This article has been updated.
MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers, in the absence of legislative action, today signed an executive order suspending Wisconsin's April 7 election, moving in-person voting to June 9.
The governor's order also directs the state Legislature to meet in special session on Tuesday April 7 to address the election date. If the legislature does not enact legislation to change the new election date, in-person voting will occur on June 9, the governor said in a release.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), said in a subsequent release they plan to “immediately challenging" the governor's executive order in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, calling it "clearly an unconstitutional overreach."
“The clerks of this state should stand ready to proceed with the election," Vos and Fitzgerald's release said. "This is another last-minute flip-flop from the governor on the April 7th election. The governor himself has repeatedly acknowledged he can’t move the election. Just last week a federal judge said he did not have the power to cancel the election and Governor Evers doesn’t either. Governor Evers can’t unilaterally run the state.”
“Frankly, there’s no good answer to this problem — I wish it were easy. I have been asking everyone to do their part to help keep our families, our neighbors, and our communities safe, and I had hoped that the legislature would do its part — just as the rest of us are — to help keep people healthy and safe,” Evers said in a release. “But as municipalities are consolidating polling locations, and absent legislative or court action, I cannot in good conscience stand by and do nothing. The bottom line is that I have an obligation to keep people safe.”
All ballots already cast in the 2020 spring election will remain valid and will be tallied in conjunction with the new in-person voting date, the governor's release said.
The governor noted in a release that he previously signed an executive order calling the legislature to meet in a special session to send a ballot to every registered voter, allow an all-mail election, and extend the time for those ballots to be received and counted.
The legislature did not take up these changes in special session. Gov. Evers also proposed legislation that had several provisions aimed at making voting easier and more accessible during the public health emergency.
In a release, State Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) said she backed the governor's action.
“Holding in-person voting on Tuesday would have unnecessarily put lives at risk. No one should be forced to choose between exercising their right to vote and protecting themselves and our communities from the spread of COVID-19," Subeck's release said. "There is no way we could have guaranteed free and fair elections if our citizens are afraid to vote on election day, and we cannot justify putting the health and lives of the public on the line when such risk could be prevented."
"In the face of the Republican majority’s unwillingness to act – or even to meet – despite the governor’s call for a special session last week, I applaud Gov. Evers’s unprecedented action taken to protect the people of Wisconsin from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 and to prevent further spread of the virus.”