“Your failure to address these profound issues and the safety of all of Wisconsin’s residents during yesterday’s special session is unconscionable and is an abdication of your constitutional responsibilities as our leaders,” Jacobs and Thomsen wrote, according to the letter, a copy of which was sent to The Washington Post. News of the letter was first reported by Milwaukee-based TV station CBS58.
“In the face of a deepening and escalating COVID-19 crisis, forcing an in-person election on Tuesday not only threatens the voters, the clerks, and election staff, it threatens everyone those people subsequently come into contact with at home and elsewhere,” they added.
The letter was sent by Jacobs and Thomsen individually rather than by the entire six-member elections commission, which includes three Democratic and three Republican appointees.
As other states have canceled their nominating contests in the face of the pandemic, Wisconsin has chosen to go it alone — even though more than 100 municipalities will not have enough poll workers to open a single voting location, some voters may not receive their mail-in ballots in time, and those who do vote in person will be doing so at a time when public health officials have warned all Americans to stay home.
Amid public uproar over the issue, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) called for delaying the contest and abruptly convened a special legislative session on Saturday. But at the session, the state legislature refused to take up a proposal to cancel in-person voting in Tuesday’s elections. Republicans on Saturday also filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to block a deadline extension for mail-in ballots to be received, throwing further uncertainty into the primary.
In their letter, Jacobs and Thomsen said that more than 1.2 million absentee ballots had been requested but that only a little more than 703,000 had been returned as of Sunday morning.
“It is clear that people want to safely participate in their democracy!” they wrote. “It is equally clear that doing so remains challenging to many.”
They also criticized the move to send members of the Wisconsin National Guard to work as poll workers as “a short-sighted and unnecessary use of a valuable human resource.”
“Rather than having the Guard work to prepare for the surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths that we sadly know are coming, we are instead sending them around the state to be poll workers,” the two commissioners wrote. “They are risking their health, thereby reducing the Guard’s availability to act when most needed.”
Neither Vos’s nor Fitzgerald’s offices immediately responded to a request for comment on the letter.
Amy Gardner and Rachel Siegel contributed to this report.