“I’ve got kids home from college, and I couldn’t, in good conscience, I would not ask them to sit in a room greeting dozens of people right now,” Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, said in an interview. “I couldn’t expect citizens to do that either.”
The possibility that the state’s largest cities, which lean Democratic, could be forced to shutter some polling locations and relocate others, while suburban and rural Republican-leaning areas remain less compromised by the virus, has led some to wonder about possible impacts on the State Supreme Court race, one of vital importance to the state parties and often a bellwether of November voter behavior.
As of Friday, more than 760,000 voters had requested absentee ballots in Wisconsin, nearly five times the number requested during the 2018 midterm elections. The surge in requests has taxed already understaffed election clerks’ offices around the state, and has pushed a system that has never topped 10 percent voting by mail to its limit.
Republicans in the state Legislature have pointed to the absentee ballot numbers as evidence that the election can be held safely.
“I think that people are pretty smart in Wisconsin, and you hear the numbers, they’re asking for a lot of absentee ballots,” said Luther Olsen, a Republican state senator from central Wisconsin. “So if you really want to vote and vote absentee, you can do it. I would be real surprised if we have any lines waiting to vote on Election Day.”
Even before Mr. Evers’s announcement, national and state Democrats and voting rights groups had filed lawsuits seeking a delay in the election, and Democratic lawmakers were already pleading with their Republican colleagues to convene a special emergency session to help extend voting by mail.
“It just seems to me we are either sacrificing the health and lives of the community or taking away people’s right to vote,” said Gordon Hintz, the Democratic leader in the State Assembly. “I just don’t believe that we can move forward with an Election Day that puts so many people at risk.”
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