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Wisconsin Primary Election Chaos Ensues Amid Closed Polling Locations, Potential Date Shift

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On Friday, Milwaukee election officials announced the city would open only five polling locations for the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday, April 7. The city typically has 180 voting cites, but axed other locations due to mass poll worker shortages.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, up to 50,000 Milwaukee voters are expected to show up and vote. This could mean 10,000 voters at each location during a national pandemic where state governments are issuing shelter-in-place orders. These voting conditions make it difficult for voters to adequately practice social distancing measures.

A federal judge already slammed Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and other lawmakers on Wednesday for not delaying the Wisconsin primaries. U.S. District Judge William Conley said Evers’ move undermines the legitimacy of the public health crisis.

“The State of Wisconsin’s Legislature and governor are not willing to step up and say there’s a public health crisis and make it absolutely clear that we should not be allowed poll workers and voters to congregate on April 7,” Conley said.

Evers’ plans to deploy the National Guard in preparation for the primary. Regardless of the precautions, Evers and legislators are facing backlash for allowing the election to take place in-person.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a Democratic contender for the White House said people should not have to pick between voting and putting their lives on the line.

“People should not be forced to put their lives on the line to vote, which is why 15 states are now following the advice of public health experts and delaying their elections. We urge Wisconsin to join them. The state should delay Tuesday’s vote, extend early voting and work to move entirely to vote-by-mail,” Sanders said.

After backlash on the local and national stage, Evers signed an executive order calling the state legislature to meet in a special session on Saturday, April 4 to discuss changing the upcoming election.

The goal of this meeting would be to send a ballot to every registered voter in the state who has not already requested one by May 19. This would inevitably push back the primary results.

On March 26, Evers instituted Wisconsin’s shelter-in-place order which allows only “essential businesses” to operate until April 24. Based on the order, it is unclear whether an election qualifies as “essential.”





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