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Last-Minute Court Rulings Create Chaos For Wisconsin Primary


Wisconsin's in-person primary election is still scheduled to take place today. Voters will have to line up and risk getting close to each other. This is going ahead despite several last-minute orders and court rulings that threw the process into chaos. We have Wisconsin Public Radio's Laurel White with us to try and untangle the situation here. Good morning, Laurel.


GREENE: So a lot of doubts about whether this primary would go forward. As things stand, it sounds like it's going forward. I mean, can you explain how we got here and what exactly is going to take place today?

WHITE: There's been a lot of conflict over the past few weeks about how Wisconsin's election should move forward, if it should be shifted to all-mail ballots, if it should be delayed. Our Democratic governor started pushing late last week for a delay. He called the Republican-controlled state legislature into a special session over the weekend trying to get them to approve that. They have been opposed to doing so. They actually convened and adjourned that special session in under a minute in both chambers of the legislature. The governor decided to take further action yesterday, issued an executive order delaying the election. But Republican lawmakers appealed that to the state Supreme Court, and the governor's order was struck down within about five hours. So we've had a lot of back and forth in Wisconsin, but the election is set to move forward today.

GREENE: So what are you hearing from voters, also from election workers - I mean, people who are going to basically risk being close to one another at a time when that is exactly what we are all not supposed to do.

WHITE: I've spoken to so many election workers over the past several days, and I think the primary thing that most of them are feeling is fear right now. We've actually had thousands of poll workers across Wisconsin bow out of their jobs citing concerns about their own health, the health of their families, the health of their communities. And because of that, the Wisconsin National Guard has actually mobilized today to help fill some of those shortages in polling places. But we're still having a very reduced number of polling places in some locations across the state. The city of Milwaukee, for example, is only going to have five polling places for the entire city. They normally have 180. I think voters are feeling really confused, obviously, and a lot are frustrated. I know of a number of people who have requested absentee mail-in ballots so they don't have to go to the polls. But those ballots haven't showed up yet. So they're in the position of making a choice of whether to go to the polls today and risk exposure to the virus.

GREENE: And can you just remind me of some of the politics at play here?

WHITE: Right. So we do have a Democratic governor, he's been pushing for this delay; a Republican-controlled state legislature, they've been pushing back on the delay. They want the election to happen as it's scheduled to do so today. So it's really a highlight of the really strong partisan divides. Everybody's heard about Wisconsin being a very sharply divided state. I think that's really on display here.

GREENE: All right. Laurel White reports for Wisconsin Public Radio. Laurel, thanks so much. We really appreciate it.

WHITE: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Laurel White