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Wisconsin Plans To Vote In Person Tuesday After Last Minute Chaos

A worker leaves the the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building in Milwaukee late last month. Gov. Tony Evers has suspended in-person voting in the state's primary, which was scheduled for Tuesday April 7.
Morry Gash

Updated at 7:35 p.m. ET

Wisconsin's in-person primary election is on for Tuesday, but several last-minute orders and court rulings have thrown chaos into the process, hours before polls are scheduled to open.

On Monday, the state Supreme Court overruled the governor's order to postpone Tuesday's election and ordered it to proceed apace. There could be further court challenges, as the hours dwindle before polls are scheduled to open.

Citing public health concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a last-minute executive order earlier Monday to reschedule the 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.

Separately, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order Monday evening saying that absentee ballots need to be submitted in-person or postmarked by April 7 to be counted. The order overturns a lower court order that had allowed absentee voting to be extended for six days because of coronavirus concerns.

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. Under the executive order, officials whose terms are set to expire this month will state in office until the new 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 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 had 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.

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.

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Brett Neely is an editor with NPR's Washington Desk, where he works closely with NPR Member station reporters on political coverage and edits stories about election security and voting rights.