Wisconsin governor pushes to delay primary 4 days ahead of scheduled vote

Tony Evers, then-Democratic nominee for governor of Wisconsin, speaks during a campaign rally for Democratic candidates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, with just four days until the state’s primary, called for a special legislative session on Saturday to cancel the in-person portion of voting in Tuesday’s election because of coronavirus concerns.  

Evers on Friday announced the session and said the state aims to shift to an all-mail voting system for the primary with a deadline of May 26 to get ballots in.

The governor has previously pushed for creating an all-mail system but has never floated the postponement of the state’s primary. Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have previously shot down the idea of an all-mail system.

“If, as elected officials, we’re going to expect the people of our state to make sacrifices to keep all of us safe, then, by golly, we better be willing do our part, too,” Evers said in an announcement. “So, today I announced that I am calling the legislature into a special session to do its part — just as all of us are — to help keep our neighbors, our families, and our communities safe.”  

“I worked with the legislators several weeks ago, in talking about this exact same thing,” Evers said. “They weren’t interested, I believe they will be now. We are looking forward to having a great conversation with the legislature.”

Evers also suggested that he would take other steps to keep people from voting in person at the booths if all-mail voting does not go into effect.

“If they take no action, we’ll be looking at whatever action we can take,” he said. “We will continue to find ways to make sure Wisconsinites are safe, and that’s the bottom line.”

The decision also comes as more than a dozen states and U.S. territories have adjusted their own presidential primaries, with some opting for a mail-in system to replace in-person voting and others delaying the primaries entirely. 

Already, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way both Biden and Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders get their message out to voters. Both campaigns no longer do in-person events or rallies and have been relying on digital outreach to connect with voters. 

Biden maintains a commanding lead over Sanders, having secured victories in most of the completed primaries. In March, Sanders was mulling his options, his campaign said in an email, but he has since given no indication he is ready to drop his bid.

Biden was the clear winner at the last nominating contests, which were held on March 17. 

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, other national politicians have suggested that the outbreak could alter the way Americans vote. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said that America needs to move toward a “vote by mail” system to give citizens a safe way to elect their lawmakers while the coronavirus makes it dangerous to congregate.

“In terms of the elections, I think we’ll probably be moving to vote by mail,” Pelosi said in an interview on MSNBC. “That’s why we wanted to have more resources in this third bill that just was signed by the president, to get those resources to the states to facilitate the reality of life: that we are going to have to have more vote by mail.”

The coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, has spread to dozens of countries globally, with more than a million confirmed cases worldwide and over 53,000 deaths so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There are at least 245,500 cases in the United States and at least 6,058 deaths, according to the latest tallies.

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