Updated at 2:33 p.m. ET
Citing public health concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers effectively rescheduled the date of Tuesday’s statewide election to June 9.
“Frankly, there’s no good answer to this problem—I wish it were easy. I have been asking everyone to do their part to help keep our families, our neighbors, and our communities safe, and I had hoped that the Legislature would do its part—just as the rest of us are—to help keep people healthy and safe,” said Evers in a statement Monday.
Localities around the state were scrambling to prepare for in-person voting with DIY safety equipment. Last week, the state said in a legal filing it had asked the National Guard to offer up Guard members to replace some of the 7,000 poll workers who said they would no longer turn up.
Evers, a Democrat, had resisted changing the date of the primary because many local offices on the ballot have terms that start in April. State law also says only the state legislature can change the date of the election.
The governor’s move came after the GOP-dominated state legislature refused to change the date or shift the election to all mail-in ballots. Evers had called an emergency session of the legislature over the weekend but GOP leaders gavelled the session in and out without taking any action.
GOP leaders said they would challenge Evers’ action in the state Supreme Court, calling it “unconstitutional overreach.”
Wisconsin voters had already requested a record number of absentee ballots to avoid polling places and those ballots will remain valid for June 9, according to the executive order. But Wisconsin’s voter ID rules prevented some people from being able to request an absentee ballot.
Under Monday’s order, voters will be able to request absentee ballots until five days before the election.
More than 20 states have postponed presidential primaries and other elections in the face of the virus, which struck the U.S. during the heart of presidential primary season. Last month, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine used his executive powers to reschedule that state’s March 17 election at the last minute after poll workers and voters became concerned about in-person voting.