By Jim EllisApril 8, 2020 — Voting throughout the Badger State occurred yesterday as ordered, but the tabulation results can’t be released until April 13 under a previous court ruling. Therefore, even though the election is complete, we won’t know if former vice president Joe Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders carried the day until next Monday.
Dating back in this COVID-19-spurred election scheduling controversy, Democrats quickly began urging Gov. Tony Evers (D) to initiate action with the legislature to postpone the presidential and statewide primary as a part of the virus precautions.
Gov. Evers failed to act swiftly and did not go to the legislature until late last week when the majority Republican leadership turned down his request to postpone the April 7 vote. Democratic Party leaders then went to court in an attempt to extend the absentee ballot deadline and were successful until the Republicans asked the US Supreme Court to step in and negate the timeline ruling.
The lower court directive that included the prohibition on reporting vote totals was consistent with the ruling to extend the absentee ballot return deadline, otherwise vote totals would be made public before a large number of individuals had cast their ballots.
In the meantime, Gov. Evers declared a state of emergency and attempted to unilaterally move the election to June 9. Republicans argued that a governor has no such power even under an emergency order and petitioned to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court to strike down the Evers move.
On Monday, both the US and Wisconsin Supreme Courts ruled that the election would continue under its present schedule with original deadlines. Interestingly, however, the SCOTUS did not reverse the entire lower court ruling, and the section about directing county clerks not to report the election returns until April 13 remained intact. Thus, a quirk in the high court decision is now causing an unnecessary delay in seeing the outcome of the presidential primary and the state Supreme Court judicial election, that latter of which is actually the centerpiece of this election and at the heart of the scheduling controversy.
With an appointed state Supreme Court judge standing before the voters for the first time, both Republicans and Democrats covet this election in order to maintain and expand the current majority (Republicans) or position themselves to capture the numerical advantage in a subsequent vote (Democrats). Clearly, Democrats felt their chances were better with a longer election schedule while Republicans believe it is to their advantage to vote quickly.
In administering the election, Gov. Evers called the National Guard into service to help run various polling stations. Turnout was expected to be low considering the typical virus precautions, but the Wisconsin Board of Elections is reporting that more than 864,000 of the 1.28 million requested absentee ballots had been returned. More can still be received if they were postmarked by Election Day.
The presidential campaign is continuing on a postponed basis, and this is the first primary to be held since March 17. Alaska is next up with their all-mail primary results to be announced this Saturday. The postponed Ohio deadline to receive the mailed ballots is April 28. At this point, Guam, Kansas, Nebraska, Georgia, and Oregon will hold their presidential primaries in May.
Most political observers believe that Sen. Sanders may have a chance at a Wisconsin upset under the belief that his base supporters are more likely to vote, and thus gain a major advantage in a low turnout election. And, in just under a week’s time, we’ll learn if such a prognosis is accurate.
Even a Sanders upset, considering the unique circumstances surrounding the Wisconsin vote, will be unlikely to create enough momentum to deny Biden majority support on the first ballot at the now August-scheduled Democratic National Convention, however.