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Woman walking out of voting location wearing a medical mask

Mayors in Wisconsin Call on Top Health Official to Cancel Tuesday's Elections

Gettyimages | EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI
By Robin Zabiegalski

Last week, a federal judge ruled that Wisconsin's elections could proceed as scheduled on Tuesday. State officials have faced a lot of criticism for refusing to cancel the elections in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Though the state has extended deadlines for absentee voting so residents can vote by mail, many are saying this isn't good enough and the election should be shut down in the interest of public health. Mayors throughout the state are now calling on the highest public health official in the state demanding that she shut down the election.

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Several Attempts to Postpone the Elections Have Been Made

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers
Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Governor_Evers_Official_Portrait.jpg

When calls to cancel the election first began, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers made it clear that it was up to the legislature to call off the election. Lawsuits were brought against the state to try and stop the election, but a federal judge ruled that the election could proceed.

On Saturday, Governor Evers called a special session of the state legislature to vote on a bill to make the election 100% mail-in. But state Republicans weren't on board, saying the election should proceed as planned.

Will Changes to Mail-in Voting Change?

Absentee Ballot
Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Absentee_Ballot_DVIDS122125.jpg

Last week, a state judge in Wisconsin ruled to expand absentee voting in the state. The judge's ruling extended the deadline for applying for an absentee ballot and extended the deadline for returning absentee ballots. This would allow more Wisconsin residents to vote by mail.

However, state Republicans asked for a stay on that ruling, because they want to be sure that it's clear when ballots must be returned by. Democrats argued that some people wouldn't even receive their ballots by the deadline. The case has gone to the Supreme Court. If it's not resolved by Tuesday, it may impact people's ability to vote by mail.

An Appeal to the Department of Human Services

Man wearing gloves cleaning voting booths
Gettyimages | Joe Raedle

On Sunday, mayors from all over the state of Wisconsin, including some of its most populous areas, sent a letter to the Department of Human Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm asking her to stop the elections.

The letter stated, “We implore you to implement all emergency measures necessary to control the spread of COVID-19, a communicable disease. Specifically, we need you to step up and stop the State of Wisconsin from putting hundreds of thousands of citizens at risk by requiring them to vote at the polls while this ugly pandemic spreads.”

How Could the Department of Human Services Stop the Elections

Person wearing a medical mask
Unsplash | Tai's Captures

Wisconsin's mayors are hoping that their state's top health official will be able to effectively shut down the election even if it's not officially postponed. Department of Human Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm could take a similar approach to the one taken to shut down the primaries in Ohio - shutting down the polling places.

Palm could make the decision to close all the buildings where voting takes place in the interest of public health. Though this wouldn't result in the postponement of the elections, it would shut down the ability to vote in person, which is what people are concerned about.

The state only has one more day to figure out how they're going to handle this election before people are expected to head to the polls. But as Ohio proved, an election can be shut down as quickly as the morning of.

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