MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin elections officials planned to hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss how to pull off the state’s spring election next month despite the increasingly strict social distancing orders that have been issued because of the coronavirus crisis.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission planned to meet by teleconference late Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t immediately clear what would be discussed. Commission spokesman Reid Magney didn’t immediately respond to an email inquiring about the meeting.
The spring election is scheduled for April 7. The contest includes the state’s Democratic presidential primary, a race for the state Supreme Court, a referendum on a state constitutional amendment that would establish rights for crime victims, and various local elections.
Social distancing mandates, though, have raised questions about whether the election will go off as scheduled. Georgia, Louisiana and Ohio already have postponed their primaries.
Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday banned gatherings of more than 10 people but said he wants the election to take place as scheduled, saying democracy must go on. Postponing the election would likely take an act of the Legislature, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Tuesday that lawmakers weren’t discussing that.
Evers instead has been urging people to vote by absentee ballot rather than show up at the polls.
Voters appeared to be listening. As of Tuesday, Wisconsin voters had cast about 173,775 absentee ballots for the spring election, according to the elections commission. That’s more absentee ballots cast than were requested in each of the previous three spring elections dating back to 2017.
About 64,000 absentee ballots had been requested since Friday, including 39,000 that were requested on Monday.
The social distancing edicts have rewritten how the state Supreme Court candidates are campaigning. Both liberal challenger Jill Karofsky and conservative incumbent Justice Dan Kelly have eschewed appearances in favor of virtual events, texts and phone calls. The state bar canceled a debate between them that was scheduled for Thursday.