Wisconsin’s primary an, ‘epic and comprehensive failure by multiple players’, one expert says

UW-La Crosse political science professor Anthony Chergosky shines light on the politics of Tuesday's Wisconsin primary

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Many voters in Wisconsin had to leave their homes in order to vote. Gov. Tony Evers tried to delay the primary election but the State Supreme Court blocked that order. The decision to have the election raises questions whether yesterday’s primary put the health of the state at more risk.

“This was not Wisconsin’s finest moment,” said Anthony Chergosky, a political science professor at UW-La Crosse.

Scientists and doctors have suggested staying home to stop the spread of COVID-19. Monday, Evers ordered to delay Wisconsin’s primary election, but the state Supreme Court ruled 4-2 to stop the decision. Hours later the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to not extend the deadline for absentee ballots. All votes were made along party lines.

“This was an epic and comprehensive failure by multiple players within the government,” Chergosky said. “That just shows you how politicized, how partisan and how ideological the judiciary is.”

Republican Rep. for Wisconsin’s 96th Assembly District, Loren Oldenburg, said this problem should have been handled a lot sooner.

Loren Oldenburg

Republican Rep. Loren Oldenburg represents Wisconsin’s 96th Assembly District.

“The whole process was frustrating, and if we were not going to have the election on April 7, something should have been done two or three weeks ago, and not the last minute,” Oldenburg said.

Chergosky said every branch of government failed on this issue. The integrity of the judicial system is also in question.

“The partisanship in this country and the partisanship in Wisconsin particularly is just absolutely toxic,” he said. “There’s this idea that when judges put on their robes and make decisions they can put aside all of their biases and make totally neutral decisions. That is just not supported by the research on judicial decision making.”

Election Decisions

Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-2 to overturn Gov. Tony Evers’ executive order to delay Wisconsin’s primary election.

There were also people who wanted to vote but couldn’t.

“There’s no question that thousands of people were denied their right to vote by the procedures of last night’s election,” Chergosky said.

Studies show voter turnout impacts an election. A study by UW-Madison highlighted by the New York Times looked at how voter ID laws impacted the 2016 presidential election.

Election Decisions

Voters stand in a long line to vote outside Riverside University High School in Milwaukee.

The study found close to 17,000 registered Wisconsin voters were not allowed to vote. That number could be even higher. Seventy-seven percent of those prevented from voting, cast ballots in the 2012 election.

The burden of voter ID fell disproportionately on low-income and minority populations. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by close to 23,000 votes in Wisconsin.

The New York Times points out the November turnout in Wisconsin was the lowest in a presidential election year since 2000. On the topic of public health, Oldenburg said precautions were in place for those who voted in person Tuesday.

“We all wore masks, we all wore gloves, we all sanitized,” he said. “People only used one pen and they took it home, never touched the screen. We did everything.”

Election Decisions

Handwashing stations were placed at polling sites around the area.

However, Chergosky said there was another option.

“You are needlessly creating a risk of spreading the virus,” Chergosky said. “A risk that doesn’t have to happen if you had devised another approach for holding the election.”

No matter which side of the aisle people are on, most people can agree, Wisconsin can do better than April 7, 2020.

“We have to come together as a unit down there in Madison, talk and come up with a plan that we all can agree with,” Oldenburg said.

Election Decisions

A voter waits outside a polling location while wearing a face mask to protect against COVID-19.

Chergosky said the people who held down the fort at election polling sites across the state deserve a lot of gratitude.

“The only people who come out of this looking good are the local election officials who did their best under impossible circumstances,” Chergosky said.

Wisconsin was the only state with an election scheduled in April that proceeded as planned. The results from the election will be released after 4 p.m. on April 13.