Wisconsin primary causes controversy

Abigail McArthur-Self, Editor-in-Chief

On April 7, Wisconsin held their primary election in-person. Due to concerns about the risk of COVID-19 spread, this decision was controversial. 

Many were concerned that voting in-person could further risk the spread of the virus and be dangerous to both voters and election officials. The governor, Tony Evers, called a special session for legislators to consider moving the election or offering alternatives like Mail-In voting. The legislature adjourned without making any changes. 

Evers then attempted to delay in-person voting by executive order, but Republicans in the state protested, and the US Supreme Court voted in favour of the Republicans 5-4. Some view this as a partisan decision, while others cite the control state legislatures have traditionally had over their elections as the reason. 

Hundreds of polling places were forced to close because staff refused to come in. Those that were able to remain open had hours-long waits as they tried to process voters whose normal polling places weren’t open. About 400,000 voters turned out in-person for the election, according to Politico. The severity of the issue varied by region, with one of the worst affected cities being Milwaukee. Milwaukee, which normally has 180 polling locations, was only able to operate 5. Over 18,000 voters still cast in-person ballots in the city, sometimes waiting for over two hours to do so. 

Critics of the decision argue that the Republican stance against Mail-In voting is more about partisan politics than any risk of election fraud. President Donald Trump has stated one occasion that he believes Mail-In voting would make it more difficult for the Republican Party to win. Some critics also believe that Republicans were hoping the lower voter turnout during this pandemic would work in their favour and point out that low-income areas experienced more polling place closures than other areas. 

Both parties seem to be viewing this as a potential trial for the general election in November. As it remains uncertain what conditions will be at that time, elected officials, politicians and voters are trying to figure out the best course of action. If current pandemic conditions do continue, each state will be responsible for determining what is best within its borders. The possibility of unprecedented changes mean the 2020 election could be uncertain and confusing for voters.