WI Clerks Unanimously Oppose Plan to Move 2020 Presidential Primary

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Wisconsin county clerks are unanimously opposing a proposal in the Legislature to move the state’s presidential primary and create a third statewide election in spring 2020. WBAY has more:

Municipal and county clerks around the state are opposed to the possibility of moving the 2020 presidential primary to March.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission estimates moving the election would cost at least $7 million statewide.

“That would create a February primary spring election, a March presidential preference election, and a spring general election all within a six-week time span,” said Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno.

A Wisconsin Elections Commission meeting held on Monday morning revealed that none of the 72 county clerks in the state supports the move.

“It’s not one like a recall where the electors decide if they want to have a special election to recall someone,” said Juno. “This would merely be adding on a special election to satisfy possibly one group or organization.”

“We’ve never been presented with a bill like this where we have an opportunity — and I think a responsibility — to weigh in on how to run good elections,” said Mark Thomsen, member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Juno says the $7 million cost is money Wisconsin counties and municipalities do not have. The additional election would be a burden on budgets she says are already too tight.

“Even if the legislature did agree to fund a special election, that will still put us in a difficult position just to have the resources,” said Juno. “Meaning people to work these elections, the equipment because of the time overlaps. We’d probably have to purchase some additional equipment in order to even do this.”

Clerks from around the state made their way to Madison on Monday to share their thoughts on the bill in a public hearing.

“There’s statutorily so many things that you have to take into consideration, and it just doesn’t make sense,” said Juno.

The cost of the switch could be even higher given an additional proposal to limit early voting, which will almost certainly be challenged in court if it passes, JSOnline reports:

[T]he restriction on early voting could add even more costs because the state is sure to face a legal challenge over it if it passes. A similar law was struck down by U.S. District Judge James Peterson, who found the limit was unconstitutional because it was aimed at helping Republicans by deterring minorities from voting.

If the state loses on the issue, taxpayers would likely have to pay the attorney fees for those bringing the case. 

Regular readers of this blog know that Wisconsin has already seen more than its fair share of election-related controversies; while one might hope that the Legislature would heed the opinions of local election officials (and respect local budgets), experience suggests not to expect it. This legislation needs to move quickly given that a new Governor who doesn’t support these changes takes office next year – so don’t be surprised if this disagreement comes to a head very soon. Stay tuned …

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