Open Letter To Wisconsin Officials To Reschedule April 7 Primary And Expand Mail-In Voting

***UPDATE: Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers issued an executive order that shut down in-person voting scheduled for April 7 and moved the date for in-person voting to June 9. Wisconsin Republicans are fighting Evers’ move in the state courts.

Medical professionals, public health officials, scientists, advocates, elected representatives, and others are encouraged to add their name to this letter here.

To DNC Chair Tom Perez and Members of the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Governor Tony Evers, the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Wisconsin Health Department, and other Wisconsin state officials:

More than half of the counties in the state of Wisconsin have reported cases of the coronavirus, and yet, state officials currently are pressing onward with in-person voting during a primary that was scheduled for April 7 before the global pandemic.

Although Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, has pushed for an extension for mail-in voting, Republicans, who control the legislature, have thwarted Evers’ efforts. They refuse to join 13 other states, which have rescheduled primaries.

Republican obstruction makes it certain that a significant amount of the population will be disenfranchised, but this may be part of their plan. In December, a Wisconsin judge purged the voter roll of 234,000 voters in a move that was described as a “victory for conservatives that could make it more difficult for people to vote” in a “key swing state.”

Souls to the Polls (STTP), Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC), Voces de la Frontera, the League of Women Voters Wisconsin, and the American Federation of Teachers, Local 212, AFL-CIO, sued the Wisconsin Election Commission to force the postponement of the primary.

The groups organize to increase participation in elections among low-income black and Hispanic voters.

“If the elections are not postponed, many voters will not vote because they are either unfamiliar or unwilling to go to the polls on election day and risk COVID-19 infection,” according to the lawsuit. “The cancellation of same day registration,” which typically accounts for 20 percent of total turnout in primary election, will “cause a turnout reduction that disproportionately impacts African American and Hispanic residents.”

Five states previously scheduled to vote on April 28 — Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island — moved their primary to June 2. And, on March 28, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that moved the state’s presidential primary to June 23.

Given Evers’ order that shut down non-essential businesses from March 25 until April 24, the Wisconsin Health Department should designate polling locations as health emergency risks. It would be impossible to hold in-person voting without 10+ person gatherings occurring in defiance of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Wisconsin legislature and/or the state’s judicial system would have to develop an alternative plan for the primary that ensured the maximum amount of voter participation. Officials could also invoke broad emergency authorities and temporarily extend the terms for certain officials so those officials may continue to help Wisconsin respond to the pandemic until voting took place.

A day before their scheduled primary, the state of Ohio took similar steps, and it is widely acknowledged that this protected voters’ health and safety and minimized voter disenfranchisement that would have occurred.

Risks to voters and poll workers are very real. Florida ignored concerns from medical professionals and held their primary on March 17. On March 26, local news outlets in South Florida reported that two poll workers in one of the state’s most populous counties tested positive for coronavirus.

As people obey stay-at-home orders and avoid public places and crowds, Wisconsin can expect turnout to be depressed. Rescheduling the primaries would ensure that every resident is allowed to exercise their right to vote without fear.

Medical professionals, public health officials, scientists, advocates, elected representatives, and others are encouraged to add their name to this letter here.

No one should have to choose between staying at home to protect their health and going to the polls to fulfill a constitutional obligation. Plus, when the pandemic is still intensifying in Wisconsin, it postponement helps doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and medical professionals by ensuring the spread of the virus remains curtailed.

For the health of our fellow citizens and our democracy, please act now to postpone the upcoming April 7 primary to June 2 and extend mail-in voting to accommodate all registered voters, as well as residents who have yet to register to vote.




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