MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal judge has tossed one lawsuit seeking to delay Wisconsin’s presidential primary, even as a handful of other legal actions remain over how and whether it should be carried out in the midst of the coronavirus threat.
Green Bay had sought to postpone the April 7 election and move it to mail-only, arguing it’s unsafe to hold in-person voting and that the city wouldn’t be able to find enough workers to staff polling places. U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ruled Friday that the city didn’t have legal grounds to sue.
“The court’s decision is not intended to minimize the serious difficulties the City and its officials are facing in attempting to conduct the upcoming election,” Griesbach wrote in his ruling. “The court is saying only that the City and its mayor are not the proper parties to bring such a claim in federal court.”
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the state’s top Republicans want to hold to the April 7 date, but are divided over how to do it. Evers has supported an all-mail election, calling this week for the Legislature to send absentee ballots to every registered voter. Republicans oppose such a move, as well as efforts to loosen procedures for mailed ballots, including the requirement to present photo ID.
In addition to Wisconsin’s presidential primary, the election features a state Supreme Court race and hundreds of local races.
The state Republican Party late Friday asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to intervene in Dane and Milwaukee counties after clerks there told voters they could cite “indefinite confinement” to avoid having to upload a photo ID to vote absentee. The clerks cited a stay-at-home order Evers has issued over the COVID-19 threat, but a nonpartisan legislative agency has questioned that guidance.
A judge could still order changes to the election. Voting rights groups and labor unions have filed a series of federal lawsuits over the last week demanding everything from stopping in-person voting to lifting photo ID requirements to obtain absentee ballots.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission late Friday approved several procedures aimed at protecting health for any in-person voters, including curbside, drive-thru and outdoor options at polling places. Procedures to limit contact between voters and poll workers also were approved.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the commission also recommended that anyone over the age of 65 and those with underlying health problems not serve as poll workers, a move that would drastically cut the already limited supply of poll workers in the state.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But older adults are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia.