Beloit (Wisconsin, US): A volunteer inserts a completed ballot into a counting machine after this city consolidated all its precincts in a single drive-up location for the presidential primary to enable voters cast ballots from their vehicles amid the coronavirus outbreak.—Reuters
Beloit (Wisconsin, US): A volunteer inserts a completed ballot into a counting machine after this city consolidated all its precincts in a single drive-up location for the presidential primary to enable voters cast ballots from their vehicles amid the coronavirus outbreak.—Reuters

MADISON: Voters lined up to cast ballots across Wisconsin on Tuesday, ignoring a stay-at-home order in the midst of a pandemic to participate in the state’s presidential primary election.

The lines were particularly long in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city and a Democratic stronghold, where just five of 180 traditional polling places were open. Many voters across the state did not have facial coverings in line with public health recommendations. The National Guard and some Republican officials who resisted efforts to postpone the election were forced to help run voting sites after thousands of election workers stepped down fearing for their safety.

Polls were scheduled to close at 8pm, although results were not expected on Tuesday night. In the wake of a legal battle over whether to conduct the election as scheduled, a court ruling appeared to prevent results from being made public earlier than April 13.

The Election Day chaos that loomed over Wisconsin, a premiere general-election battleground, underscored the lengths to which the coronavirus outbreak has upended politics as Democrats seek a nominee to take on President Donald Trump this fall. As the first state to host a presidential primary contest in three weeks, Wisconsin becomes a test case for dozens of states struggling to balance public health concerns with voting rights in the turbulent 2020 election season.

Joe Biden hopes the state will help deliver a knockout blow against Bernie Sanders in the nomination fight, but the winner of Tuesday’s contest may be less significant than Wisconsin’s decision to allow voting at all. Its ability to host an election under the lash of a growing pandemic could have significant implications for upcoming primaries and even the fall general election.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2020