Update: 2:02 p.m.
Governor Evers did not commit to changing any specifics about the April 7 primary and general election during his Tuesday COVID-19 news conference, but explained he is talking with Mayor Barrett about the election process.
“I am in regular communication with Mayor Barrett and other mayors and voting officials across the state. We all have one thing in common. We want to make sure we have a good vote and make sure safety is a top priority,”he said.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says that the issues of keeping people isolated and healthy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic led him to ask the State of Wisconsin to change the style, and perhaps the deadline date, of the April presidential primary and local general election.
“I don’t think it would be wise…I cannot in good conscience ask them to do that,” said Mayor Barrett, who is advocating a vote-by-mail process for April. He joined a news conference from home.
“I would not advise someone I love to sit in a polling place for 10-12 hours and come into contact with dozens, if not hundreds of people.”
That letter went into the hands of Governor Tony Evers, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
Barrett explained that not only the nature of coronavirus, but the large percentage of election workers’ additional risk is leading to his position.
“We know a significant number of people who worke with our election commission are senior citizens,” said Barrett, who is also up for re-election in April against State Senator Lena Taylor.
He said numerous locations in Milwaukee have already chosen to cancel their polling places.
So he is asking for all voters who have not yet voted to do so via absentee, though the process of counting votes will have to change and possibly lead to a delay on the voting deadline.
“We know we could get up to 130,000 people voting absentee. We need to put our focus on that right now,” he said.
“To have a vote by mail election would necessarily require us to extend the voting period beyond April 7.”
According to what the mayor said was a verbalized opinion from the city attorney, there would be no chance of vacant offices if an election – or election results – were delayed.
“Under city charter, although my term (and others’ terms would end) on April 20, we would remain in our job until our successors are sworn in, so there would not be a gap in leadership during a crisis,” said Mayor Barrett.
So far, there was no feedback from state officials.
“We will see what the response is.”