Wisconsin Will Hold the Most Illegitimate Elections in Modern History

The GOP will go to any length to win, even if it destroys the bench’s impartial reputation.

Does it seem like a bad idea to you to hold an election where people are expected to show up the polls in the midst of global pandemic that has most of the world sheltered in place? It seemed like a bad idea to the Democratic governor of Wisconsin, too, but as Ian Millhiser explains at Vox, he wasn’t able to call off or delay Tuesday’s election:

Last week, Gov. [Tony] Evers called the state legislature into session and asked it to delay the election. But the Republican-controlled legislature ended that session just seconds after it was convened. After Evers acted on his own authority to delay the election, the state’s Supreme Court voted along partisan lines to rescind Evers’s order. Republicans also rejected Evers’s proposal to automatically mail ballots to every voter in the state.

Of course, just because the Republicans insist on having this election on schedule, doesn’t mean that you can convince people to show up to vote. In fact, they can’t even convince poll workers to show up:

The April 7 election is shaping up to be a trainwreck. Most poll workers have refused to work the election, out of fear of catching the coronavirus, which forced Gov. Tony Evers (D) to call up the National Guard in order to keep polls open. But even this measure appears woefully inadequate. In Milwaukee, election officials announced that the state only has enough election workers to open five poll locations — when the city would normally have 180 polling places.

It seems inevitable that Milwaukee will have an immensely reduced turnout, which is tantamount to handing the Republicans victory in every statewide contested election on the ballot. But it gets worse.

Once the Democrats understood that the election would go forward, they went to court to try to make sure that absentee ballots could serve as an alternative, and they convinced an Obama-appointed federal judge to extend the deadline for submitting an absentee ballot from 8 pm April 7 to 4 pm on April 13. The judge reasoned that this was reasonable because the state had received 1.2 million ballot requests and was struggling to get them mailed out in time for voters to receive them.

But the Republicans appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 along completely partisan lines to rescind the lower court’s decision and uphold the 8 pm April 7 deadline for receiving an absentee ballot. Predictably, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was incensed:

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg notes in her dissent, “the presidential primaries, a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, three seats on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, over 100 other judgeships, over 500 school board seats, and several thousand other positions” are at stake in the Wisconsin election…

…Again, many voters are not expected to receive their ballots until after this April 7 deadline. As Justice Ginsburg notes, “as of Sunday morning, 12,000 ballots reportedly had not yet been mailed out…”

Now, the most egregious thing here is that the Republicans are defying their governor and putting people’s lives at risk. But it’s almost equally offensive that they’re using this crisis to guarantee themselves a slew of easy victories in what are actually competitive elections. And this is all possible because Republican-controlled legislatures and courts are willing to go to any length to help their party electorally, even if it destroys the bench’s reputation for impartiality, and even if it annihilates any respect for the outcome of elections. How can anyone argue that you can have a fair election when Milwaukee can only produce five polling locations rather than the 180 that are needed? How can they say they’re not disenfranchising people when folks have to choose between possible death if they go out in public to vote or not voting at all because they didn’t receive an absentee ballot in time to mail it in by Tuesday night’s deadline?

I’ve seen a lot of things in my time, but I’ve never seen anything on a par with this.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com