Wisconsin is asking hundreds of thousands of voters to ignore a stay-at-home order in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to participate in today’s presidential primary election, becoming a test case for dozens of states struggling to balance public health concerns with a core pillar of democracy.
The US National Guard would help run voting sites across the state after thousands of election workers stepped down fearing for their safety. Dozens of polling places would be closed, but those that are active would open at 12pm GMT.
Results are not expected to be released election night. In the wake of a legal battle over whether to conduct the election as scheduled, a court ruling appeared to prevent results from being made public earlier than Monday next week.
The election day chaos that loomed over Wisconsin, a premiere general-election battleground, underscored the lengths to which the coronavirus outbreak has upended politics as the Democrats seek a nominee to take on US President Donald Trump this fall.
Former US vice president Joe Biden hopes the state will help deliver a knockout blow against US Senator Bernie Sanders in the nomination fight, but the winner of today’s contest might be less significant than Wisconsin’s decision to allow voting at all.
Its ability to host an election under the lash of a growing pandemic could have significant implications for upcoming primaries and even the fall general election.
“This is a warning sign for November and a problem that states need to take all steps to avoid,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s democracy program. “Americans should not have to choose between their health and their right to vote.”
Democrats in and out of Wisconsin screamed for the low-profile contest to be postponed, yet Republicans — and the conservative-majority state Supreme Court — would not give in.
The partisan split was colored by a state Supreme Court election in which a lower turnout was thought to benefit the conservative candidate.
While Trump’s health advisers encouraged all Americans to stay home, Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Andrew Hitt downplayed the heath concerns.
The state had reported nearly 2,500 coronavirus infections and 77 related deaths as of Monday night.
“Wisconsin voters are pretty determined,” Hitt said, adding that Wisconsin residents are still going to the grocery store, the liquor store and even boating stores classified as essential businesses. “I can’t really think of something more essential than voting.”
Hitt said that he would be among those voting in person, even though he did not have a mask to cover his nose and mouth.
On Friday, Trump recommended that all Americans wear masks if they leave their homes.
“I don’t have one. I’m sure most of Wisconsinites don’t have masks,” Hitt said. “This isn’t New York City.”
On the day before the election, it was unclear for hours whether polls would open at all.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers issued an executive order on Monday afternoon to postpone the election. Less than four hours later, the state Supreme Court sided with Republicans who said that Evers did not have the authority to reschedule the race on his own.
Conservative justices on the US Supreme Court quickly followed with a 5-4 ruling that overturned a lower court’s decision expanding absentee voting.
Evers himself had questioned whether he had the power to reschedule the election, but he said the worsening situation, including an increase in COVID-19 deaths, made clear there was no way to safely move forward.
The Democrat said he sought the delay because he was motivated by protecting public health.
“The people of Wisconsin, the majority of them, don’t spend all their waking hours thinking about are Republicans or Democrats getting the upper hand here,” Evers said. “They’re saying they’re scared. They’re scared of going to the polls.”
‘TRAVEL FREELY’: Visitors from 10 countries deemed low-risk would be allowed into Thailand, while others must still undergo a week of quarantine at a hotel Thailand plans to fully reopen to vaccinated tourists from countries deemed low risk from Nov. 1, the country’s leader said on Monday, citing the urgent need to save the kingdom’s ailing economy. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand attracted nearly 40 million visitors a year drawn to its picturesque beaches and robust nightlife, with tourism making up almost 20 percent of its national income. However, pandemic-related travel restrictions have left the economy battered, contributing to its worst performance in more than 20 years. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that the country would be reopening its borders to vaccinated tourists travelling by air from
Vaccination is highly effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19, even against the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, a vast study in France has shown. The research published yesterday — focusing on prevention of severe COVID-19 and death, not infection — looked at 22 million people over 50 and found those who had received jabs were 90 percent less likely to be hospitalized or die. The results confirm observations from the US, the UK and Israel, but researchers say it is the largest study of its kind so far. Looking at data collected starting in December last year, when France launched its vaccination campaign,
Australia’s highest court yesterday dismissed an intellectual freedom claim by a university physicist who was fired in part over his public statements that scientists exaggerated damage to the Great Barrier Reef. Five High Court judges unanimously dismissed physicist Peter Ridd’s claim that he had been unlawfully dismissed in 2018 by James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland. The court ruled that a clause in his employment contract that protected his intellectual freedom was not a “general freedom of speech” clause and did not protect him from being fired for serious misconduct under the university’s code of conduct. Australian Minister for Education Alan Tudge said
HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: The US and the EU have said they are ready to back humanitarian initiatives in Afghanistan, but are wary of providing direct support to the Taliban Afghanistan’s new Taliban government has warned US and European envoys that continued attempts to pressure it through sanctions would undermine security and could trigger a wave of economic refugees. Acting Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi told Western diplomats at talks in Doha that “weakening the Afghan government is not in the interest of anyone because its negative effects will directly affect the world in [the] security sector and economic migration from the country,” a statement published late on Tuesday showed. The Taliban overthrew Afghanistan’s former US-backed government in August after a two-decade-long conflict, and have declared an Islamic emirate