Consider this a practical guide to where things stand for the April 7 election at this time.

Yesterday Judge William Connley made a ruling for the three lawsuits that had been filed in Wisconsin regarding the April 7 election. The lawsuits asked for different remedies for the safety and successful execution of the April 7 election. Since the governor and the legislature had both failed to take action on delaying the election due to the COVID-19 crisis, the judge left the election in place but expanded the possibilities for absentee voting in the state. This included allowing requests of absentee ballots through 5 PM today, April 3, moved the deadline for returning absentee ballots until 4 PM on April 13, and made provisions so that voters who felt they could not get their ballots witnessed safely could affirm that they could not get them witnessed and be excused from the witness requirement.

This left many unanswered questions, many of which were discussed in an emergency teleconference with the Elections Commission last night. As of this moment, several things are unresolved:

  • Counting of the ballots and the release of totals is an issue. By state law initial ballot counts need to be released on election day. But under the current situation, there will be a very large number of ballots that have not been returned by the end of election night, Releasing the election night count could affect the votes of people who have not yet returned their absentee ballots. This is complicated by the fact that there are many local elections hanging in the balance and some of those seats will be unfilled as of election night.
  • It is not clear exactly what the guidance will be for affirmation that the ballot could not be witnessed. There is also a question of whether people who have already returned an unwitnessed ballot can affirm that they could not get the ballot witnessed after the fact. The Election Commission is requesting clarification from the judge. If you are sitting on an absentee ballot and have not been able to get it witnessed you may want to wait until later today when these issues may be clearer to return the ballot.
  • There are now two appeals going into the appeals court seeking an emergency injunction against the order. One was filed by the state and national Republican Parties. Another was filed by an attorney representing Republicans in the state legislature. Although I believe it is unlikely these appeals will succeed, there is always a possibility that this morning's situation may not be tomorrow's.

To make life even more confusing, Judge Conley's ruling yesterday left open the possibility of further litigation after the election if the method of running the election is considered to have failed, or to have been unfair.

In a new development today, Judge Conley responded to the questions from the election commission and has ruled that no votes may be revealed until all ballots are returned on April 13.

In yet another development the Governor has ordered a special legislative session tomorrow to change to an all-mail election and postponing results into May.

Milwaukee officials have announced that they will only be able to staff five polling places instead of the normal 180 polling places. This would potentially mean approximately 10,000 voters at each polling place, making safe voting impossible, This is one of the issues pushing the governor and the legislature to stop all in-person voting.

Life is never dull in Wisconsin.

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Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Eye On Dunn County, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers and the Local Media Consortium, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley

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