Voters in Wisconsin were outraged about the decisions by Evers, Wisconsin legislature leading up to a poorly-planned election in the midst of a pandemic
Photo courtesy of Tamia Fowlkes
On Tuesday, April 7, all eyes were on Wisconsin as hundreds of thousands of voters emerged from their homes to vote after a late response from Gov. Tony Evers (D) to delay the Spring General Election amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision that was then overturned by the Republican-controlled state Supreme Court.
The failure to delay the election by Evers and then the Wisconsin Supreme Court upset voters statewide, resulting in era-defining images like this one from Journal Sentinel intern Patricia McKnight.
Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) was a candidate for Milwaukee County Executive, running against David Crowley, who would win the election by an estimated 1,039 votes out of more than 192,000 ballots cast.
“Initially, Evers thought there were easier ways to solve the problem, like pushing vote by mail,” Larson said. “But as the election got closer, I think they realized they hadn’t accounted for a lack of poll workers and the public’s willingness to actually go out and vote. There were a lot of people who were upset that they were forced to go out and vote and put their lives in danger.”
Despite the fact that the election went on in the midst of a pandemic and in-person turnout was way down, the number of absentee ballots cast were way up, accounting for 71% of total votes compared to just 10% in the spring election of 2016, according to NPR.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has had negative impacts on nearly everyone, the pandemic has also made many question how it will impact Election Day in November.
“I think now we have more of a runway leading into the November election,” Larson said. “That gives us a lot of time to look at how to push people to vote from home. It gives candidates and supporters of candidates time to look at how to reach voters. It gives clerks the ability to account for getting [absentee] ballots out in time and they can anticipate that’s likely to happen.”
Larson added that since it is virtually impossible to meet face-to-face with voters, new candidates will face an uphill battle in terms of collecting signatures to get their names on ballots, as this step can now only be done via mail and email. This will also force new candidates to rely on cultivated relationships instead of new ones.
Larson also said there is a strong chance the November election will be entirely or at least primarily run via absentee ballots.
“There’s a number of bills that are trying to change the rules for absentee ballots for the November election,” Larson said. “There are moves to make that part of the next package of relief bills for COVID-19. It would need to be a nationwide effort because each state has its own laws that govern absentee voting.”
While the November election is still months away, the bigger concern for Democrats and the state of Wisconsin right now is the Democratic National Convention which was set to take place in Milwaukee in July before being postponed to the week of August 17-20.
Larson’s brother, Dave, served as the senior director of hospitality for the convention before being laid off in mid-April as much of his role was eliminated with the convention likely to shift to a virtual shell of its usual self.
“The event was supposed to bring 50,000 people to town,” Dave Larson said. “Realistically, there’s no way that can happen now. They’re still working on a number of scenarios but the best bet is it will be virtual.”
While Dave Larson discussed the logistics regarding visitors and guests of the convention, Chris Larson talked about how Milwaukee was unlucky with the timing of the virus.
“Milwaukee basically got screwed out of $200 million of economic activity that we should have got out of the DNC,” Chris Larson said.
With many DNC events already cancelled and the rest of the convention delayed by at least a few weeks, the DNC planning committee has turned their attention to making the best of what they have, figuring out how to integrate technology with the events and keynote speeches that were set to happen at the convention.
Dave Larson also talked about the November election, directly relating it back to the questionable decisions made in Wisconsin in April.
“A lot of people will look at what took place in Wisconsin a few weeks ago to determine what’s the best way forward for November, including the political arms of both parties,” Dave Larson said. “The DNC and RNC will try to figure out the best way to engage their voters. Voting by mail is the one that makes sense but politics will determine how it will take place.”
While there are many uncertainties about the November election, it is all but guaranteed the COVID-19 pandemic will play a role in election protocols and how the election takes place, as well as an impact on election outcomes.
Every week from Tuesday-Sunday, the Kollege Klub is packed with students looking to have a good time with their friends. Unfortunately, the bar is now empty for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As COVID-19, a strain of the Coronavirus, continues to spread around the world, many people whose jobs are considered “nonessential” are left out of work. Bars fall under the category of nonessential, forcing their employees to close shop until the government deems it safe for them to reopen.
Bars are not only a major part of the culture of Wisconsin, but they are also essential to Madison’s character. People in Madison love the bar culture. Whether it be to watch the Badgers, Packers or just a night out for a good time with friends, Madison’s bars are always packed, especially the Kollege Klub.
‘The KK’ is considered by many to be one of the best bars in Madison, especially for events like Friday After Class, parents weekend and of course, game days in the fall.
Because of what seem like endless crowds that come into the KK, it is also one of the most popular bars in Madison to work at.
I spoke with Jordan Meier, owner of the KK, about the closure of his bar. Meier has been working full time at the KK since 2006. This is the first time the KK has been forced to close since he has been there.
Meier said, “The KK was last forced closed when the city suspended our liquor license for 30 days back in the early 2000s. That was before my time but from what I can remember the managers weren’t doing a very good job of enforcing the rules. A lot has changed since back then.”
This closure has left all employees of the bar out of work, from bartenders, to bouncers, even the D.J.’s at the bar.
I, along with Mike Reuhl, work as a D.J. at the KK multiple nights throughout the week playing music for customers. While I have only had the position for a little over a year, Mike has been working at the KK off and on since 2008. I talked to Mike about his time at the KK and about the recent closure.
“I knew back in January that it was going to probably affect us because we weren’t really doing anything about it at that point. It was happening in China at that time and you could see that the spread was massive. Then the CDC came out towards the end of February and said people should buy two weeks of food and supplies and that’s when I knew it was happening,” Reuhl said.
Mike knew that his time as a D.J. was going to be cut short for the school year, but he did not know when.
“The week before spring break I said to myself that this is probably the last time I’m going to be seeing a lot of the seniors. Even if people are staying in Madison, we are going to be closed,” Reuhl said.
While Reuhl is upset about the closure, there are many memories that he can look back on at the KK, like their recent event hosted by Friday Beers where the entire bar got free beer all afternoon. He said he had never seen the KK like that before.
While it can be fun to look back on the good times, not knowing when businesses will be able to open again and employees will be able to return to work is something that Reuhl is skeptical about.
“I think that bars and restaurants will be closed for a while. I think it will last way through summer and even into next year. I’m surprised that the government didn’t make even more restrictions. I thought there were going to be restrictions about going in and out of cities, all the way to martial law,” Reuhl said.
Like many people, Reuhl has found other activities to stay busy during this time at home, like shooting rifles for sport and walking to stay active. He also has been cooking a lot with his girlfriend.
While these are all fun things to do, Reuhl, along with many others across the country, still worry about not having a job and not having a source of income.
“I applied for the CARES Act because I was a full time D.J. so I qualified for support and got a decent chunk of change from that.”
The CARES Act is a Federal Stimulus Bill that was passed by Congress on March 27, 2020. The Department of Workforce Development website says that “within the CARES Act are three benefits, like $600 a week in unemployment benefits, that unemployed individuals may be eligible to receive if they are not eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.”
For now, those that are unemployed can benefit from this stimulus bill, but everyone hopes to get back to normal sooner than later.
Jan. 24, 2020: Three confirmed cases reported in France. This is the disease’s first appearance in Europe. Australia confirms four are also infected
Jan. 30, 2020: WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declares the 2019-nCoV outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern
Jan. 30, 2020: First confirmed COVID-19 case in Wisconsin
Jan. 31, 2020: The Trump Administrationsuspends entry into to U.S. for most foreign nationals who had traveled to China in the past 14 days
Feb. 5, 2020: Local officials confirm a Dane County resident is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19, becoming the first confirmed case in Wisconsin and the 12th in the US
Feb. 11, 2020: Virus officially named COVID-19
Feb. 13-18, 2020: China hits it’s peak in COVID-19 cases after health officials begin confirming cases through laboratory test results and chest imaging, reporting over 72,000 cases
Feb. 19, 2020: Trump states: “I think it is going to work out fine, I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that type of virus”
Feb. 26, 2020: President Trump places Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the US government response to the novel coronavirus, amid growing criticism of the White House’s handling of the outbreak
March 9, 2020: The Ohio State University becomes the first Big Ten university to suspend in-person classes
March 10-12, 2020: The remainder of Big Ten universities suspend in-person classes
March 11, 2020: Trump announces new travel restrictions from 26 European countries in the Schengen Area, not including the United Kingdom, applies to foreign nationals and not American citizens and permanent residents who’d be screened before entering the country
March 11, 2020: WHO categorizes COVID-19 as a pandemic
March 11, 2020: Suspension of UW-Madison Spring 2020 Study Abroad Programming
March 11, 2020: Chancellor Blank announces that, in order to minimize risk of COVID-19, the university will be closed to students and faculty until April 10th, effective March 23
March 12, 2020: University of Wisconsin Athletics announces a plan for COVID-19 as a part of The Big Ten Conference; attendance at all Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament games will be limited to student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media and immediate family members of the participating teams
March 12, 2020: Gov. Evers declares COVID-19 a health emergency in Wisconsin
March 13, 2020: Individuals on campus at Northwestern University and at the University of Minnesota test positive for COVID-19, becoming the first such cases on a Big Ten campus
March 13, 2020: Gov. Evers orders all Wisconsin schools to close
March 14, 2020: UW Foundation establishes COVID-19 emergency student support fund, The University of Wisconsin–Madison implements a new fund to support students with financial struggles during COVID-19, such as unexpected travel costs, limited opportunities to work and funds for daily living costs, and/or decreased funding available for basic resources
March 14, 2020: Michigan State University becomes the first Big Ten university to postpone their in-person commencement ceremony
March 15, 2020: Public Health Madison & Dane County issues an emergency order, stopping any large gatherings of 50 people or more
March 16th, 2020: All Dane County schools are closed
March 16, 2020: A UW-Madison employee tests positive for COVID-19, becoming the first member of the campus community to do so
March 16, 2020: Trump advises Americans to self-isolate for 15 days – the president announces Social Distancing guidelines to be in place for two weeks that are then subsequently extended through the month of April
March 17, 2020: UW-Madison cancels in-person classes for the remainder of the semester, and students who traveled for spring break are advised to reconsider returning to Madison
March 17, 2020: Gatherings of ten or more people are restricted in Wisconsin
March 18, 2020: UW-Madison announces prorated housing refunds, and students are asked to not return to the residence halls following spring break. A move-out plan spanning several weeks is announced. All libraries on campus close
March 19, 2020: Wisconsin records its first two deaths caused by COVID-19
March 19, 2020: Wisconsin lawmakers in D.C. are among the few lawmakers to vote against a bill aimed at expanding sick leave and unemployment benefits. The bill passed in both houses ofCongress and enjoyed bipartisan support.
March 19, 2020: Trump signs into law an emergency coronavirus relief package for paid sick leave and free testing
March 19, 2020: University of Maryland becomes the final Big Ten university to cancel in-person classes for the remainder of semester
March 20, 2020: Rutgers University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan become the first Big Ten universities to announce alternative grading options for their students. Rutgers and the University of Minnesota announced pass/fail grading options while the University of Michigan gave students a pass/no record option
March 20, 2020: International Division, shares that IAP study abroad programs and IIP international internships planned for summer 2020 will be cancelled. This includes programs offered in collaboration with CALS, WSB, and CoE, as well as Wisconsin in Washington
March 20-27: Italy hits it’s peak in COVID-19 cases
March 23, 2020: Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway issues an emergency order in response to the pandemic
March 23, 2020: University of Michigan becomes the first Big Ten university to shift all summer courses online
March 23, 2020: UW-Madison postpones its in-person commencement ceremony, announcing virtual commencement plans and an intention for an alternate in-person event at a later date. Chancellor Blank releases announcement video
March 24, 2020: Gov. Evers implements Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order
March 25, 2020: A Dane County resident in her 70s becomes the county’s first death from COVID-19
March 26, 2020: UW-Madison announces a pass/fail grading option that can be requested even after final grades are posted
March 26, 2020: The U.S. has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 of any country in the world
March 27, 2020: President Trump signs H.R. 748, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security” (CARES) Act – the coronavirus stimulus bill – into law. This emergency legislation implements broad ranging remedial measures designed to curb the economic impact of the pandemic. It also modifies the FDA drug approval process, emergency paid sick leave programs, health insurance coverages for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, medical product supplies and Medicare and Medicaid
March 27: Temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures implemented in Wisconsin
March 29, 2020: U.S. has over 140,000 confirmed cases; South Korea has over 9,000, Japan over 1,800, Singapore 844 (exactly), France over 40,000, India over 1,000, the U.K. over 19,000, Italy over 97,000, Spain over 80,000, Belgium over 10,000, Iran over 38,000
March 29, 2020: Trump extends social distancing measures until April 30
April 2, 2020: UW-Madison summer term suspends in-person summer term courses and shifts to online only; scholarship deadlines are extended. Madison expands online summer offerings to include more than 300 courses
April 6, 2020: Gov. Evers attempts to postpone the April 7th elections by executive order. His decision is overturned by Wisconsin’s state supreme court
April 7, 2020: Wisconsin holds its spring primary elections. Despite fears that COVID-19 would stop residents from voting, Dane County sees an increase in voter turnout
April 8, 2020: Wisconsin’s COVID-19 death toll tops 100.
April 9, 2020: SOAR is shifted online for the summer to ensure the safety of students and staff; new undergraduate students will enroll in classes, meet peers and an academic advisor and get connected to campus resources through an online experience
April 14, 2020: Trump halts financial contributions to the WHO
April 15, 2020: Income continuation remains an option for student employees, UW–Madison extends income to federal work-study students, students currently working remotely, and students who are no longer able to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced campus operations
April 15, 2020: Evers signs a COVID-19 response package into law. The bill is approved unanimously by lawmakers in the state legislature after nearly a month of partisan debate, and aims to secure increased federal funding for Medicaid and unemployment benefits.
April 17, 2020: Trump tweets support for anti-quarantine protests
April 20, 2020: Gov. Evers unveils the Badger Bounce Back plan, a three-stage approach to reopening the state’s economy after a consistent drop in the number of newly announced COVID-19 cases per day is observed and testing rates for the virus increase.
April 21, 2020: Trump orders pause on issuing green cards
April 24, 2020: Thousands gather at Wisconsin’s State Capitol protesting the Stay-at-Home order
April 27, 2020: Brown County surpasses Milwaukee County for the highest COVID-19 infection rate in Wisconsin after an outbreak at a meat processing plant.
May 4, 2020: UW-Madison faculty and students launch COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect, a free desktop and mobile app that provides information, social support and resources for Wisconsinites