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Evers calls for special session delaying election, handle all ballots by mail

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Gov. Tony Evers
Gov. Tony Evers

MADISON (WKOW) -- Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order Friday calling the Legislature to meet in special session to delay the spring election and handle all ballots by mail.

The governor wants the Legislature to pass a bill to allow for an all-mail election, according to a release from Ever's office.

The governor also said the bill should include a measure to send a ballot to every Wisconsinite by May 19 and extend the date by which votes can be received to May 26.

This is the first time the governor called to change the date of the election. It comes after he received backlash from his own party for not delaying the spring primary given the coronavirus pandemic.

The special session would begin tomorrow at 4 p.m.

The governor said he called and left messages for Republican leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) but hasn't heard back from them.

Both leaders on Friday said they won't consider Evers changes.

"If the governor had legitimate concerns, we could have come to a bipartisan solution weeks ago," said Vos and Fitzgerald in a joint statement. "The only bipartisan discussion we’ve had was to ensure the election would continue safely and to maximize the opportunity to vote absentee"

The Speaker went on to say the election should continue on April 7, as planned.

This means as of Friday, Wisconsin's presidential primary is still on schedule for Tuesday, including in-person voting.

When asked why the governor decided to move the election date now, and not weeks ago, Evers said he did, but he did not call to move the date. The governor weeks ago only called on legislative leaders to shift to an all-mail election.

“Certainly we haven’t experienced anything like this in my lifetime or the legislative leaders so I believe the time is now, the time is to lead," said Evers.

Both GOP leaders said they want to hold in-person voting regardless of concerns over the safety of poll workers, arguing election officials will supply sanitation supplies and practice social distancing.

"I understand they’ve rejected a similar proposal in the past but this is different we have a surge going on, the virus sets a time not me, Robin Vos or Scott Fitzgerald," said Evers.

Evers executive order comes after the Wisconsin Election Commission said they have a shortage of poll workers, 7,000 statewide.

Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) told 27 News he still plans to show up Saturday for the special session and supports the governor's call to take action to delay Tuesday's primary.

"This is essentially life or death this is putting people in harm's way, everyone wants to vote if you have the opportunity to do so but no one wants to get sick and no one wants to die," said Erpenbach.

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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