Wisconsin Primary Update: The Fight for Voter's Rights and Safety

This post is adapted from a March 30 Twitter thread by Ben Wikler Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. "Wisconsin has an election on April 7. Dems urgently pushing expanded vote by mail. GOP ruthlessly opposing. At stake: a state Supreme Court seat that could tilt November's entire election. If you can, chip in, read read and share /RT this mind-blowing story: "Nationwide, every other state has delayed their April election, authorized officials to delay, or switched to ~100% vote by mail. ONLY Wisconsin plans to send voters to the polls, even despite a state wide #SaferAtHome order from @GovEvers.

Here's why…Wisconsin's April 7 election isn't just a presidential primary. There are local elections stat ewide. But what the GOP is obsessed with is our state Supreme Court--specifically, electing the man they know will rule for Trump on voting rights cases this fall. GOP lawyer Dan Kelly.

Remember the right-wing lawsuit to force a purge of 234,000 Wisconsin voters? It's on hold, bc our state Supreme Court deadlocked—bc Dan Kelly recused himself. (Bad optics, purging voters before your own election.) But if Kelly wins? Recusal out. Purge in. There could be any number of other cases about voting rights before November's election. And the GOP knows that suppressing even just a few thousand Democratic votes could tip America's must-win state for Trump. It's the core of their strategy. (READ THIS: Why the GOP is poised to create voting Chaos).

Dan Kelly is a 100% reliable partisan operative, wearing judicial robes. For example, he opposed stronger anti-corruption rules for judges--and then, declining to recuse himself, ruled over and over for the right-wing group on whose advisory board he sat. Ruling for the interests of his campaign donors, such as big oil companies seeking to avoid accountability for oil spills in Wisconsin? Check. Holding fundraisers at gun ranges the day after Milwaukee's mass shooting? Check. Backed by Koch network? Duh. The GOP's nightmare scenario is a victory by Judge Jill Karofsky who is running for Justice because she actually believes in, you know, justice. Former domestic violence special prosecutor. Believes in civil rights. More shortly re how to help her win.

The GOP is pouring a fortune into manipulative scorched-earth ads smearing Karofsky as “soft on crime” based on, you guessed it, lies. The ads claim she “went easy” on a rapist--in a case that she wasn’t even involved in. Politifact says “pants on fire.” Why are they paying so much money to spread lies about Karofsky? Because, as the Trump team said in a leaked campaign briefing, "if we win Wisconsin, we win the election. If we lose Wisconsin, we lose the election." Read more about why WI matters HERE.

SO—mega-stakes state Supreme Court fight underway in Wisconsin. And then COVID-19 hits. Everything changes. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin's massive organizing operation switches from door-knocking to all-virtual, helping folks get absentee ballots…but what we're seeing from the GOP in Wisconsin—for example, this from #crucial Waukesha County—has been an unrelenting wave of partisan attacks on @GovEvers and a string legal & political actions to oppose making it easier to vote safely by mail.

What's going on? Simple: For many folks watching Fox, listening to Limbaugh, tuned in to Trump—COVID doesn't feel like a crisis. On March 29, Civiqs found only 16% of Wisconsin Republicans were "extremely concerned." 67% were "a little"/"moderately." Meanwhile, Democrats in Wisconsin have a much clearer grasp on the crisis, with 55% "extremely concerned", and only 11% "a little." Totally different informational universe. And the political & public health implications are vast.

To be clear—Wisconsin is in the grips of a severe outbreak. Cases here are doubling every 3-4 days, and passed 1000 this weekend. The dying has begun. Health authorities tell us to limit interactions to 5 people, total, and stay home. And yet—election day is almost here. So, you might say, postpone the election! Switch to vote by mail! Sorry: Republicans in Wisconsin have etched election administration rules into law, including via power-grab lame-duck legislation in 2018 designed to curb then-incoming @GovEvers's powers.

Poll workers are canceling en masse. Local clerks are screaming that they don't know how to run a safe election. The WI Elections Commission staff said they couldn't find hand sanitizer for pens people will use to fill in ballots. GOP response: no prob! There are two clear paths to changing the rules. The first is the state legislature. The other is the courts. (More on that in a sec.)

One mind-blowingly bad law in WI is that to request an absentee ballot, you have to upload a photo of your voter ID. @GovEvers proposed at least waiving *that* requirement. (Hard to get an ID while stuck in your home.) GOP has rejected that, too. @GovEvers has called on the legislature to act—to mail ballots to registered voters. GOP leg leader called it a "hoax." GOP brick wall in the legislature. So @wisdems and @TheDemocrats with @marceelias sued in federal court to make absentee voting easier. Won a change in deadline for online voter registration (deadline tonight, March 30!). But Republican Party intervened to oppose safer voting.

The mayor of Green Bay sued to get the election delayed & switched to all-mail. “We need to recognize the impossible choice that we’re forcing on people, which is your health or the right to vote,” he said. GOP intervened to oppose. That case lost. An array of civil rights groups called for the election to be delayed, and filed suit as well. GOP response: "That seems to me it would really undermine the election if we don’t let the process to continue as we are," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Under Wisconsin law, if you mark that you're "indefinitely confined" on your absentee ballot request, you don't have to upload a voter ID. Two clerks decided that anyone who can't get a voter ID now should just mark that box. Republicans immediately sued. The League of Women Voters sued to address one glaring problem with the current rules during an era of social distancing: to vote absentee, you need a witness to sign your ballot envelope. That's now been combined with other suits. GOP? Opposing them all.

Lawsuits are moving swiftly through the courts. It's still possible that a wise judge could order a change. But we can't wait for that. So we're surging in an unprecedented wave of virtual organizing for April 7: #WIMarchForward. And we need your help."

If you can, please make a donation and help the Wisconsin Democrats fund this unprecedented fight to help Wisconsinites vote safely on April 7th. And volunteer to phone bank for the Wisconsin Democrats and Swing Left to help inform people and get them out to vote absentee, early or on April 7th. Thank you!


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