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Wisconsin Governor Halts In-Person Voting on Eve of Presidential Primary

Tony Evers speaks to a supporter at a campaign event in Beloit, Wisc., during his 2018 gubernatorial campaign. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Monday issued an executive order suspending in-person voting for the state’s primary the next day and delayed the election until June 9 in a move to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today, I signed an executive order suspending in-person voting for tomorrow’s election,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “Frankly, there’s no good answer to this problem — I wish it were easy.”

“As municipalities are consolidating polling locations, and absent legislative or court action, I cannot in good conscience stand by and do nothing. The bottom line is that I have an obligation to keep people safe, and that’s why I signed this executive order today,” Evers continued.

In addition to the Democratic presidential primary, state and local elections, including the contest for a pivotal Wisconsin Supreme Court seat, were set to be held the same day.

The directive also extends the absentee ballot period, which ended on Friday, and schedules the state legislature for a special session on Tuesday to handle the details of the election postponement. The order states that “unless the Legislature passes and the Governor approves a different date for in-person voting,” Evers will continue to delay the election.

“The virus directs us as to what our decision-making is, not human beings, and clearly I am following the science, as I always have,” Evers said.

Along with the majority of states, Evers issued a stay-at-home order to Wisconsin residents last month as his administration seeks to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

The move earned immediate pushback from Wisconsin Republicans, who called it a “unconstitutional overreach.”

“The governor himself has repeatedly acknowledged he can’t move the election. Just last week a federal judge said he did not have the power to cancel the election and Governor Evers doesn’t either,” read a joint statement from Republican state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and GOP House Speaker Robin Vos.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled Thursday that he does not have the authority to delay the state’s primary election.

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