Wisconsin is holding the most dangerous election ever. Here’s why.

Source: Politico | April 7, 2020 | Natasha Korecki

Amid a deadly pandemic that has led more than a dozen states to delay their elections, Wisconsin is asking its citizens to come out and vote Tuesday.

The coronavirus death toll is rising. A statewide shelter-in-place order has been in effect for nearly two weeks. Hundreds of polling sites have been shuttered and thousands of poll workers cannot fill their shifts.

Yet somehow in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has led more than a dozen states to delay their elections, Wisconsin is asking its citizens to come out and vote Tuesday.

This is what the complete collapse of a state’s political system looks like.

At a time when the Surgeon General is warning that this week could be the nation’s most dangerous to date — comparing the scale of the potential loss to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 — Wisconsin is on the verge of becoming the only state in April that failed to find a way to delay voting. The Democratic governor made a last-ditch plea to close the polls. The GOP-led legislature and Wisconsin Supreme Court shut him down.

It’s a civic catastrophe that never should have happened. But it’s also the culmination of a decade of total political war waged across one of the nation’s most competitive states — a Midwestern battleground poised to play an oversized role in the presidential election in November.

“I’ve been here 10 years watching this. I am surprised that I’m surprised,” former Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said of the politics he believes pushed the election forward amid a pandemic. “If anybody thinks that if we were under Gov. Walker that this court would have ruled the same way that they have today has not been paying attention to what’s been going on in this state for the last decade.”

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In 2016, when Donald Trump narrowly and unexpectedly defeated Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, the state’s polarization rose to a new level.

On the eve of Tuesday’s election, it reached a fever pitch. The state Supreme Court — which includes Walker appointees — overturned an order by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who himself was initially reluctant to postpone the primary, even over pleas from fellow Democrats.

A source close to Evers said the first-term governor, hemmed in by the GOP-controlled legislature, considered it counterproductive to force an issue he would not win at a time when he needed Republican help to advance a coronavirus funding package. Evers further feared if the matter went before the state court, which holds a conservative majority, he risked inadvertently creating precedent that could threaten a governor’s emergency powers.

As the pandemic — and pleas for delay from local mayors — intensified, Evers changed his tune, leading to Monday’s order to delay the primary.

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