Pines Bach was honored to submit an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Governor Tony Evers this week. The Governor urged the Court to reinstate an injunction by District Court Judge William Conley allowing absentee ballots that are postmarked by election day to be counted if they are received on or before November 9, 2020, and allowing additional, out-of-county poll workers to be recruited and trained to work in communities struggling to staff their polls.
The District Court had crafted those careful measures and others to ensure voters are not disenfranchised in the November 3 election, set to occur amidst a pandemic that has reached near-exponential growth in Wisconsin in recent weeks. As of October 9, Wisconsin trailed only California and Texas in ranking for number of confirmed cases reported in the last seven days.
Absentee ballot requests are at a record high, but without the District Court’s injunction those ballots will have to be received on or before November 3 to be counted, no matter how early they were mailed. The injunction resembles a similar ruling prior to the April 7 primary, which had allowed absentee ballots postmarked on or before election day to be counted if received within six days of the election. That ruling ensured almost 80,000 timely absentee ballots were counted. For the many voters who will still vote in person on November 3, the District Court’s injunction is also aimed at avoiding the mass poll closures the state saw in the April 7 primary due to a poll worker shortage caused by the pandemic in some communities.
Governor Evers told the U.S Supreme Court:
“As it did at the time of Wisconsin’s primary election on April 7, 2020, the pandemic has created a dangerous choice for Wisconsin’s voters: risk exposure to the virus and the possibility of infection, illness, and death, or minimize that risk by voting absentee. Because of the current, continuing severe upsurge in COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin . . . it is likely that an increasing number of Wisconsin’s voters will choose in the remaining weeks before the election to protect themselves and vote absentee.
The preliminary injunction . . . is a limited measure that protects the voting rights of every Wisconsin citizen amid a public health emergency and supports state and local efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Conversely, the Seventh Circuit’s . . . decision to stay the injunction has imposed a great risk to the public health and safety of Wisconsin voters.”
Governor Evers also made it clear to the Court that the Wisconsin Legislature has failed at every turn to address the vital need to ensure that voters are safe:
“The Legislature has sat on its hands, ignored the dangers of in-person voting during growing COVID-19 infections—except to hire counsel to intervene in litigation, including here in the district court and the Seventh Circuit, where [the Legislature] contends that the State is somehow injured if the minimal adjustments related to absentee ballots and poll workers are implemented, as ordered by the district court.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule promptly on the appeals. The amicus brief can be found here. Pines Bach LLP is representing Governor Evers in this matter and submitted the amicus brief on his behalf.