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State Supreme Court overturns Evers’ order to delay election

MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin's Supreme Court has ruled that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers could not postpone the state's presidential primary, striking down his order to move the election to June over coronavirus outbreak fears.

The state Supreme Court which holds a conservative majority ruled 4-2 along party lines, Justice Daniel Kelly sat out this decision as he is on the ballot facing re-election.

Evers issued an executive order hours earlier to suspend in-person voting on Tuesday but recieved an immediate challenge by Republicans who control the state legislature.

The argument was whether or not Evers' has the authority to make changes to the election without approval from the legislature. Legal experts are split on whether the governor can as he also has broader powers during emergencies.

President of the conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Rick Eisenberg told 27 News the governor could argue the coronavirus is an emergency but also believes that collides with people's constitutional rights.

"Regardless if we think the risk is worth risking or not the rules of the game matters, our constitution matters the rule of law matters and a single governor should not be suspending elections," said Eisenberg.

Evers had previously opposed moving the election and said he didn’t have the power to move the presidential primary date. However, a change of plans, after hundreds of polling sites were forced to close to do a shortage of poll workers and concerns grew to hold an in-person election during the coronavirus pandemic.

After the court ruling issuing Tuesday's primary will go on as scheduled Evers issued a statement stating thousand of voters will have to choose between the right to vote and staying safe.

"In this time of historic crisis, it is a shame that two branches of government in this state chose to pass the buck instead of taking responsibility for the health and safety of the people we were elected to serve,” wrote Evers.

The state's ruling was promptly followed by a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court blocking an effort to extend absentee voting, six days after the election. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling means ballots have to be returned on election day in order to be counted.

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MADISON (WKOW) — Gov. Tony Evers on Monday issued an executive order putting an end to in-person voting just hours before polls were set to open in Wisconsin.

Evers' order delays Tuesday's presidential primary election until June 9 because of concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This is likely Evers' last attempt using his executive powers to delay the election as uncertainty continues over the state's ability to hold a safe election during a pandemic. He previously said he didn't think he had to legal authority to do this.

"I cannot in good conscience stand by and do nothing. The bottom line is that I have an obligation to keep people safe, and that’s why I signed this executive order today," said Evers in a statement.

Evers order also states they would count ballots already cast.

Evers also called for the legislature to meet in a special session tomorrow at 2 p.m. for lawmakers to decide whether or not to approve a new date for when the election should be held.

Republican leaders swiftly responded, saying they would challenge Evers' executive order in Wisconsin Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservatives 5-2.

“We are immediately challenging this executive order....The clerks of this state should stand ready to proceed with the election. The governor’s executive order is clearly an unconstitutional overreach," wrote Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in joint statement.

For weeks Republicans supported holding an in-person election believing there are enough precautions in place to keep poll workers and voters safe.

Evers had previously opposed moving Tuesday’s election and agreeing with Republicans the election should be held because hundreds of local offices on the ballot could be left vacant.

Wisconsin Election Commission said they are still preparing to hold Tuesday's election as it's likely Evers order will face litigation.

"We must continue to making preparation in earnest for tomorrow.  If the election is moved to the 9th we will adjust accordingly, but all we can do today is prepare for tomorrow.  As additional details come to our attention, we will share them with you," wrote WEC in a statement.

This marks Evers' second attempt to delay the primary after his request for a special session over the weekend was reject by GOP leaders.

The state is still thousands of people short to work Tuesday election as many are fearful they could catch the virus. More than a dozen other states have postponed their primaries because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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