Photo by Saiyna Bashir, The Capital Times

State and national Dems said their federal lawsuit seeking to make it easier to vote absentee in the spring election was an effort to prevent the disenfranchisement of voters due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the state GOP accused Dems of trying to use the health crisis to “rig” the election.

The suit, filed Wednesday in the Western District of Wisconsin, seeks to change several requirements in place for the spring election. Included is a request to suspend the photo ID requirements for voting absentee and another requiring voters to provide proof of residency documents with their registration requests.

It asks that both requirements be enjoined until the COVID-19 crisis is over.

The suit comes as the Elections Commission reported a spike in absentee ballot requests with 234,841 requests so far with just under three weeks to the election. By comparison, 249,503 absentee ballots were issued in the 2016 spring election that featured contested presidential primaries for both parties.

“Nobody should have to choose between exposure to COVID-19 and disenfranchisement,” said state Chair Ben Wikler. “The court should immediately strike down the barriers to full participation in voting by mail. Our democracy depends on our ability to conduct free, safe, and fair elections, no matter what — even during a pandemic.”

State GOP Executive Director Mark Jefferson slammed the suit.

“Democrats are trying to hijack a national health crisis to rig an election in their favor,” Jefferson said. “If they cared about accessibility at the polls, they’d join us in urging clerks across Wisconsin to allow early-voting immediately, not just those in their communities of support. Instead, they insist on suspending common-sense rules in an effort to further rig the election.”

The suit seeks two other changes:

*Push back the deadline, from today to April 3, to register electronically or by mail for the April election. Otherwise, voters have to register in person at a clerk’s office or the polls on Election Day.

*Extend the deadline for an absentee ballot to be received in order for it to be counted. Currently, absentee ballots have to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. The suit is asking that they instead be postmarked by Election Day and received by municipal clerks within 10 days of the April 7 election.

Some have called for the state’s spring election to be pushed back, which would require an act of the Legislature and guv. But Gov. Tony Evers has rebuffed those calls, saying it would leave local offices unoccupied during a public health crisis.

“Ensuring the health and safety of Wisconsinites is our top priority, but the governor has also said that our democracy must continue,” Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said in response to the suit. “He has been urging folks to vote by absentee ballot and believes that process should be as simple and accessible as possible.”

Read the suit:

Read the release:

See more on absentee ballot requests:

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