to return their absentee ballots by tomorrow to guarantee their vote is counted. We also ask those planning to vote in-person to check media reports on Tuesday, to confirm whether or not the Governor’s order to postpone still stands. This of course is not Wisconsin’s only election this year. The level of chaos and confusion around this election is unacceptable and underscores the need for election officials to immediately develop an emergency response plan that safeguards the voting rights – and health – of all voters in Wisconsin. Any such plan must preserve the opportunity to in-person vote for those who need it, as well as expand access to vote by mail. As this crisis continues, our election officials need to get this right – and we’ll be watching to make sure they do.”

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