On Monday, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin issued an executive order cancelling in-person voting and postponing Election Day from April 7 to June 9 in Wisconsin's presidential primary and competitive state Supreme Court general election, citing the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic making it impossible to safely hold the election in a manner consistent with voters' rights. Republicans had already asked the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent the extension of absentee mail voting, and they swiftly vowed to fight Evers' latest order at the state Supreme Court, leaving the election in chaos thanks to judicial uncertainty.
Despite a stay-at-home order and Evers' calls to expand mail voting as the safest way to protect voters and poll workers, Republican legislators have adamantly refused to take any actions that would have made it easier to vote and have actively fought litigation to do so, which led to a federal court refusing to postpone the election. Republicans adjourned a special session without taking action over the weekend just as soon as Evers had ordered one to be convened, leaving Evers no other option than to assert executive authority to delay the election.
Republicans' intransigence had already led to a flurry of litigation and widespread confusion as in-person voting has increasingly become unsafe due to the virus. Indeed, in Wisconsin's biggest city of Milwaukee, which is a Democratic stronghold and home to a majority of its black population, officials slashed the number of in-person polling places from 180 to just five, or one location for every 10,000 voters expected to vote in-person on Tuesday. Roughly 500,000 voters statewide still had yet to return their requested absentee ballots as of Sunday, meaning the ongoing battle over a federal court order extending the deadline to return absentee ballots from April 7 to April 13 could leave hundreds of thousands of voters disenfranchised.
Wisconsin Republicans have so steadfastly refused to protect voters from public health risks by making alternative voting methods easier because—like Donald Trump—they believe that allowing everyone to safely vote would endanger conservative Justice Dan Kelly's chance of winning a key race for the state Supreme Court, where conservative hardliners hold a 5-2 majority (though Kelly will recuse himself from hearing the case over the election delay). If progressive Judge Jill Karofsky were to win, progressives would have a shot at gaining their own majority when a conservative incumbent faces the voters in 2023.
GOP legislators, who won fewer votes than Democrats in 2018 but maintained sizable majorities thanks largely to their gerrymanders, are aiming to preserve their majority on the court because a future progressive majority could strike down their gerrymanders and voter suppression laws, showcasing the vicious cycle that this week's voter suppression efforts are a part of.
In a time when the coronavirus pandemic is necessitating a massive expansion of mail voting across the country, many Republicans in positions of power are watching what is happening in Wisconsin. If the GOP succeeds in getting the conservative-dominated courts to block Evers' latest attempt to delay the election until it can be held in a safer manner and that leads to a conservative election victory via mass voter disenfranchisement, refusing to expand voting access and hoping that Democratic-leaning voters bear the disproportionate brunt of the pandemic will become the Republican playbook for the November elections if it hasn't already.