The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Amidst the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the battles over politics in Wisconsin did not go by the wayside.
Late action by Democratic Governor Tony Evers to delay Tuesday’s presidential primary and local general election until June was overruled by a conservative majority of Wisconsin Supreme Court judges. after a request of the court from Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
That led to hundreds of thousands of voters across Wisconsin choosing to potentially risk their health and vote in the general election. Yet Kaukauna Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke said the election had to go on as originally scheduled.
“You have to protect the right for people to vote in person on Election Day,” said Steineke on WTMJ’s Steve Scaffidi Show, citing the challenge of re-setting both a presidential primary and local general election.
“It would have been a horrible precedent to set. Yes, it was challenging. The governor and legislature combined, for three weeks, did everything we could to push people to absentee vote.”
Steineke says most absentee ballot processes worked. However, there were numerous cases of failure, including some leading the City of Milwaukee to ask for an investigation into postal service absentee ballot delivery.
He said that such issues are a “cautionary tale” about the idea of going to an all-mail ballot election.
“(Voters) had better talk to their representatives on the Democratic side of the legislature and make sure they don’t go to all mail-in ballots like they want to.”
Steineke claimed that the in-person voting he saw was not problematic in terms of safety, as most people were social distancing and being careful to avoid possible situations of the spread of coronavirus.
“I have zero doubt that those polling locations were safer than…the grocery stores, other places people go to every day.”
However, many people had their doubts – both voters who chose not to go to the polls and poll workers in areas like Milwaukee, which led to the city having to shrink its poll location total from 180 across the city on a normal election day to just five.
“Milwaukee, I can’t even explain how they can only have five polling locations open when Madison had 66,” said Stieneke.
“Madison is also a hot spot. They didn’t have significant issues getting workers at the polls.”
Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht stated Wednesday that between 80 and 85 percent of poll workers decommitted to their assignement due to fears about coronavirus in a city with 1,100 cases as of Tuesday – about one for every 550 citizens.
Madison.com said that about 44 percent of poll workers canceled their shifts, leading to 66 of 92 typical polls still being open in a city where, according to Channel3000.com, there were 303 cases – about one for every 825 citizens.
The governor’s office released a summary of the GOP proposal that shows the plan would give the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee the ability to make state budget cuts as it deems necessary and eliminate a raise for state workers next year if state revenues dip dramatically.
Evers says that provision must come out of the bill before he’ll move forward on it. Steineke believes the part of the bill is necessary.
“We have to start planning for the future. We have a biannual budget. We have anticipated an $800 million surplus. That’s gone…with the slowdown in the economy,” said Steineke.
“What we’re trying to do…is to figure out a way to freeze second year spending to the first year spending so we don’t spend ourselves in the second year and make more draconian cuts.”