Across Wisconsin, voters are lining up to cast their ballots. They’re snaking around blocks and through parking lots, prepared to wait hours to cast their vote in the Democratic primary. While many are wearing masks, the image of hundreds gathered in public to vote in-person as covid-19 rages on is a tragedy in the making.
It’s a tragedy that could have been avoided if not for the cravenness of the Republican party and conservative courts. Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, wanted to delay the primary until June 9 and extend absentee voting. But his bids were blocked by the state’s Supreme Court, which denied the request for a postponed primary and the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in a 5-4 decision, reversed a lower court’s ruling that gave voters until April 13—an extra six days—to submit their ballots.
Other states have postponed their primaries, but the Republican party has insisted that Wisconsin’s primary continue without a hitch, despite the fact that the state implemented a stay-at-home order for Wisconsinites two weeks ago. And lines have been snaking down blocks and through parking lots since early morning.
New York Times reporter Astead Herndon spoke with Milwaukee voters who said they’re prepared to wait for up to five hours to vote. This wait time is to be expected—there are only five polling locations in Milwaukee; there are usually 180. It turns out in the midst of a pandemic, it’s hard to find willing poll workers. In a city of 595,000 such a drop off is unconscionable.
Senator Bernie Sanders expressed his anger at the Supreme Court decision Monday, tweeting, “It’s outrageous that the Republican legislative leaders and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court in Wisconsin are willing to risk the health and safety of many thousands of Wisconsin voters tomorrow for their own political gain.” Former Vice President Joe Biden hasn’t released a statement regarding the courts, but during a press briefing last Thursday, he insisted that in-person voting can be done safely. Biden has a sizable lead over Sanders according to state polling, so it is safe to assume that it is Biden voters—many who are elderly, many who are black, many who are both—who will make up the majority of Democrats standing in long lines, literally putting their lives on the line to vote.
They shouldn’t have to.