The United States Supreme Court and the Wisconsin State Supreme Court has stepped in to stop Democrats from changing the primary election rules at the last minute.
The Wisconsin governor signed an executive order to postpone the state’s primary election absentee ballot deadline, but was struck down by his state’s Supreme Court.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order to postpone the primary election until June, but Republicans immediately took it to court where it was stopped.
Then the United States Supreme Court overturned another lower court ruling that gave voters six more days to hand in their absentee ballots, CNN reported.
The rulings, both on ideological lines by the conservative-led courts, were victories for the Republicans who control the state Senate and Assembly and have opposed all efforts to stop in-person voting from taking place Tuesday because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Wisconsin had taken over the legal battle on the GOP-led legislature’s behalf, while the state and national Democratic parties had pushed for more lenient rules around absentee voting.
They came despite fears from state and local officials that holding an election in the middle of a pandemic could put the health of poll workers and voters at risk.
Voters will decide on Tuesday the state’s Democratic presidential primary between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as a general elections for a state Supreme Court seat and a host of local offices.
President Donald Trump has endorsed Justice Daniel Kelly, a conservative on a court where Republicans currently hold a 5-2 majority.
The court is currently deadlocked 3-3 on a voting rights case that could result in 240,000 people being removed from Wisconsin’s voter rolls ahead of November’s election. Kelly’s seat could represent the deciding vote, and Kelly has abstained from voting ahead of the spring election.
Already, municipalities were consolidating voting locations. Milwaukee is set to open just five polling places Tuesday. And Evers had prepared to dispatch the Wisconsin National Guard to man those polling places after poll workers quit.
An emergency meeting of the Wisconsin Elections Commission was set to take place Monday evening, as officials there sorted through the court rulings.
The state Supreme Court’s ruling was the culmination of days of efforts by Evers to delay the primary or shift it to by-mail voting only. He had said Monday when he signed the executive order pushing the primary back to June 9 that it was his final option to prevent in-person voting from taking place Tuesday.
The conservative Supreme Court justices argued that changing that deadline “so close to the election date,” and adding six more days for ballots to be cast “fundamentally alters the nature of the election.”
The Court said it did not want to get involved but “when a lower court intervenes and alters the election rules so close to the election date, our precedents indicate that this Court, as appropriate, should correct that error.”
The dissenting votes came from liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The liberals castigated the majority decision by getting involved “at the eleventh hour to prevent voters who have timely casted their absentee ballots from casting their votes.”
“The Court’s suggestion that the current situation is not ‘substantially different’ from ‘an ordinary election’ boggles the mind,” they said.