April 7, 2020 – Yesterday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order (No. 74) that suspended in-person voting for today's election until June 9, noting the public health emergency. Hours later, the Wisconsin Supreme Court (4-2) struck down the governor’s order.
That means in-person voting will continue today (April 7). The court’s majority said the governor’s action improperly suspended or rewrote numerous election-related statutes, “including election dates, election procedures, and terms of office for local officials.”
“This court acknowledges the public health emergency plaguing our state, country, and world, but any action taken by the Governor, no matter how well-intentioned, must be authorized by law,” the court’s order in Wisconsin Legislature v. Evers states.
“In support of his order, the Governor cited several general constitutional provisions and one statute. Even if the Governor’s policy judgments reflected in the order are well-founded, and even if we agreed with those policy judgments, none of the authorities cited in the order support this broad sweep of power.”
“We conclude none of these constitutional provisions authorize the Governor’s directives in Executive Order No. 74,” the majority noted.
The majority ruled that Gov. Evers had authority convene a special session for today at 2 p.m. to determine whether a different date, other than June 9, should be approved for in-person voting.
The court left that provision in place, but the legislature is not expected to take that up today, and the polls opened at 7 a.m. this morning.
Justice Daniel Kelly, who is on the ballot, did not participate.
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, joined by Justice Rebecca Dallet. They said Gov. Evers had authority to issue the order, and now voters have an untenable choice: endanger their own safety or give up the right to vote.
The dissenters said state statute grants the governor authority, in times of public emergency, to “issue such orders as he or she deems necessary for the security of persons and property,” citing Wis. Stat. 323.12(4)(b).
But the majority concluded that Wis. Stat. 323.12(4)(b) only grants the governor authority to suspend administrative rules, not statutes that govern elections.