Wisconsin’s unconscionable sham

The state’s election was a danger to public health and a democratic travesty—all to help Republicans suppress more votes.

Wisconsin might have just decided the November election for Trump at the expense of its own citizens’ lives.

As of April 7, the state’s primary election day, there were 2,511 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, with the disease continuing to spread. Thanks to Wisconsin Republicans and the U.S. Supreme Court, the people of our state had to make a terrible choice: would they risk their lives to vote?

Depending on where you are, the risk is not equal. In many counties, you can count the number of confirmed cases on one hand. Head up north to Door County and there are only four confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.

Milwaukee, however, has suffered more than half of the confirmed cases so far. At least 85 people in our state have died—45 of them in Milwaukee, and most of them black.

In the last week, I started seeing news that Wisconsin voters had extra time to request and submit absentee ballots—until April 13. More than a million people requested absentee ballots, and many had not received them by election day.

After the GOP-controlled legislature refused to act, the governor issued an executive order delaying the election until June. The Wisconsin State Supreme Court overturned it. Then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Wisconsin absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day.

How can your vote count if the state didn’t send you an absentee ballot in time? Simple: it doesn’t. With all the confusion and mixed messages, who knows if Wisconsin voters even know what the rules are. How many missed their chance to vote?

In-person voting is a mess too.

Milwaukee usually has 180 polling places, but this time got only five. The lines ran for blocks—a risky move in light of the pandemic. For residents who had health concerns or couldn’t take hours to stand in line, tough luck.

And who knows how many extra people will get sick, be hospitalized, or even die because we held this election?

We held this insane election now because conservative majorities on two courts—the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court—decided we must, overturning decisions by our governor, Tony Evers, a Democrat.

Why are we on this crazy suicide mission?

It’s about a state Supreme Court race, the major ticket on our ballot. The candidates were incumbent Daniel Kelly, a conservative, and challenger Jill Karofsky, a liberal. With massive voter disenfranchisement across the state, particularly in Democratic strongholds like Milwaukee, Republicans believe that Kelly will win.

In a post on Facebook, historian Heather Cox Richardson, breaks it down even further. This is about voter suppression in the presidential race.

Wisconsin is a purple state. Barack Obama won the state by over 200,000 votes in 2012. Yet after Wisconsin Republicans—who enjoy a gerrymandered supermajority in the statehouse—passed a strict voter ID law that disenfranchised thousands of Black and Latinx votersTrump won Wisconsin in 2016 by less than 23,000 votes.

After this election, our state Supreme Court is going to decide on whether or not to remove more than 200,000 people from Wisconsin’s voter rolls. The winner of today’s election will be the deciding vote. Kelly’s expected to vote yes, Karofsky to vote no.

Purging the voter rolls would help Republicans.

This election was a sham. It will cost votes—and lives.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson writes about food, agriculture, the environment, health, tolerance, and well-being. Currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, she’s the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” Distributed by OtherWords.org.

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