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Election turmoil persists

WISCONSIN - Regardless of the results of Tuesday’s spring general election, it will go down as the most unusual election in this state’s history.

Over the course of Monday, April 6:

• The Wisconsin State Legislature, called into special session upon the executive order of Gov. Tony Evers for the second time in three days, convened and adjourned without enacting legislation to change the date of Tuesday’s election.

• Evers issued an executive order moving the in-person voting portion of the election to June 9, days after Evers said he didn’t have the authority to order that the election be moved.

• The Wisconsin State Supreme Court voted 4–2 to invalidate Evers’ executive order Monday late afternoon, reinstating in-person voting.

• The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5–4 to overturn a U.S. District Court ruling and require that absentee ballots be postmarked by election day to be counted, with a deadline for absentee for ballots to arrive at municipal offices by Monday, April 13, at 4 p.m. 

If Tuesday’s election went off as scheduled — and Evers ordered another special session of the legislature for Tuesday at 2 p.m. — it may well be because of the efforts of county and municipal clerks, who were told by state Elections Commission chair Megan Wolfe Monday afternoon that “we must continue to making preparation in earnest” for the regularly scheduled election.

More than 2,400 Wisconsin National Guard soldiers and airmen were mobilized to active duty Sunday to assist poll workers amid reports that municipalities were going to be short of poll workers.

According to Crawford County Clerk Janet Geisler, all polling locations in the county remained open as usual. Geisler confirmed that election results will be released after 4 p.m. on Monday, April 13. Vernon County Clerk Ron Hoff also confirmed that all polling locations were open as usual on election day.

The results of Tuesday’s vote originally were not going to be announced by county clerks until after the absentee deadline, after a court ruling by U.S. District Judge William Conley that was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Conley’s decision set a deadline of Monday at 4 p.m. for ballots to be counted by municipal clerks. The Supreme Court decision requires that ballots be postmarked by election-day or delivered to the municipality by the time the polls close, 8 p.m. Ballots must arrive at the municipality by Monday, April 13, at 4 p.m., to be counted.

Evers called the state legislature into special session Saturday to make the election an all-mail election — with absentee ballots mailed to every voter who had not requested an absentee ballot, with the deadline to return them May 26 — and then called the state legislature into special session Monday to move the election date. On both days, the state legislature gaveled to order and adjourned without taking action on any of Evers’ proposals.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission met March 31 and took three votes, all of which failed — asking the federal courts to move the election to May 12 (failed on a 4–2 vote), asking the federal courts to not move the election (failed 3–3), and recommending to the federal courts the deadline for absentee ballots the same day as the election (failed 4–2). The commission also determined the absentee ballot application deadline to be Thursday, which then was pushed back to Friday.

Several municipalities across the state consolidated polling places due to lack of workers. Other municipal clerks were using such methods as library book returns to drop off ballots.

Gillian Pomplun of the Crawford County Independent and Kickapoo Scout in Gays Mills contributed to this story.