Gov. Tony Evers ripped the Legislature for its inaction on battling COVID-19 as he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a lower court ruling extending the deadline for absentee ballots.
That deadline usually is Election Day, but a federal judge extended that to Nov. 9 for ballots postmarked by Nov. 3.
In a filing yesterday, Evers first asked the court for permission to file an amicus brief as it considers whether to take four appeals of a decision placing on hold the order that extended the Nov. 3 deadline for absentee ballots. The filing also included his proposed brief, and both documents take aim at the GOP-led Legislature.
The proposed brief recounts the explosion in cases that has pushed Wisconsin to the top three in the country for the number of infections reported over a seven-day period. That includes going back to the state Supreme Court’s 4-3 ruling on May 13 that overturned the Evers’ administration’s extended stay-at-home order.
“Thereafter, the Legislature made no effort of its own to protect Wisconsin citizens from the virus’s deadly spread. And spread it did,” the proposed brief says.
The document points out the strain the growing infections have placed on state hospitals in arguing accommodations are needed for those who decide to vote absentee to avoid the possibility of being exposed to the virus at the polls.
The proposed brief portrays the executive branch as “at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 and … best positioned to synthesize the dire reality of the virus’ trajectory with the predicted consequences of an election” next month without modifications.
In contrast, it accuses the Legislature of sitting on its hands and ignoring “the dangers of in-person voting during growing COVID-19 infections” other than to hire outside counsel to challenge the lower court ruling that extended the absentee ballot deadline.
The proposed brief urges the court to restore several pieces of the order U.S. Judge William Conley issued last month. That includes allowing voters to receive replacement absentee ballots via email Oct. 22-29 and suspending the requirement that election officials be residents of the counties in which they work on Election Day. The document argues the latter change is needed to address a possible shortage of poll workers.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 last week that Conley’s order violated a U.S. Supreme Court principle against making changes to state requirements too close to an election to avoid confusing voters. The majority opinion also argued voters have had months to prepare for casting their ballots amid the ongoing pandemic.
“The extensions pertaining to absentee ballots will only encourage, not confuse, voters who wish to avoid voting in person due to the virus’ aggressive, near-exponential growth in recent weeks,” the proposed brief argues.