Madison files federal brief asking April 7 election be pushed back

wisconsin state capitol

MADISON, Wis. — The City of Madison says it wants to see Wisconsin’s April 7 primary moved to a different date.

In a brief filed in federal court Monday, the city says it is unlikely they will be able to conduct a full and fair election if it’s held as scheduled, a week from Tuesday, and attempting to hold the election on April 7 would “endanger the health of many Wisconsin residents.”

According to the brief, half of the city’s poll workers are no longer working on the date of the election, multiple polling locations are unavailable, and some polling locations will have to be combined. The city says it faces “the very real possibility that half or more of the eligible voters who would normally go to the polls on Election Day will be unable to do so.”

A flood of requests for absentee ballots is compounding the issue, according to the city. In the brief, the city says the Clerk’s office has already issued more than 40,000 absentee ballots, with a backlog of more than 10,000 absentee ballot requests, and more coming in every day.

The City Clerk says at that rate, it’s unlikely everyone who requests an absentee ballot will be able to get one.

“An election where thousands of eligible voters will be denied their right to vote is not a full and fair election,” the city says in the brief.

The brief also raises the concern of voters potentially being unable to return their absentee ballots due to being unable to upload their identification or having a witness sign off on the ballot because they live alone. Based on e-mails the Clerk’s office has received, the brief estimates hundreds — if not thousands — of people are in that position and would not have their ballot counted.

Citing a report from Public Health Madison and Dane County, the brief argues, “the unmistakable conclusion from this report is that it would be reckless from a health standpoint to proceed with an in-person election on April 7.”

The brief asks the court to postpone the April 7th election by at least three weeks, rule that all officeholders remain in office until their successors are elected, and consider ruling for a full paper mail-in election.

Last week, Gov. Tony Evers said he’d like to see every registered voter be sent a ballot for the April 7th election. Republican leaders in the state legislature called that request a “complete fantasy,” citing the logistical hurdles local clerks would have to clear in order to fulfill that request on time.