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Evers’ election-scheduling scheme faces legal problems

Empower Wisconsin | Sept. 30, 2019

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ election-scheduling problems just keep getting worse.

The Democrat was roundly criticized for scheduling the primary in the special election for the 7th Congressional District seat on Dec. 30. Not only is the 30th the last day of Hanukkah, it’s a Monday, an unprecedented departure from Wisconsin’s traditional Tuesday election day.

Now, it turns out Evers’ political scheduling gambit failed to take into account military service members and overseas Wisconsin voters.

As the Wisconsin State Journal reported, Evers’ special election schedule violated the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which requires absentee ballots to be delivered to voters at least 45 days before federal elections.

Oops. Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff told the newspaper, “It is certain the election date will have to change.” The governor, she said, is consulting with state and federal department of justice officials to find a date in compliance with the law.

Last week, Evers announced the special election would take place on Monday, Jan. 27, with a primary, in accordance with state law, scheduled for Dec. 30. He did so, he said, to avoid holding a the primary on Christmas Eve, a Tuesday, or the week after, New Year’s Eve. Pushing the election back any further would run a foul of the state’s “blackout period” on special elections between Feb. 1. and April 7.

It moves scheduling into the spring election season, with a primary in February for those races and a general election set for April. And it’s a big April ahead. On the ballot, a state Supreme Court seat and Wisconsin’s partisan presidential primaries.

The current timing of the special election would create headaches for election officials charged with certifying election results, creating ballots and sending them overseas by the 45-day federal deadline, the governor’s office told the State Journal.

Evers’ critics blasted the governor, saying he could have solved all of the confusion and legal entanglements if he would have consulted a calendar, and if he hadn’t played politics. The Republican Party of Wisconsin asserts Evers plotted to hold the special election on a low turnout Monday in winter instead of putting the election on the high-turnout spring ballot.

“Gov. Evers set an election date in order to disenfranchise rural voters, military voters and those who celebrate the holidays, including Hanukkah,” RPW Executive Director Mark Jefferson said in a statement to Empower Wisconsin. “He thought he could ignore federal law, but he got caught and now has to change the election date.”

The special election will fill the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy’s departure. The Weston Republican in August announced he was leaving congress to be with his family, in large part because of his unborn child’s health complications.

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