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The Severity of Disenfranchisement in a Pandemic: Why We Can’t Let Wisconsin’s Mistake Happen Again

On Tuesday, April seventh, the citizens of Wisconsin had to make a decision no one should ever have to make: stay indoors to protect the health of themselves and others, or exercise their right to vote. Like most others, the state is under a stay at home order, meant to aid in slowing the spread of COVID-19, a disease ravaging the country that has already taken more than 43,000 lives in the U.S. as of April twenty-first.

Ten of Wisconsin’s city mayors urged for the delay of Tuesday’s primary for the health and safety of the state’s people, as not to put “hundreds of thousands” at risk by standing in crowded lines and rooms to hand in their ballots. But, their Repulican majority legislation failed them, and refused to delay the election.

On the Monday prior to Wisconsin's primary, the state Supreme Court ruled against delaying the primary amid pandemic safety concerns. Wisconsin’s primary ballot also contained a state Supreme Court primary contest that put sitting conservative justice Daniel Kelly against the more progressive, lower court judge, Jill Karofsky.

It was clear that Republican lawmakers in the state thought that by rejecting the delay of April seventh’s primary, they’d be suppressing the vote of those in more urban areas, and Daniel Kelly would win. This blatant manipulation of the system is outrageous, yet not shocking.

Time and time again, we have seen Republicans try to find new ways to suppress the liberal vote, especially here in the Granite State. Because they know the more people that vote, the less of a chance there is that they will win: because more people than less care about human rights such as civil rights, reproductive rights, and affordable healthcare.

No one should ever have to face the implications of losing the right to vote by choosing to protect their health in these extraordinary times. That’s why it is now more important than ever to stay in this fight, although it has had to be restructured, in order to protect both the health and civil liberties of the American people, against mounting discrimination, lies, and hatred.

Because this is not the first, and probably not the last time we will see Republican legislators use the pandemic as a cover to pursue their conservative and dangerous agenda. This is the time to unite around what we care about most: our health and basic human rights that continue to be at stake.


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