Politicians in Wisconsin working hard to be America’s worst.
What a difference a few days can make.
In the latter days of March, around the 25th, Democrat Gov. Tony Evers and the Republicans who control the Wisconsin legislature were in agreement. The April 7 statewide election should go on as scheduled, with in-person voting, despite mounting fears of the growing coronavirus crisis.
Meanwhile, several states scheduled to vote around this time—Alaska, Missouri, Hawaii, Wyoming and others—called off in-person elections for safety reasons and shifted to other plans of balloting. On April 7 only Wisconsin stubbornly insisted on continuing.
Maybe leaders in other states knew something Wisconsin’s didn’t?
Evers always seems to be a step behind governors in other states, Democrat and Republican alike. Eventually he sees the path others are taking and tries to catch up.
So “Me Too Tony” called for canceling in-person voting and instituting a mail-in plan, asking legislators to convene in a special session the Saturday before election day to enable the change. Republicans were having nothing to do with it.
Then it got crazier on Monday, the day before the scheduled election, and Wisconsin moved quickly to cement itself as America’s most dysfunctional state government. Evers issued an order delaying the April 7 election to a date in June. Republican legislative leaders sent lawyers scurrying to appeal the postponement to their pet justices on Wisconsin’s embarrassingly partisan-tainted Supreme Court which, with complete predictably, voted 4-2 with the conservative majority overturning Evers’ order. Justice Daniel Kelly, who was on the April 7 ballot, recused. More on him later.
As that was going on the U.S. Supreme Court—again split predictably along its 5-4 conservative majority—threw out a trial court’s decision to give absentee voters extra time to cast ballots. The extension had been granted because, in the confusion, some requested ballots had not even been sent out in time for voters to mark and return a ballot. Lots of other absentee ballots were never delivered, as post-election reporting has shown.
Late in the afternoon of April 6, not even 24 hours before the start of voting, the Wisconsin Elections Commission sent out a doozy of a clarification to county and municipal election planners. It read, in part: “(The WEC knows) too much has already been asked of you, but we ask you to proceed with your Election Day preparations as we do not know the outcome of any possible litigation and we need to be prepared if the election is held tomorrow.”
Speaking of not knowing outcomes: Who won? Supposedly, we’ll know today.
Wow. What could possibly go wrong?
Back to Kelly, for a moment. Savvy political observers have known most of this mess was all about him. Remember, months ago, GOP legislators toyed with the idea of moving the Supreme Court election away from April in order to protect Kelly with a lower-turnout vote. Before the coronavirus, it was believed a presidential preference primary would be a high-turnout election, likely to favor Democrat-backed Judge Jill Karofsky over Kelly. Put two and two together and, yes, a fear-induced lower than expected April 7 turnout was believed to advantage Kelly.
So “Me Too Tony” dithered in indecision and both political parties plotted for political advantage, all while the people of Wisconsin were just trying to hunker down to keep from getting sick. In the end the politicians failed the people miserably, unnecessarily putting citizens and poll workers in dire risk to suit their partisan interests.
Wisconsin has locked down its well-deserved reputation as America’s most polarized state. Government in this state has devolved into a sewer, with the partisans on each side so thoroughly preoccupied with their petty power struggles that it would be a gross exaggeration to say the interests of the people even rise to an afterthought.
In most instances, the best tool for dealing with stinky raw sewage is the flush lever.
If only we could.