US state of Wisconsin holds 2020 election amidst COVID-19 concerns

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Today, the state of Wisconsin held elections following a court battle over attempts to delay or extend the voting. The elections came amidst concerns regarding the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease.

Wisconsin's elections included the Democratic and Republican Party's primary elections, and the general election for the race to fill a seat on the state's Supreme Court, among others. The Democratic and Republican Parties use primary elections, along with caucuses, to select their nominees for the 2020 United States presidential election. According to reports, all other US states with elections scheduled to occur in April either delayed their election or switched to entirely mail-in voting.

For a candidate to win the Democratic Party's nomination, a total of at least 1,991 delegates are needed. The Democratic Party awards delegates proportionally to how candidates fare; candidates must receive at least 15% of the vote to be eligible to earn delegates from a state, territory, or district within a state or territory. The Wisconsin primary represents 84 delegates. According to NPR, former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden has amassed 1,217 pledged delegates so far, while United States Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders has earned 914.

Yesterday, Tony Evers, the governor of Wisconsin, signed an executive order delaying the election until June, citing the health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The move came after William Conley, a United States District judge, ordered last week that absentee ballots be accepted until April 13, and votes not be counted until then.

The decision was challenged in court, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Evers lacked authority to single-handedly reschedule Wisconsin's election. The United States Supreme Court later ruled against Conley's extension of absentee voting as well. Part of the court order that was not overturned declared that ballots would not be counted until 4 p.m. on April 13.

A number of poll workers quit ahead of Wisconsin's election, leading to the state using the National Guard to man polling booths. The city of Milwaukee reduced the number of polling stations from 180 to 5, leading to lines multiple blocks long outside of the polling stations.

Before the deadline last week, over a million people requested absentee ballots to vote by mail. According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, as of yesterday morning, over 500,000 ballots were not yet returned, and over 11,000 were not yet sent out.