Wisconsin's election mess underscores new divide over voting and health

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Image: Tony Evers
Tony Evers speaks at an election eve rally in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 5, 2018.Nick Oxford / Reuters file

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann and Melissa Holzberg

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin’s election was already a mess yesterday morning, and it got even messier just hours later.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who previously had been fine with the state’s April 7 primaries and election proceeding as planned, issued an executive order Monday afternoon suspending in-person voting and postponing it until June.

The GOP-controlled state Supreme Court overruled the governor, reinstating the election for today.

And then the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision along ideological lines, overturned a lower federal court's decision to extend the deadline for absentee balloting until April 13, NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald reports.

Add them all up, and you have an election taking place today, where Republicans – like President Trump – are urging voters to go to the polls in Wisconsin, and where Democrats are saying that it’s unsafe. (A sizable number of Wisconsin voters have already cast absentee ballots.)

All of this instability should be a warning to the other states and the two political parties to come to some sort of an agreement on rules for the road in voting in our new Coronavirus Era.

“If one side of the political equation is willing to risk their voters’ lives by encouraging them to engage in highly-risky in person voting and the other side isn’t, then there are massive problems that await the country in November,” the Daily Beast’s Sam Stein tweets.

By the way, the political trench warfare in Wisconsin over the last 10 years — dating back to Scott Walker’s first gubernatorial win back in 2010 — has led to this day in the Badger State, where Democrats and Republicans are now divided on voting and safety.

And now that the election is moving forward — results won’t be released until April 13 — the state, the political parties and everyone involved better hope that today’s in-person voting doesn’t lead to a further outbreak in the state.

Because that would be the biggest mess of all.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

368,653: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 30,755 more than yesterday morning.)

10,942: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,316 more than yesterday morning).

1.95 million: The number of coronavirus TESTS that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

5: The number of in-person polling centers in Milwaukee in today’s Wisconsin primary, compared to 180 polling sites on a normal Election Day.

45,000: The number of absentee ballots in Milwaukee that have yet to be returned. Those must be postmarked by midnight tonight or dropped off in person at a designated site today in order to be counted.

At least four: The number of grocery workers who have died of Covid-19 in recent days.

72 percent: The share of those who have died of Covid-19 in Chicago who are black. (The black population in the city is about a third.)

73 percent: The share of those who have died of Covid-19 in Milwaukee County who are black. (The black population in the county is also about a third.)

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: John Lewis endorses Joe Biden

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the civil rights icon, has endorsed Joe Biden in the 2020 Democratic race, NBC’s Mike Memoli and Marianna Sotomayor report.

"It is my belief that we need Joe Biden now more than ever before," Lewis said, per Memoli and Sotomayor. "He will be a great president. He will lead our country to a better place. He will inspire another generation to stand up, to speak up and to speak out. Be brave, to be bold. That's why I'm committed to supporting him."

Ad Watch

From NBC’s Ben Kamisar: Today’s Ad Watch comes from the Los Angeles area, where Democrats and Republicans are squaring off in one of the few contested special House elections.

Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith and Republican Mike Garcia, a former Navy pilot, are running in the May 12 special for the 25th District, which was vacated by former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill. She resigned in 2019, less than a year after flipping the seat blue with an almost 9-point victory.

Now, both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are battling over the airwaves: The DCCC is attacking Garcia by linking him to Republican health care plans, and the NRCC is hitting Smith for avariety of votes she took in the state legislature.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order last month that required all voters in the district to be sent vote-by-mail ballots with prepaid postage in the hopes of holding the vote in spite of the coronavirus restrictions. So unless things change, Garcia and Smith have only a little more than a month to rally their supporters to turn out by mailing in.

Republican pollster warns GOP denial isn’t “a successful strategy for survival”

A Republican pollster is sounding alarm bells on Republican messaging when it comes to the coronavirus. NBC’s Kasie Hunt and the network’s Capitol Hill team reports that Neil Newhouse — a longtime GOP pollster — circulated a presentation on the Hill highlighting the effect President Trump’s messaging could have on his core supporters.

“Republicans' failure to recognize the seriousness of this pandemic is putting themselves and their loved ones in danger. Denial is not likely to be a successful strategy for survival over the next months,” the presentation stated.

Newhouse pulled from recent polls, including the NBC News/WSJ poll, to show GOP members what they may have to fight against in terms of proving to their base that they are taking the pandemic seriously.

Some of Newhouse’s key findings: Americans believe Republicans are less concerned than other Americans about the spread of coronavirus, fewer Republicans have changed their behaviors to protect against contracting the virus and a majority of Republicans believe the threat of coronavirus is being blow out of proportion.

The Lid: Florida Men

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at how GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump are faring in Florida amid the coronavirus fallout.

Shameless plug

Tonight at 10:00 p.m. ET, NBC’s Lester Holt anchors “NBC News Special Report: Coronavirus Pandemic.” The program airs live across NBC, MSNBC and NBC News NOW (streaming service). It’s also in collaboration with Facebook — viewers can submit questions via Facebook and Instagram, and our team of experts/doctors/correspondents will answer live on air.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The DNC is reserving $22 million in YouTube ads for the general election.

The Wall Street Journal looks at how the coronavirus crisis is influencing Biden’s VP search.

Bernie Sanders supporters are divided over whether he should stay in the race.

The Washington Post looks at Kelly Loeffler’s tumultuous few months in the Senate.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley is taking one of the more aggressive approaches in his party to mitigating the economic impact of the virus.