MADISON, Wis. — A federal judge on Thursday declined to postpone Wisconsin’s presidential primary as the coronavirus spreads throughout the country, but he ordered that people be given an extra six days beyond Tuesday’s election for absentee voting.
US District Judge William Conley’s order essentially extends the election by nearly a week. He blasted state leaders’ decision not to delay the election to protect people’s health but refused to postpone it himself, saying a federal judge shouldn’t act as the state’s health officer.
“As much as the court would prefer that the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor consider the public health ahead of any political considerations, that does not appear in the cards. Nor is it appropriate for a federal district court to act as the state’s chief health official by taking that step for them,” Conley wrote.
The deadline for voters to get absentee ballots to local clerks had been 8 p.m. on Tuesday, but Conley’s order shifted that to 4 p.m. on April 13. Conley also extended the deadline for voters to request ballots by a day to 5 p.m. this Friday.
The judge also lifted a witness requirement for absentee ballot applications, writing that voters can provide a written affirmation that they could not safely obtain a witness signature due to coronavirus fears.