- Sandy Grees ’21
Earlier this month, Wisconsin held their primaries in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although Tony Evers, the Democratic governor of the state, tried to delay the election by pushing back the deadline to turn in absentee ballots, he was met with pushback from Republican lawmakers in the state, and the Supreme Court ruled that voting was still to be held at its original date. This left Wisconsin voters with a brutal decision: to exercise their constitutional right to vote or to risk contracting a deadly virus. This choice is obviously extremely difficult to make and is also absolutely unfair to ask of Wisconsin voters.
The fault ultimately lies with the Republican-dominated legislature and the Supreme Court, which were both monumental in the decision to proceed with the scheduled election. While the rest of the country was told to self-quarantine under state-wide stay-at-home orders, these Wisconsin voters were forced to go out and spend a full day near others in order to cast their vote, all the while risking their health.
Coronavirus has effectively halted life as we know it. American citizens have been self-quarantining since mid-March. Many have argued that this virus has suspended our civil liberties. If this truly is the case, in-person voting should be counted as one of those civil liberties that must be suspended temporarily for the safety of citizens because forcing the Primary election to continue endangers thousands of voters. Wisconsin’s voter turnout remained relatively high, even during the Coronavirus pandemic. This shows that an extremely large number of people put their health at risk in going out and spending hours in a line just to exercise their democratic responsibility. While Wisconsin voters did not necessarily approve the election carrying on in the midst of the election, they still came out to vote because they felt it was their civic duty.
The Wisconsin election was a debacle in several ways, but it was beneficial in one: it shows the increasingly crucial need for a replacement to in-person voting. Absentee ballots, which allow voters to cast their vote at home and mail it off to be counted, have been a viable option for years and have been implemented in several states. However, this system has not become the norm; in-person voting is by far the more popular option. This needs to change.
Part of the reason so many voters turned out for the Wisconsin primary is because their absentee ballot came in too late or didn’t come in at all. This is why absentee voting should become the norm in American elections. It must be reformed to become an efficient voting process, with some method of screening set up to combat voter fraud. The Wisconsin election points out the several flaws with our democratic voting system, and should be a wake-up call for lawmakers. Voters should not have to risk their health simply to have their voice heard in democracy.
Photo contributed by Katie Sandhu ’21 from Unsplash.