The status of the April 7 election continues to change. Late yesterday the 7th District Court of Appeals responded to the emergency appeal posed by the state, and national Republican Parties, as well as the appeal from Republicans in the state legislature. The court refused to stay the order from Judge William Conley to change the cutoff date for the return of absentee ballots in the state, which was the main point of conjecture in the appeals. He also rejected the request to stay the one-day extension to request an absentee ballot (that extension had already expired by the time the court responded). 

However, the court did rule that Conley had not given enough weight to the possibility of voter fraud and that the state had given advice to voters on the difficult issue of obtaining a witness to the absentee ballot before sending it in. Therefore, he did stay the change that allowed voters to not obtain a witness signature and to send an affirmation that the voter could not safely obtain a signature during the current crisis. 

Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald and Speaker Robin Vos released a statement in support of the Appeals Court decision, stating

“We’re pleased to see the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals uphold the rule of law by requiring witness signatures on absentee ballots to prevent fraud, and we accept that clerks need more time to count ballots. We still have grave concerns about election security by allowing votes to be postmarked or submitted after Election Day, and plan to appeal that issue to the United States Supreme Court.”

As the appeal heads to the Supreme Court, the state of the election is still in doubt for various reasons. The one certainty is that voters are ill-advised to send in their absentee ballots without a witness signature as that will almost certainly result in the ballot being rejected. It is not clear what may happen with ballots that were returned without a signature in the time frame between the two rulings, or for voters who did not hear the change in legal opinion. 

All of these rulings ignore what is the primary concern of many at this time, which is the inherent danger of holding in-person voting next Tuesday. Some areas are very short of poll workers and polling places are being consolidated into very small numbers of polling places, particularly in Milwaukee where there will almost certainly be fewer than a dozen polling places where there are usually 180. This will force very large numbers of voters into a small number of polling places, where they will be standing in line for dangerous periods of time. Adding to the confusion of where the polling places will be are some anecdotal reports that the polling places on sometime have incorrect addresses as the polling places keep getting consolidated and moved. This will almost certainly add to the possibility of voters not being able to find their proper polling places. 

In a press conference on Friday the governor implied that if the Legislature refused to change the election into a mail-in-only election as he requested, he would look at what actions could be taken without the support of the legislature. This adds yet another wild card to the voting situation 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 Wis.Community, 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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