Milwaukee residents line up to vote in Wisconsin’s primary election on Tuesday. (Sara Stathas/for The Washington Post)

Now we know.

Now we know, thanks to what happened in Tuesday’s election in Wisconsin, that Republican politicians will freely use the coronavirus pandemic to tilt electoral outcomes in their favor by obstructing access to the ballot, particularly in Democratic-leaning urban areas hit hardest by the pandemic.

Now we know that, for Republicans, voter suppression is part of the party’s game plan. Just ask President Trump, who is petrified of the efforts of congressional Democrats to secure financing for nationwide mail-in voting. He complained about levels of voting such that, “if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” On Wednesday, Trump — who himself voted by mail in 2018 and in last month’s Florida primary — tweeted that voting by mail “for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” Yes: More voters mean fewer Republican electoral victories.

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Now we know that Republicans will tell absurd lies to rationalize what they are doing. Thanks to the Journal Times newspaper in Wisconsin’s Racine County, we have video of Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the State Assembly, as he took a break from working the polls. Vos, as the paper noted, was “wearing a mask, gloves and full-length gown.” But that didn’t stop him from declaring that “you are incredibly safe to go out.” Especially if, unlike most voters, you’re wearing all that gear.

And now we know that the right to vote will get no protection from the five right-wing Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court, who issued an election-eve decision refusing to extend the deadline for absentee ballots. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted acidly in her dissent, “The Court’s order requires absentee voters to postmark their ballots by election day, April 7 — i.e., tomorrow — even if they did not receive their ballots by that date. That is a novel requirement.” In case the conservative justices who wrote the voter-suppression ukase missed her irony, she added: “A voter cannot deliver for postmarking a ballot she has not received.”

We know that this fall’s election is in deep jeopardy. We have been warned that Trump, the GOP and the party bosses in robes on the U.S. Supreme Court are perfectly willing to obstruct the right to vote of those most likely to vote Democratic.

Outside Wisconsin, Tuesday’s vote was of interest mostly as a Democratic primary battle between former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Democratic Party lawyer Marc Elias says states and Congress need to act now to ensure all votes count during the general election. These changes are overdue. (Video: The Washington Post)

But what mattered to Republicans was a contest for the state Supreme Court that was nonpartisan in name only. Conservative incumbent Daniel Kelly faced a vigorous challenge from Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky. The GOP wants to keep the state court conservative, and the court did its part by blocking Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’s last-minute effort Monday to suspend in-person voting on Tuesday and postpone the election to June 9. The vote was 4 to 2 along ideological lines, with Kelly recusing himself. Here again, “justice” was entirely partisan.

There are two lessons here. The first is that Congress must pass legislation as part of the next economic rescue package that will require mail-in ballots in every state and finance the effort with federal money. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) insist that they will fight for nationwide mail voting.

It would be better if it went into what they are calling the "interim bill” being negotiated now. But both Schumer and Pelosi insist they will soon call Trump’s bluff and challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): Are they so invested in voter suppression that they will block all other relief efforts just to keep access to voting out of a rescue bill?

It’s also time to build outside pressure. Biden and Sanders, who need to show signs of coming together now that Sanders is suspending his campaign, should hold a joint video news conference with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on behalf of Warren’s comprehensive bill to provide $4 billion for postage-free mail ballots.

Her proposal also includes a ban on onerous voting requirements, hazard pay for poll workers and an end to voter purges at a moment when it will be hard for voters to defend their rights. Because Warren builds on an earlier Klobuchar proposal, both former presidential candidates should stand together.

As for conservatives on the Supreme Court, this was strike three when it comes to election rigging, after the Citizens United decision opening the floodgates to big money and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. Liberals have to abandon their skittishness about remedies (such as expanding the size of the court) to battle both conservative court-packing and right-wing judicial activism.

The Opinions section is looking for stories of how the coronavirus has affected people of all walks of life. Write to us.

Now we know that the pandemic threatens not only our personal health but also the health of our democracy. We need to act urgently for the sake of both.

Read more:

Ruth Marcus: Wisconsin’s debacle may be the most infuriating of the coronavirus failures

Jennifer Rubin: Wisconsin shows the fragility of democracy

Paul Waldman: Wisconsin’s election nightmare is a preview of what could happen in November

Alexandra Petri: People made the ultimate sacrifice for you to vote. Shouldn’t you do the same?

The Post’s View: Wisconsin Republican leaders put voters in an impossible position

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