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Apr 07 2020

2020 Presidential Primaries: Wisconsin Votes In The Middle Of Covid-19 Pandemic

Defying common sense and with a total disregard for the safety of the public, the Wisconsin Republicans, who hold the power in the state’s legislature, pushed to hold the state’s primary election today in the midst of the CoVid-19 pandemic.

 

Long lines of voters, many of them wearing face masks, stretched for blocks through Milwaukee early Tuesday as Wisconsin held its primary in the middle of a pandemic.  

Republicans who have insisted on keeping the election on schedule won two legal battles Monday, as the state Supreme Court blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ bid to delay it until June and the US Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s ruling that gave voters six extra days to return their ballots by mail.

Every other state with an election scheduled for April postponed their contest or shifted it to by-mail voting only. But Monday’s court decisions mean Wisconsin — with 2,511 reported cases of coronavirus and 85 dead as of late Monday night — is pressing forward, though votes won’t be counted until at least April 13. [..]

Lines early Tuesday as voting began were long: So many poll workers quit that Milwaukee consolidated its 180 polling places down to just five locations — and in those locations, voters stretched around multiple blocks. Staffing at polling places looks different: Nearly 300 of the state’s National Guard troops will be replacing volunteers who quit.

And thousands of people requested absentee ballots ahead of last week’s deadline, but they won’t receive those ballots in time to mail them back, according to data reported by local clerks to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Those people will be forced to choose between voting in person or skipping the election. [..]

The Wisconsin Elections Commission worked with the state’s health department to develop procedures for in-person voting that includes a public health checklist for poll workers, limiting how many people can be in each location at a time and making signs to let voters know what to do if they are experiencing symptoms. Voters will also be asked to sanitize their hands at the start and end of the process.

At their polling locations, voters may see tape on the floor with six-foot line designations as well. When they step up to poll book tables, there will be six-foot markers on both sides for voters and poll workers. Voters will step up to the table when instructed, set down their ID, and step away while the poll worker examines (but doesn’t touch) the ID. The poll worker will then open the poll book for the voter to sign, step away and ask the voter to sign it with a provided pen that they can keep or discard after voting.

Wisconsin lagged behind other states and territories that had already posted the date for the vote or moved to mail in ballots exclusively. Governor Evers waited until 11 days before the election to ask the GOP-led legislature to send every voter a ballot by mail — a request Republicans immediately rejected — and until Monday to sign an executive order that would delay the election until June 9, a move the conservative-dominated state Supreme Court halted with a vote of 4 – 2.

The US Supreme Court, in a 5 4 vote along the usual ideological lines, ruled Monday  that, in order to be counted, absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than Tuesday and must arrive by April 13. The decision was issued unsigned but Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg penned a fiery dissent for the liberals, saying at one point the reasoning of her conservative colleagues “boggles” the mind.

Nearly 1.3 million people had asked for absentee ballots, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s tally, which is based on reports by local clerks. Nearly 550,000 of those ballots had not yet been returned as of Monday morning — and 11,090 people requested ballots but had not even been mailed those ballots.

Yes, this is the cluster f$%k just what the Republicans agenda to stay in power and the mainstream media continues to enable, as Amanda Marcotte wrote in her article for Salon this morning.

The Wisconsin Republican Party has been at the cutting edge of the efforts to make sure few, if any, Democratic voters ever make it to the polls again. Under the guidance of former Republican governor Scott Walker, a stalwart opponent of food having flavor, the state enacted a dizzying program of voter suppression, requiring people to have updated government-issued IDs while simultaneously making those IDs much harder to get, especially for people of color. They also suppressed the college student vote by banning most student IDs as a legitimate form of identification.

From the beginning of this war on voters, which has been spread out across the country,  it’s been understood primarily as a partisan power grab, an attempt to keep certain constituencies from voting because they tend to vote for Democrats. Even Donald Trump, always saying the quiet parts out loud, said recently that if voting by mail becomes widespread, “You’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

This partisan understanding has, unfortunately, effectively muted both press coverage of this widespread voter suppression and public outrage. Covering this story necessarily requires portraying Republicans as villains and Democrats as victims, since that’s the truth. Unfortunately, mainstream journalists, always wary of being seen as “biased,” have almost universally reacted by underplaying this story, leaving it instead to left-leaning outlets like Mother Jones. Many Americans, drunk on the myth that all politicians are corrupt and always looking for an angle, tune out Democratic complaints about voter suppression as more partisan sniping.

But what’s happening in Wisconsin this week defies the usual partisan understanding of voter suppression. Wisconsin Republicans are exploiting the coronavirus to keep everyone from voting. It’s a preview not just of the way Republicans will use this crisis to shut down voting in particular instances, but an expansion of their anti-voting views in general. It’s starting to look like the Republican war on voting isn’t just about partisan gain, but even more about a deep hostility to democracy itself, and an objection to very idea of letting the people choose their leaders.

AS to the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Senator Bernie Sanders lags behind his opponent former Vice President Joe Biden with a 313 delegate gap and losing to hm in 11 of the last 12 state contests. While Sanders has acknowledged that his chances of winning have narrowed, he has indicated that he is staying in the race. However, as NBC News’ election “wiz kid” Steve Kornack notes, his situation is worse than former secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s were in the 2008 primary in 2008 and risks his movement’s clout.

The 313-delegate gap is almost four times wider than what Clinton faced in the final weeks of the ’08 race. And given the party’s proportional delegate allocation system, it wouldn’t be nearly enough for Sanders to just start winning primaries.

He’d need to score landslides in giant, delegate-rich states. But it’s Biden who’s been doing that, winning Florida by 39 percentage points, Virginia by 30, Illinois by 23, North Carolina by 19 and Michigan by 17. Sanders, whose biggest delegate haul came from a comparatively modest 7-point victory in California, has shown no ability to compete with that.

Moreover, it’s not even clear that Sanders can win any of the remaining states by even small margins. Take Wisconsin, where he rolled to a 14-point win over Clinton in 2016. A poll has Biden crushing Sanders there, 62 percent to 34 percent. It’s the continuation of the pattern seen in just about every primary in March, with Sanders running far below his ’16 levels of support in state after state.

Compounding all of this is the changed nature of the Democratic race and of campaign politics in general.

With the coronavirus pandemic upending American life, most states that haven’t yet voted have now moved their primaries to June. And while the outbreak certainly qualifies as an extraordinary development, it’s not one that has shaken Democratic voters’ confidence in Biden in any apparent way. Polls still show him more than 20 points ahead of Sanders nationally. It’s an open question whether Democrats will have much appetite for an intraparty battle in the coming months.

And so Sanders is left in need of … well, something that would utterly reorder the thinking of Democratic voters at a very late date and amid an overwhelming disease outbreak. What could that possibly be? You can try to devise your own scenario. But suffice it to say, he’d be as hard-pressed as Clinton was in 2008 to spell it out in detail.

Also on the ballot are elections of Justice of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals Judge – Districts 1, 2 and 4, and Circuit Court Judge in several counties. There will also be a statewide constitutional referendum related to the rights of crime victims. Polls will close at 9 PM ET.