Democracy 2020 Digest: Judge won’t postpone Wisconsin primary over coronavirus concerns

Democracy 2020 Digest: Judge won’t postpone Wisconsin primary over coronavirus concerns

Wisconsin’s primary, which includes in-person voting at polling stations across the state, will take place on Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic — after a federal judge declined to postpone the election.

But U.S. District Judge William Conley did rule on Thursday that absentee ballots in the primary will counted if they arrive by April 13 — six days after the election. And he extended until Friday the deadline for voters to request absentee ballots.


Conley’s ruling came as former Vice President Joe Biden declined to weigh in on whether the primary should be held as scheduled or delayed, telling reporters on Thursday, “That’s for the Wisconsin courts and folks to decide.” Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont joined a rising chorus of calls by Democrats in urging that the contest be postponed.

Wisconsin’s under a stay-at-home order implemented by Gov. Tony Evers. But the Democratic governor had refused to delay the state’s primary.

“If I could have changed the election on my own I would have, but I can’t without violating state law,” Evers said in a statement Wednesday. “I’ve asked the legislature to do its part to ensure a fair and safe election and I hope we can get some clarity as soon as possible.”

A week ago, Evers unsuccessfully called on the GOP-dominated legislature to send absentee ballots to all registered voters in the state. Even if they had agreed, the logistics may have been overwhelming for county clerks and elections officials.

Wisconsin residents have been urged for weeks to vote by absentee ballot, which already has led to a tidal wave of demand for vote-by-mail ballots.

While in-person voting will take place, there’s been a huge drop in the number of poll workers willing to show up next week, which will likely lead to longer lines and less social distancing as voters show up to cast ballots, threatening a further spread of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus.

The governor had argued that election should not be moved because the pandemic may be worse later in the spring and early summer. And there’s a lot more at stake on Tuesday’s ballot for Wisconsin voters than just the Democratic presidential primary contest between Biden and Sanders. There’s an important battle for a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat that could influence general election voting rules in the crucial presidential battleground state, as well as numerous mayoral contests.

On Wednesday, the state Democratic Party broke ranks with the governor, urging the primary be delayed.

Sanders also called for postponing the contest.

“People should not be forced to put their lives on the line to vote, which is why 15 states are now following the advice of public health experts and delaying their elections. We urge Wisconsin to join them,” the senator said in a statement on Wednesday.

Asked on Thursday – before word of the judge’s ruling – whether he thought the primary should take place, the former vice president said: “I think you could hold the election as well dealing with mail-in ballots and same day registration.”

“I think it’s possible to do both, to have both more mail-in ballots” he added. “I think it could be done .. but that’s for them to decide.”

Biden spoke with reporters hours after Democratic Party leaders postponed by a month the Democratic National Convention, which was scheduled to take place July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Biden noted that “a convention having tens of thousands of people in one arena is very different than having people walk into a polling booth with accurate spacing 6 to 10 feet apart, one at a time going in and having the machine scrubbed down.”


Wisconsin’s primary will be the first to hold in-person voting at polling stations since Florida, Illinois, and Arizona held primaries on March 17.  Since then 15 states and Puerto Rico – which were scheduled to hold their primaries and caucuses in late March, April or May –  delayed their contests or switched them to entirely by mail or absentee ballot.

Biden convincingly swept all three March 17 primaries, boosting to over 300 his lead over Sanders in the all-important race for convention delegates and cementing his status as the all-but-certain Democratic nominee.

A Marquette Law School poll of likely Democratic primary voters in Wisconsin that was released Wednesday indicated Biden crushing Sanders in the contest by a nearly two-to-one margin. The same survey also indicated that a majority of voters in the state said the primary should be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

If Biden, Trump speak

Biden – who’s repeatedly argued that Trump for weeks downplayed the severity of the coronavirus and was slow to respond to the global crisis – told reporters “I’m happy to hear” that the president will take his call to discuss strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman was first to report on Wednesday that the former vice president had offered to have a phone call with Trump soon after counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway challenged Biden to stop criticizing the Trump administration’s coronavirus response and instead “call the White House today and offer some support.”


On Wednesday evening, the president said he would “absolutely” speak on the phone with Biden.

Biden said that he’s “just taking Kellyanne Conway at her word” that the president would be open to his advice.

Biden noted that his past conversations with Trump had “been respectful, they’ve been straight forward.”

And he said, “I’m not doing this to criticize. I’m doing this to say, ‘This is what I think you should do.’”

“There’s a number of specific suggestions that I know from the past work and some I think would work. I’m prepared to offer them to the president,” Biden emphasized. “I understand if he doesn’t want to take my advice, but it won’t be ‘I told you so Mr. President.’ It won’t be if he decided to do what I suggested, I go back and say ‘well, I told the president to do that.’ This is beyond politics right now.”

Biden also urged the Trump administration to change course and allow for another open-enrollment period for Obamacare to allow those without insurance who are battling the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus to sign up for health care coverage.

“Democrats and Republicans are calling for President Trump and his administration to do the right thing and open up a new enrollment period for ObamaCare, so that people who need insurance now can get it. Now’s not the time for petty politics. This is a national emergency,” Biden stressed.

And he took aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the Kentucky Republican’s resistance to any quick congressional action on another coronavirus stimulus package.

“I predict to you that no matter Mitch says, he’s going to be back handling another package. The idea that this is the end of it, I will be dumbfounded if that occurs. And disappointed,” Biden emphasized.

Biden presses Trump on Iranian sanctions

Biden is calling on the Trump administration to take “immediate steps” to ease U.S. sanctions on Iran, one of the nations hardest hit by the global coronavirus pandemic.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has disputed whether sanctions are hampering humanitarian efforts in Iran.

Biden said in a statement on Thursday that “in times of global crisis, America should lead. We should be the first to offer help to people who are hurting or in danger. That’s who we are. That’s who we’ve always been.”

Biden noted that Iran, an adversary of the United States for four decades, “has failed to respond effectively to this crisis, including lying and concealing the truth from its own people, and it continues to act provocatively in the region.”

But he also stressed that “Iran is struggling to contain one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the world” and that the “Iranian people are hurting desperately.”

Read the full story

Convention postponed!

As we reported above, the Democratic National Convention will be postponed until August due to coronavirus concerns. The announcement Thursday by Democratic Party officials is a historic and stunning change to the presidential election calendar.

The convention committee said the event will be held the week of Aug. 17, in Milwaukee, Wis. It was originally slated for July 13-16.

The Democratic convention will now be held the week before the Republican National Convention, which is scheduled to take place Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, N.C.

Moving the Democratic convention to August — which was under consideration for weeks by top Democratic National Party (DNC) officials — became easier to do after the International Olympic Committee last week postponed the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. The games originally were scheduled for July 24-Aug. 9.

Biden’s campaign on Thursday said it welcomed the decision.

“Our campaign will continue to work closely with State Parties and the DNC on any changes to the delegate selection process and the format of the convention to ensure that health and safety will remain the top priority as we confront this COVID-19 crisis as a nation,” the Biden campaign said in a statement.

Read the full story here.

Fox News’ Allie Raffa and Madeleine Rivera contributed to this report.

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