Vos, Fitzgerald appeal court ruling that extended election deadlines

    Sen. Scott Fitzgerald and Speaker Robin Vos hold a virtual press conference (six feet apart) on March 25, 2020
    Sen. Scott Fitzgerald and Speaker Robin Vos hold a virtual press conference (six feet apart) on March 25, 2020

    The Wisconsin State Legislature filed an appeal on Wednesday to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in an attempt to stop the ruling of a district court judge that extended several deadlines important for November’s election. The original case was brought by the Democratic National Committee and others. 

    The Legislature, represented by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, hopes to overturn a federal judge’s order to allow relief to voters who may face obstacles trying to vote in the November election during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge William Conley ruled that he would extend the deadline for Wisconsin residents to register to vote online or by fax and extend the deadline by which absentee ballots must be received by municipal clerks. 

    Under Conley’s ruling, voters have until Oct. 21 to register online and absentee ballots can be received until Nov. 9 so long as they were mailed or postmarked before election day, Nov. 3. 

    “Election workers’ and voters’ experiences during Wisconsin’s primary election in April, which took place at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, have convinced the court that some, limited relief from statutory deadlines for mail-in registration and absentee voting is again necessary to avoid an untenable impingement on Wisconsin citizens’ right to vote, including the near certainty of disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters relying on the state’s absentee ballot process,” Conley wrote. 

    The Legislature’s appeal to strike down Conley’s ruling echoes the actions of Vos and Fitzgerald, the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court prior to the state’s April election. 

    In that election, Conley had issued a ruling that similarly extended deadlines. That ruling was appealed and ultimately struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. At the same time, amid calls to postpone the election due to the pandemic and a looming shortage of poll workers, Gov. Tony Evers called for a special session of the Legislature to move the election. Vos and Fitzgerald didn’t take any action in the special session. Eventually, Evers issued an executive order postponing the election. That order was struck down by the conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

    Conley stayed his ruling for the November election one week to allow for a likely appeal. The Legislature requested that the Seventh Circuit extend Conley’s stay pending the outcome of the appeal.

    Henry Redman
    Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.