Wisconsin's Plague Partisanship
April 6, 2020 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Like much of the world, Wisconsin is in lockdown. But unlike any other state in the U.S., it is proceeding with in-person April elections on Tuesday April 7th, despite state health officials, mayors, and news outlets calling this a terrible idea.

Fifteen other states have postponed their spring elections or moved them to take place via mail--but not Wisconsin. This despite the fact that the state's Covid-19 curve is rising steeply, and the Governor has ordered people to stay home and avoid large gatherings.

This plan appears not just dangerous but unworkable. In Wisconsin's largest city, Milwaukee, which is the state's Covid-19 hotspot, only 5 of 180 usual voting locations will be open due to lack of available poll workers, and it seems implausible that social distancing can be maintained, even with depressed turnout, amid the long lines the Election Commission warns voters to expect.

After announcing in the past that the state could not set aside National Guard members to be trained to staff polls, news reports now say that the National Guard will be called in to help, but election commission staff say they have not been contacted to arrange this, and it is unclear how National Guard members could be trained in time, if they are to actually serve as pollworkers.

Not only will voters be put at risk by in-person voting during a pandemic, but election officials are worried that many who try will assume that risk in vain, because they will not be able to find an open voting place or cast a vote. To avoid this outcome, record numbers of voters have applied to vote absentee, but it is reported that many have yet to receive a ballot, and that there are insufficient staff available to count all those ballots within the set time limit.

The reason that Wisconsin has not postponed elections or moved them online may be related to the much-discussed problem of areas resisting restricting gatherings and movement until death rates start rapidly climbing, which is a bad mistake. But that tendency is ubiquitous, yet only Wisconsin has failed to cancel its election or convert it to mail-only. It appears that the problem in Wisconsin is a combination of dysfunctional partisan politics and the election featuring a significant battle over a state supreme court seat.

Some blame for the failure to stop in-person elections from taking place in a state where Covid-19 cases are rapidly rising is laid at the feet of Democratic leaders. Governor Tony Evers has consistently presented himself as having no executive power to change election parameters in an emergency, and hence unable to do more than ask a resistant, Republican-dominated legislature to please take action, or hope a court did so—but he may have had power to act. Meanwhile, Joe Biden, who is expected to win the Wisconsin Democratic primary election, supports continuing to hold the election as scheduled and downplays the danger of in-person voting.

But Governor Evers has at least been asserting that holding in-person elections now doesn’t make sense. He asked the legislature to switch to voting by mail, which the Republican majority scoffed at as impractical, undermining the electoral process, and opening a door to fraud. The legislature rejected the request within seconds of convening to vote.

Meanwhile, facing a stonewalling legislature and weak response from the governor, an array of parties joined together to try to get a federal court to act to postpone the election. The judge who heard the case, William Conley, wrote, "As much as the court would prefer that the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor consider the public health ahead of any political considerations, that does not appear in the cards." But writing that he lacked the authority to impose a postponement of the election, Conley issued a limited order, that gave residents one extra day (now past) to request an absentee ballot, and ordered the state to count ballots received by 4 PM on April 13 instead of requiring them to be received by 8 PM on election night.

Even that modest order was immediately appealed by the Wisconsin Republican party. An appeals court let the order stand, but it was equally immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is poised to hear the case.

Republicans, who dominate the legislature due to well-documented gerrymandering, seem locked into their now-well-worn narrative of framing Democratic votes as tainted by fraud. This was used throughout their long and eventually successful effort to institute voter ID laws that have had the pragmatic effect of suppressing votes by people who are poor, and/or people of color, and/or college students—all groups well-known to be more likely to vote Democratic. The reflex to frame all efforts to lessen voting restrictions as against party interests is deeply entrenched, and Republican legislators have yet to let it go in their framing of this election.

And it is true that at this time, there is a strong overlap between Wisconsin residents most impacted by the coronavirus, and those who skew Democratic. It is people in urban areas—particularly Milwaukee—who are experiencing the highest rates of Covid-19 in the state. Furthermore, within Milwaukee itself, African American communities are experiencing a much more severe level of illness. Though (as usual) testing is sporadic, if you look at the Milwaukee County COVID-19 Dashboard, you will see that you can sort the confirmed case count by race. The percentage of confirmed Covid-19 sufferers who are identified as African American is about twice that of the percentage who are identified as white, in a city with roughly equal numbers of both groups. The Milwaukee map of cases of Covid-19 visibly corresponds to a map of racial backgrounds in this, America’s most segregated major metropolitan area. And of the first 25 people to die of Covid-19 in Milwaukee, 20 were African American, 2 Latine, and 3 white Anglos. So the burden of facing a choice between disfranchisement and catching and/or spreading the virus will fall most heavily on people already dealing with the worst racial disparities in life chances in the nation.

Voters and local officials across the state report feeling angry and confused about the conducting of in-person elections in this context. And yet the election is proceeding.
posted by DrMew (99 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sheesh. We voted a few days early here in Chicago, a few weeks ago. Went on Saturday morning around 9:30am. The polling place was about as bad as possible considering the pandemic. Again, this was several weeks ago, so much of the Covid 19 news was still just breaking. A windowless side room in a library, cramped, and with only one entrance/exit. All of the poll workers looked 50+ and some were easily in their 70s. They had to keep reforming the (short) line to keep those waiting from blocking the doors. The poll workers were in that cramped place full of strangers all day long. Just miserable.

I can imagine this will only be worse.
posted by SoberHighland at 9:59 AM on April 6 [5 favorites]


The Wisconsin GOP has been awful for years, but this really takes the cake.

Ohioan reporting to say I still can't believe WI didn't learn from our debacle two weeks ago, in which the election was called off, reinstated, then postponed again less than 24 hours before election day, originally scheduled for 3/17.

If there is going to be in-person voting, then it's too bad they couldn't arrange it the way drive-through COVID testing has been done with poll workers delivering ballots to each car - which is still a crappy solution given that many voters rely on public transportation.
posted by mostly vowels at 10:03 AM on April 6 [5 favorites]


These guys do realize that if they keep doing what they're doing, people are going to riot, right?
posted by Melismata at 10:06 AM on April 6 [3 favorites]


It is also crappy for covid-19 testing. I don't have a car. How do I use the drive-through testing? Can I walk up?
posted by srboisvert at 10:08 AM on April 6 [4 favorites]


These guys do realize that if they keep doing what they're doing, people are going to riot, right?

The worst of them been fantasizing about a "race war" for years, why would they stop now?

Seems to me, remaining pollworkers should all call in sick tonight. If you can't hold a real election- and you can't, with five polling places, they shouldn't be able to pretend they're having one. Force the remaining places to close.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:10 AM on April 6 [20 favorites]


Governor Tony Evers has consistently presented himself as having no executive power to change election parameters in an emergency, and hence unable to do more than ask a resistant, Republican-dominated legislature to please take action, or hope a court did so—but he may have had power to act.

I'm not a lawyer, but I believe Evers is right with respect to the date, and the idea that he could change the date unilaterally seems to be based on a misreading of the statutes that define a governor's powers in a public health emergency. The date of the spring election is set by the statutes. As a result of the emergency Evers has power over administrative rules. But statutes (where the election date lives) and administrative rules (what he has extra power over) are different things, even if they sound like they should be the same thing.

The voter ID issue also complicates the absentee ballot process, because many people don't know how to submit a scan of their ID to get a ballot. A judge tried and predictably failed to waive the ID requirement for absentee ballots.
posted by Jpfed at 10:14 AM on April 6 [11 favorites]


I am at a loss for words to express my fury with Biden. I expect Republicans not to care who dies to keep them in power. I used to expect better from Democrats.
posted by darksasami at 10:17 AM on April 6 [50 favorites]


These guys do realize that if they keep doing what they're doing, people are going to riot, right?

I'm failing at finding it at the moment but somewhere on the Interwebs is a meme circulating about how the $1200 stimulus check is just about the right amount of money to fund building a guillotine. I fear we're headed to a bad place as a country.
posted by ensign_ricky at 10:19 AM on April 6 [5 favorites]


They just suspended the in-person voting.
posted by Melismata at 10:52 AM on April 6 [16 favorites]


I ran into the issue that voting absentee isn't ideal either. I didn't understand until I recieved the ballot that you require a witness to the ballot for it to be counted. That was not easy to obtain when sheltering in place, so I ended up going in and voting early instead.
posted by graxe at 11:04 AM on April 6 [4 favorites]



They just suspended the in-person voting.


hopefully the fucking supreme court of wisconsin tosses out the inevitable repub challenge.
posted by lalochezia at 11:09 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


I ran into the issue that voting absentee isn't ideal either. I didn't understand until I recieved the ballot that you require a witness to the ballot for it to be counted. That was not easy to obtain when sheltering in place, so I ended up going in and voting early instead.

That's odd. In my jurisdiction you just need to sign it yourself, you don't need a third party witness unless there is some reason you cannot write your own name.
posted by jmauro at 11:21 AM on April 6 [9 favorites]


hopefully the fucking supreme court of wisconsin tosses out the inevitable repub challenge.

Republican-supported justices have a 5-2 majority on the court, including one of the people who's being voted on in this very election and won't recuse himself because no one can make him, so I don't have a whole lot of hope.
posted by Copronymus at 11:26 AM on April 6 [14 favorites]


I see that Evers has just issued an executive order delaying the election, which we can assume the legislature will label an invalid political manipulation. The Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is pushing for the state to lift the stay-at-home order for Easter, while his wife trots out the line that the lockdown is unnecessary hysteria and is destroying the state economy for no reason. We can presume this battle will go on.

Here is my personal take about what it feels like living in Milwaukee. It feels like the rabid right here has moved from framing Covid-19 as a Democratic hoax, to thinking of it as a Democratic disease. It currently looks to them like a virus that kills urban libs, black people, and the sorts of globalist elites who travel to China, and they do not have a problem with that.

During the past four years, white supremacy in the state has become much more open. I have watched white middle schoolers seig heil out of schoolbus windows. Stickers with the Nazi code 1488, othala runes and the Nazi "blood and soil" slogan are plastered on lampposts, in parks, in gas station bathrooms. Militia cosplayers in camouflage drive their oversized 4x4s with their Punisher stickers into town to meet by Lake Michigan, practice their prepper-fishing skills, and talk longingly about "the boogaloo." I have no doubt that that sector of the population is actively hoping for mass death, rioting, and perhaps that race war they so crave to have come at last.

Now, your average Wisconsinite is not decorating their lawn with swastikas. But what I think is hard to understand if you are used to living in a multiethnic setting is what happens to empathy in a setting of extreme segregation like we have in Wisconsin. I grew up in NYC, but I've now lived in Milwaukee for over 20 years. White people here just do not see humanity in the same way white people do in New York. A small example: I teach college here, and more than a quarter of the white students in my classes use the term "colored people" to refer to African Americans, and are astounded, offended, and hurt when I gently explain why this is really not the same phrase as "people of color." They have never heard of such a thing. Meanwhile, more of my white students--a majority--take it as axiomatic that humans wish to surround themselves with people like themselves, so naturally people will self-segregate.

What happens in such a segregated context is a failure of identification. White Wisconsinites seeing a hospital full of brown people don't identify with the patients and think "look at what is happening to us in Wisconsin, this is terrible!" They think "look at what is happening over there where those people live." And then the familiar habit of pathologizing kicks in. This exacerbates the common pattern of people thinking of an epidemic as something affecting outsiders, not "us," and then, when the epidemic hits, as something "they" gave to "us."

It doesn't make living in pandemic times any easier.
posted by DrMew at 11:26 AM on April 6 [85 favorites]


Wisconsin is the proverbial Peoria of a certain breed of politics, it seems. I am unsettled enough about what this means in my home, but make no mistake, for the nation as a whole it’s a dress rehearsal.
posted by eirias at 11:26 AM on April 6 [5 favorites]


An argument against vote by mail is that it could lead to coerced votes. I find this argument kind of plausible because I can imagine people being in a situation where some household member disagrees with their politics and could influence their vote. The voter-ID laws seem a pure fig leaf for voter suppression, but it seems to me there is some value in in-person voting. Maybe I'm old fashioned in my thinking, has the coerced vote argument been solved or debunked?
posted by mattiv at 11:30 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]



That's odd. In my jurisdiction you just need to sign it yourself, you don't need a third party witness unless there is some reason you cannot write your own name.


The witness signature I had to deal with wasn't on the ballot itself, it was on the envelope for the ballot.

What I received looks just like box 4 in this picture.
posted by graxe at 11:31 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


The witness signature I had to deal with wasn't on the ballot itself, it was on the envelope for the ballot.

This is a Wisconsin only rule though. The three states I've lived and voted in you only needed to sign the ballot yourself and didn't need a third party to sign it with you as verification.
posted by jmauro at 11:57 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


I voted absentee last week and yes, it did require a witness signature on the envelope. In my case, I'm sheltering with a parent so we signed each others' envelopes. I also had to assist my parent with getting the ballot because their computer skills are very limited and had no clue how to scan their ID and upload it.

Supposedly WI officials were planning on automatically sending absentee ballots to all registered voters but we'd already requested ours by that time so I don't know if they actually did send those out.
posted by acidnova at 11:58 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Yes. This thread is about voting in Wisconsin.
posted by avalonian at 11:59 AM on April 6 [6 favorites]


That's odd. In my jurisdiction you just need to sign it yourself, you don't need a third party witness unless there is some reason you cannot write your own name.

All absentee ballots require a witness signature on the envelope in WI. Judge Conley tried to rule that we should count absentee ballots without a witness signature, but nope, we threw that out.

I'm so tired of Wisconsin, but I also want to stay to help make things better, but the urge to be like my aunt who ran away to California as soon as she could is strong right now. I mean obviously out of the question with COVID-19, but the emotion is there. I know California is Also Bad in plenty of its own ways, but still.
posted by brook horse at 11:59 AM on April 6 [9 favorites]


I'm kind of amazed that Evers issued that executive order. It's hard to see how it will survive in court, and the eventual resolution of this particular election will probably be pretty messy. However, this will probably help the Democrats in November, because it will fall on the Republicans to actually challenge what Evers is doing, and I suspect that challenge won't be too popular.

I'm so tired of Wisconsin, but I also want to stay to help make things better, but the urge to be like my aunt who ran away to California as soon as she could is strong right now.

I hope people stay. Remember that the only thing bright red about Wisconsin is the district maps. Once we get fair maps, I think we'll go back to being a normal purple state.
posted by Jpfed at 12:41 PM on April 6 [6 favorites]


These guys do realize that if they keep doing what they're doing, people are going to riot, right?

To Republicans that's a win-win. They've been needing this crisis to give them something to shoot at.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:44 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


mostly vowels: The Wisconsin GOP has been awful for years, but this really takes the cake.

Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza: The GOP is deliberately wanting to expose democratic voters to a deadly disease. That what they are doing. This is depraved indifference that may result in something bordering on manslaughter.

And/or this is part of the Social-Distancing Culture War (The Atlantic, March 30, 2020). The article notes that at first, every was on team Don't Spread/ Catch COVID-19.
For a brief moment earlier this month, it seemed as if social distancing might be the one new part of American life that wasn’t polarized along party lines. Schools were closed in red states and blue; people across the political spectrum retreated into their home. Though President Donald Trump had played down the pandemic at first, he was starting to take the threat more seriously—and his media allies followed suit. Reminders to wash your hands and avoid crowds became commonplace on both Fox News and MSNBC. Those who chose to ignore this guidance—the spring-breakers clogging beaches, the revelers on Bourbon Street—appeared to do so for apolitical reasons. For the most part, it seemed, everyone was on the same page.

The consensus didn’t last long. Trump, having apparently grown impatient with all the quarantines and lockdowns, began last week to call for a quick return to business as usual. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” he tweeted, in characteristic caps lock. Speaking to Fox News, he added that he would “love” to see businesses and churches reopened by Easter. Though Trump would later walk them back, the comments set off a familiar sequence—a Democratic backlash, a pile-on in the press, and a rush in MAGA-world to defend the president. As the coronavirus now emerges as another front in the culture war, social distancing has come to be viewed in some quarters as a political act—a way to signal which side you’re on.

Some of the more brazen departures from public-health consensus have carried a whiff of right-wing performance art. Jerry Falwell Jr., an outspoken Trump ally and president of the evangelical Liberty University, made headlines this week for inviting students back to campus over objections from local officials. The conservative website The Federalist published a trollish piece proposing “chicken-pox parties” as a model for strategically spreading the coronavirus. Throughout the conservative media, calls to reopen the economy—even if it means sacrificing the sick and elderly—are gaining traction.

“I would rather die than kill the country,” Glenn Beck declared on his radio show.

“Those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves,” Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said on Fox News.
Lt. Gov Patrick also said that the elderly, like himself, should be ready to die for the economy (Yahoo, March 24, 2020).

This also feels like some macho/ hyper-capitalist opportunity to show the Libs that the Real Americans aren't afraid of a little flu (THIS IS NOT JUST LIKE THE FLU -- Vox, March 18, 2020), and what the GOP sees as an opportunity to capitalize on conservatives shrugging off, if not actively flaunting, public gathering restrictions or suggestions, to pack the ballot boxes.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:22 PM on April 6 [15 favorites]


Death cult gonna death cult.
posted by riverlife at 1:42 PM on April 6 [13 favorites]


In the words of one administration insider, to the Guardian: “The Trump organism is simply collapsing. He’s killing his own supporters.”
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:44 PM on April 6 [7 favorites]


We learned long ago that it really was true (for our new definitions of reality and truth) that Trump could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters wouldn't care. What we are about to learn is if they will care if his policies instead kill thousands and thousands of grandmothers and grandfathers*.

*I would just say people but it seems like Republicans have already made clear that they don't care about the well being of young people.
posted by overglow at 1:52 PM on April 6 [5 favorites]


These guys do realize that if they keep doing what they're doing, people are going to riot, right?

Rioting would require leaving the house and congregating in large numbers.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:40 PM on April 6 [11 favorites]


In the words of one administration insider, to the Guardian: “The Trump organism is simply collapsing. He’s killing his own supporters.”

Like every scoop from an "administration insider" this appears to be largely bullshit:

Early data from U.S. states shows African Americans are more likely to die from COVID-19, highlighting longstanding disparities in health and inequalities in access to medical care, experts said.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:48 PM on April 6 [13 favorites]


JoeZydeco: In the words of one administration insider, to the Guardian: “The Trump organism is simply collapsing. He’s killing his own supporters.”

It seems like Trump, and the Wisconsin GOP, both are valuing short-term gains over long-term health of the public, or even more specifically their supporters, so long as 1) they stay in power, and 2) they keep getting financial support for bolstering big companies over the health and well-being of the public.

Trump knows his biggest hurdle is less than a year away. He has a built-in limit to how much his actions can benefit (or harm) him. The Wisconsin GOP, on the other hand ... maybe if they stay in power, they do more to lock down their power in the future, and/or fuck over the future (Democrats), and that's enough for now.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:50 PM on April 6 [5 favorites]


I don't want to derail a conversation about Wisconsin, but I'm terrified with what's going to happen in the November election. The early jockeying around changing laws to enable more vote-by-mail in more states is going very poorly. And Trump last week said the quiet part out loud, "They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again".

I don't think Wisconsin should risk its citizens' lives now; we're at the most crucial stage of the viral containment program.. Maybe things will be better by November. But I'm very pessimistic.
posted by Nelson at 3:10 PM on April 6 [12 favorites]




My wife and I got in just under the wire working the polls on Super Tuesday. There is no way in hell we'll volunteer again until there is an effective vaccine. And we are not alone. It is a sea of white and gray hair at every polling site. Wisconsin will be a disaster. November will be a disaster...
posted by jim in austin at 3:22 PM on April 6 [5 favorites]


Here's the full order to prevent the election from being postponed.

In May, when a few thousand more people in Wisconsin are dead because of this, you can add the names Patience Roggensack, Annette Ziegler, Rebecca Bradley, and Brian Hagedorn to all of the Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature as people who are directly responsible for all of that unnecessary death and suffering, and all just to ensure they retain their decisive majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
posted by Copronymus at 3:57 PM on April 6 [8 favorites]


This isn’t appealable to SCOTUS?
posted by saturday_morning at 4:00 PM on April 6


More republicans happy to murder people for a chance at holding onto power. They have abdicated humanity.
posted by PennD at 4:23 PM on April 6 [6 favorites]


What if they called an election and no one came?

I suggest that other jurisdictions like cities not cooperate, institutions like the Democratic party do the same, polling place workers not show up, and voters not go. Courts and the legislature might be forced to schedule a do-over of the polling if the primary collapses in legitimacy and non-participation. Their own legitimacy ought to collapse as well -- to be hopeful.
posted by lathrop at 4:34 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]




SCOTUS just ruled against accepting absentee ballots after election day (despite the fact that some people have not even received ballots they requested before the deadline): CBS link
posted by esker at 4:41 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


They ruled against accepting ballots which were postmarked after election day, not against ballots received after election day. (Assuming that the mail system doesn't grind to a halt).
posted by Justinian at 4:49 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]


I wasn't a fan of extra-legal election-cancelling when DeWine did it in Ohio, and I'm not a fan of Evers doing it now. If the election is going to be postponed (and it should), it should be done legally. Setting a precedent for the executive unilaterally pushing back Election Day is dangerous, even if it might be a good idea right now. I mean, is it really so hard to imagine Republicans delaying the general election (or even ordering politically targeted polling place closures and lockdowns) and then daring anyone to stop them? Gerrymandering is bad enough; we can't give politicians another opportunity for spurning popular will.

IMHO, the best thing to do in this situation is to hammer WI Republicans for blocking a delay, while also pushing hard to extend vote by mail to every state by November. Congress is already in the early stages of negotiating a fourth economic rescue package -- nationwide remote voting should be non-negotiable part of that.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:50 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]


IMHO, the best thing to do in this situation is to hammer WI Republicans for blocking a delay, while also pushing hard to extend vote by mail to every state by November.

I mean that’s not really good enough for those of us in the state who are having state and local elections decided right now. It’s not just the presidential primary.
posted by brook horse at 4:56 PM on April 6 [13 favorites]


Also Republicans don’t need precedent for anything as they’ve shown time and time again.
posted by brook horse at 4:59 PM on April 6 [6 favorites]


Yeah, the primary is the least important part of the failure to delay since it is for all intents and purposes over and the nominee is chosen. The biggest problem is the WI supreme court seat. But there are a ton of local elections as well, as brook horse says.
posted by Justinian at 5:08 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


it should be done legally

I get you. I too wish I were in a nation governed by laws and reasonable interpretation of those laws. But maybe you haven't been watching what the Republicans are doing lately. "Reasonable interpretation" is entirely out the fucking window, and often the laws themselves are directly broken knowing there will be no meaningful consequences. We're in a knife fight and meanwhile the Democrats are still acting like gentlemen at fisticuffs.
posted by Nelson at 5:27 PM on April 6 [26 favorites]


I wasn't a fan of extra-legal election-cancelling when DeWine did it in Ohio, and I'm not a fan of Evers doing it now. If the election is going to be postponed (and it should), it should be done legally. Setting a precedent for the executive unilaterally pushing back Election Day is dangerous, even if it might be a good idea right now

The election cannot be postponed legally because the Republicans will not allow it. Evers tried to have a special session to get an extension and the Republicans refused.

So at this point you can either cancel the election illegally. Or have it immorally and undemocratically. Those are the only two choices on the table. It's not clear to me that the first is worse than the second.

The Republicans are ruthless and unless people start playing hardball with them, we are going to follow the letter of the law right into perpetual Republican rule.
posted by great_radio at 5:27 PM on April 6 [24 favorites]


Wisconsin mayors sent a letter yesterday to the top state health official Andrea Palm asking her to prevent in-person voting, and they seem to think she would have the legal authority (she "may close schools and forbid public gatherings in schools, churches, and other places to control outbreaks and epidemics." and "authorize and implement all emergency measures necessary to control communicable diseases").
posted by BungaDunga at 5:44 PM on April 6 [6 favorites]


It could be a career-ender, but I hope she does it. This is what those kind of statutes are for.

Also, the polling-place closures. I mean wow. How anti-democratic can you get?
posted by j_curiouser at 5:48 PM on April 6 [11 favorites]


I suggest that other jurisdictions like cities not cooperate, institutions like the Democratic party do the same, polling place workers not show up, and voters not go.

There's nothing else to do at this late hour now that the court has ruled, right? Boycotting the election tomorrow seems like the only move to me but there's almost no time to organize it and I think trying to cast doubt on an election result usually works a bit better when you have the US and whatever the coalition of the willing is this week on the outside putting their thumb on the scale. The whole situation sucks.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 6:28 PM on April 6


How do you boycott an election that has early voting that's been going on for weeks?
posted by acidnova at 6:44 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't know. I've always voted in-person on election day so I don't really know what's involved with voting by mail but it seems easy enough. In any event, a functional democracy has got to be able to figure out a better way to do this.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 7:13 PM on April 6


The real problem is that boycotting is indistinguishable from just not voting. Each "boycotted" vote is just one less Democratic vote.

It's frustrating how the Democrats cannot seem to learn how to play this game. Evers' actions today seemed to play right into the Republican's hands. He makes a mid-dayu splash that there will be no in person election tomorrow. The Republicans wait in the weeds and shut him own late in the day. So not only does he do something that he should know won't work, but he actively spreads information (or at least confusion) about whether or not people should show up to vote. My guess is many who would vote will now not do so.
posted by rtimmel at 7:18 PM on April 6 [12 favorites]


So I hope that this decision convinces everyone who wasn't already sure that the election in November is 100% about who gets to pick the next supreme court justices.
posted by octothorpe at 7:25 PM on April 6 [9 favorites]


If he had done it earlier I guarantee they would have waited to overturn it until a bunch of people had already heard it was being postponed. The absentee ballot deadline being overturned by the Supreme Court—maybe that’s just the length it took to get there, but it’s sure convenient that it didn’t happen until a bunch of ads went out saying the new deadline was April 13th. I think it was a last ditch effort by Evers and he hoped they wouldn’t be able to overturn it in time to hold the election. Obviously it was a risky play and turned out to be a bad one.

I am sitting here struggling to decide whether to tell my friends and family who have not received their absentee ballots whether to stay home or go to the polls. People shouldn’t have to risk their lives to vote. Less people voting is bad, but so is more people being exposed to COVID-19. I can’t actually say it’s worse if fewer people vote in-person. Not on a personal level. Not knowing it’s my friends and family who could die if they go to the polls tomorrow.
posted by brook horse at 7:28 PM on April 6 [7 favorites]


Rick Hasen: Breaking: Supreme Court on 5-4 Vote Reverses District Court on Late-Arriving Absentee Ballots in Wisconsin Race. This is a Bad Sign for November in a Number of Ways.
On the other hand, it is a very bad sign for November that the Court could not come together and find some form of compromise here in the midst of a global pandemic unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes. Like the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court divided along partisan and ideological lines. Already in 2018, before COVID, the amount of election-related litigation had hit a record (data in my book, Election Meltdown). The year 2020 was likely to set a new record. But with election changes proliferating and a fight over expanded absentee balloting necessary to combat the COVID crisis, the amount of litigation is going to skyrocket. And it does not look like the courts are going to be able to do any better than the politicians in finding common ground on election principles.

This means that there is a lot of work to do now to try to avoid election meltdown. More on that in coming weeks. But the message from today is: don’t expect the courts to protect voting rights in 2020.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:24 PM on April 6 [8 favorites]


Evers just needs to stand firm and continue saying that there is no election tomorrow. As someone terrible in the past once said, the Supreme Court has made their decision, now let them enforce it.
posted by great_radio at 8:24 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


There's a last minute campaign (Google Docs link) to write to Andrea Palm (Secretary-Designee of the Wisconsin DHS) to try and get a state of emergency declared & the election halted on health grounds.

While I'm doubtful we'll have any impact, it only takes a minute for residents of Wisconsin to add their voices.
posted by transitional procedures at 8:39 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the heads up about the campaign, transitional procedures. Added my voice.
posted by brook horse at 9:01 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Ladies and gentlemen, and anyone on or off that spectrum:

Your COVID-19 Internet Irony of the Day Winner

Wisconsin Supreme Court Banner
posted by j_curiouser at 9:10 PM on April 6 [11 favorites]


I suppose it's not a good sign when I know my European coworkers could be hearing about my hometown on the news.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:22 AM on April 7


NYT reporter Nick Corasaiti reporting insanely long lines at the start of voting in Wisconsin. (link is to one tweet, but there are more in his feed.)
posted by vespabelle at 7:42 AM on April 7 [1 favorite]


They ruled against accepting ballots which were postmarked after election day, not against ballots received after election day. (Assuming that the mail system doesn't grind to a halt).

tonycpsu: On the other hand, it is a very bad sign for November that the Court could not come together and find some form of compromise here in the midst of a global pandemic unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes. Like the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court divided along partisan and ideological lines.

The Supreme Court’s disturbing order to effectively disenfranchise thousands of Wisconsin voters -- American democracy is in deep trouble. (Ian Millhiser for Vox April 6, 2020)
The Supreme Court’s Republican majority, in a case that is literally titled Republican National Committee v. Democratic National Committee, handed down a decision that will effectively disenfranchise tens of thousands of Wisconsin voters. It did so at the urging of the GOP.
[...]
In response to this brewing catastrophe, Judge William Conley, an Obama appointee to a federal court in Wisconsin, ordered the deadline for receiving ballots to be extended to 4 pm on April 13. In response to this order, the Republican Party asked the Supreme Court to modify Conley’s decision to require all ballots to be postmarked by April 7 or they will not be counted.

The Supreme Court’s Republican majority granted the GOP this very specific request.

Again, many voters are not expected to receive their ballots until after this April 7 deadline. As Justice Ginsburg notes, “as of Sunday morning, 12,000 ballots reportedly had not yet been mailed out,” so the number of voters disenfranchised by the Court’s order in Republican is likely to be vast. The Court’s decision in Republican, moreover, is the culmination of a weeks-long effort by Republicans to thwart various efforts by Democrats to accommodate voters who might be disenfranchised by coronavirus.
To be clear, ballots are not expected to get out on time. A Wisconsin judge ordered deadline to receive ballots extended. Dems on SCOTUS recognized that a significant number of ballots had not yet been mailed out, but the GOP SCOTUS effectively said "too bad."

In the words of a Top Trump adviser: Republicans have 'always' relied on voter suppression (Joanna Walters and Associated Press, via The Guardian, Dec. 21, 2019).
One of Donald Trump’s top re-election advisers told influential Republicans in swing state Wisconsin that the party has “traditionally” relied on voter suppression to compete in battleground states, according to an audio recording of a private event. The adviser said later that his remarks referred to frequent and false accusations that Republicans employ such tactics.
Will Trump's impeachment sway voters in the key state of Michigan?
Read more

But the report emerged just days after news that a conservative group is forcing Wisconsin to purge upwards of 230,000 people from state voter rolls more than a year earlier than planned, a move that would disproportionately affect Democrats before the 2020 election.

And it came as the latest fund-raising totals showed that the Republican National Committee, spurred by aggressive anti-impeachment fundraising, heads into 2020 with more than seven times as much cash on hand as the Democratic National Committee – $63m for the RNC against $8.3m for the DNC, according to FEC filings, Axios reported.

Justin Clark, a senior political adviser and senior counsel to Trump’s re-election campaign, made the remarks about voter suppression on 21 November as part of a wide-ranging discussion about strategies in the 2020 campaign, including more aggressive use of monitoring of polling places on election day in November 2020.
Plenty of links to cited sources in the Guardian article.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:07 AM on April 7 [3 favorites]


Every Spring and Fall election in Wisconsin, for the 20 years I have taught here, I have sent my students a message urging them to do their civic duty and vote.

I used to just show them how to find their polling place. Then the gerrymandered, Republican-dominated legislature passed a voter ID law. After that I had to make the email much longer, to explain to students that they would need photo ID and proof of residency, and if they needed to use their university ID, then they would need proof that they had paid their bill for the semester in full, and how to get that from the Bursar's office.

This semester, for the first time ever, I did not urge them to go out and do their civic duty by voting, since I have been telling them for weeks to do their civic duty by staying home. I said it would be presumptuous of me to choose between these two for them.

Then I appended the long and complicated rules for voter ID. And showed them the locations of the 5 out of the usual 180 polling places that are open in Milwaukee, for those still living in the area who do decide to vote.

We have a very important state supreme court election going on, two state referenda, a bunch of county elections, and local elections as well. And oh yes, the Democratic primary, which feels like a back burner issue to me at this point. The lines at the Milwaukee polling locations are hours long. The Covid-19 curve is rising sharply. And unknown thousands of people who requested absentee ballots have not received them--only half have been returned so far.

Meanwhile, in my inbox I have email from a student whose father is in intensive care, email from a student whose sister's entire family is sick, email from a student whose grandfather has died, and email from a student with pneumonia herself. They are all so polite in asking for work extensions, it is breaking my heart. I am doing my best to support them and show them kindness. With the larger institutional civic life blasted, it is up to us to model for one another how we can keep it going on the micro-level. I tell myself this will help.
posted by DrMew at 10:39 AM on April 7 [26 favorites]


An argument against vote by mail is that it could lead to coerced votes. I find this argument kind of plausible because I can imagine people being in a situation where some household member disagrees with their politics and could influence their vote. The voter-ID laws seem a pure fig leaf for voter suppression, but it seems to me there is some value in in-person voting. Maybe I'm old fashioned in my thinking, has the coerced vote argument been solved or debunked?

Just like in person voter fraud I'm sure it happens. I'm also sure that number of occurrences would be vanishingly small compared to number of votes cast and doubly so if vote by mail increases the total number of votes cast. The kind of people who would coerce a vote can also just prevent their family members from voting in the first place if in person voting is the only option. And not just family; this is a classic documented tactic of white supremacists.

And of course all jurisdictions already allow absentee ballots. Essentially all armed forces members vote absentee. In the last 5 elections 25 to 30 percent of all votes cast in presidential elections were absentee or mail in.
posted by Mitheral at 10:50 AM on April 7 [7 favorites]


750 absentee ballots won't be counted because they lack witness signatures
posted by acidnova at 11:44 AM on April 7 [2 favorites]


Wisconsin Primary Voters Receive "I Voted" Gravestones (the Onion)
posted by robotdevil at 11:46 AM on April 7 [5 favorites]


Here's a clip of the line this morning in Milwaukee.
posted by avalonian at 11:55 AM on April 7 [2 favorites]


To elaborate on what acidnova said about witness signatures:

U.S. District Judge William Conley also extended the deadline for absentee ballots to be returned to 4 p.m. on April 13, and waived a witness signature requirement for voters who were unable to “safely obtain a witness certification despite reasonable efforts to do so.”

Following an appeal, the 7th Circuit restored the witness signature requirement.


My understanding, then, is that anyone who sent one in while this was waived, just . . . won't count? Everything is so awful.
posted by robotdevil at 12:07 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


This is a Wisconsin only rule though. The three states I've lived and voted in you only needed to sign the ballot yourself and didn't need a third party to sign it with you as verification.

It shouldn't be a surprise that a federalist system designed to encourage a hodgepodge of state laws has a hodgepodge of state laws, so no, this is not a Wisconsin only rule: Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin require a witness signature on the absentee ballot envelope; Missouri and Oklahoma require a notary; Alabama, North Carolina, and Rhode Island require two witnesses or a notary. South Carolina requires the absentee ballot application to be signed by a witness, while Mississippi requires the absentee ballot application to be notarized. Additionally, a copy of photo ID is required to either apply for or submit an absentee ballot in a handful of states, including Wisconsin.

And because there's always an exception for voters assumed to be Republican voters, the Federal Voting Assistance Program exempts uniformed service members and citizens living abroad, plus eligible family members, from many of these requirements.

Obviously, these rules aimed at discouraging participation end up being particularly onerous during a public health emergency. Hopefully this situation in Wisconsin will help other states to re-evaluate their voting access laws before November.
posted by peeedro at 12:29 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


I’m still voting. Waiting for my husband to get home from work so he can watch the kids & we can take turns voting at the ONE voting place open in our town. God, it’s going to be crowded. I’ll protect myself and be really careful, but I’m worried about how long it will take. Maybe I’ll bring a folding chair for the line.
I do love my husband, who when we were discussing how we’d wash our clothes after said, “let’s remove them and burn them on Scott Fitzgerald’s lawn.” I think we’d be naked in this dream bonfire scenario?
The republicans I know are now smugly saying, “well it’s the law and they have to uphold the law.” Notice how they don’t care to uphold the law when it comes to reproductive rights?
posted by areaperson at 12:52 PM on April 7 [5 favorites]


My understanding, then, is that anyone who sent one in while this was waived, just . . . won't count? Everything is so awful.

Much like "good, upstanding citizens" in Louisiana in the 50s would simply have instantly understood what was meant by "Draw a line under the number or letter of this sentence", "good, upstanding citizens" in Wisconsin in 2020 would simply have anticipated the myriad of contradictory court rulings in short succession and painlessly navigated the system.
posted by Copronymus at 12:59 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


saying, “well it’s the law and they have to uphold the law.”

Yes, for sure. If only someone out there had had the ability or the opportunity to change the law to prevent this from happening. Some sort of law-making body for Wisconsin. A state legislature if you will.
posted by saturday_morning at 1:02 PM on April 7 [9 favorites]


SIL never got her absentee ballot and isn’t going to vote today because 1) she and her father are too scared, and 2) her mother, whom she lives with since college kicked everyone out, is not observing appropriate social distancing, and SIL is running on the assumption they’re all infected and doesn’t want to spread it.

Fuck, Wisconsin. I’m fast losing hope in ever making this place better. If Dan Kelly wins...
posted by brook horse at 1:23 PM on April 7 [4 favorites]


The Wisconsin Spring Election, summed up in three mystifying seconds by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wearing head-to-toe PPE: “You are incredibly safe to go out.”

"Head-to-toe PPE" doesn't do justice to the visual punch line of a man covered in a light-blue protective gown with bright blue gloves speaking though a light-blue mask.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:55 PM on April 7 [11 favorites]


I am furious and I am going to vote today, no matter the fact my life will now be at risk.
I messed up my mail ballot so now I have to go out to a queue on a day when I work.

This is more courage than anything Vos or Fitzgerald ever had to do in their lives.
I am furious at these so called "Leaders" of this state, they are utterly and absolutely evil, and need to be kicked out. I will do what I can, if I get sick and die, it will be worth it if they lose that SC seat.

The chat section on the local news channels site was VERY not a friendly place for republicans. Not even close to the usual bullshit. I was surprised, so I am hoping that bodes well, but... I'm not holding my breath. We'll find out how much more fucked we are, tomorrow, I guess. *sigh*

180 locations in milwaukee down to 5. Bad enough, and in the midst of this?
posted by symbioid at 1:57 PM on April 7 [14 favorites]


If only someone out there had had the ability or the opportunity to change the law to prevent this from happening. Some sort of law-making body for Wisconsin. A state legislature if you will.

You mean the one dominated by the party benefiting from the ruling? The one that's gerrymandered such that the majority of the voters are represented in the assembly by 36 out of the 99 seats? The one that the Supreme Court stated the federal government doesn't have the ability to solve?

Saying that the solution to voter suppression is simply voters voting is foolishness.
posted by Candleman at 2:55 PM on April 7 [9 favorites]


You mean the one dominated by the party benefiting from the ruling?

We don’t disagree. The context to my comment was Republicans pretending that they’d love to postpone the election but that there was just no choice but for the courts to “uphold the law”. Said republicans are choosing to ignore the fact that the legislature could easily have fixed the law, but didn’t, for the reasons you describe.
posted by saturday_morning at 4:03 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


Good for you, symbioid! And as a fellow badger, thank you! I managed to get to the polls in my Dane County district before 5 pm, which I think helped beat the crowds a bit. It felt relatively safe to me - stayed more than 6 ft apart, poll worker was behind plexiglass and wearing mask and gloves (as was I), and I was in and out in less than ten minutes. I encourage my fellow Wisconsinites to try to vote if at all possible. Oh and there was no one in the line for curbside voting at all when I was there. So that could be an option for others ... I am sorry for my friends and family waiting in lines in Milwaukee, and I appreciate them so much.
I did get a little choked up when I thanked the poll worker. It struck me how brave he is and he looked like he’s probably a senior citizen, and I just felt so grateful for him. I’m off to have a glass of wine and a hearty “f u” toast to Vos and Fitzgerald.
posted by areaperson at 4:58 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


@MSNBC video
President Trump: "I think mail-in voting is horrible, it's corrupt."

Reporter: "You voted by mail in Florida's election last month, didn't you?"

Trump: "Sure. I can vote by mail"

Reporter: "How do you reconcile with that?"

Trump: "Because I'm allowed to."

posted by Mitheral at 5:10 PM on April 7 [15 favorites]


Trump goes on to blather about living rooms with a group signing thousands of ballots. Which is pretty nonsensical because it's not like signing a petition; ballots are sent to registered addresses and you need the provided ballot to send in. A single group in addition to the signers would need roving gangs following postal delivery people around collecting ballots before voters pulled them out of mail boxes and they'd have to do that without anyone noticing they hadn't received a ballot. Or you know, all the federal mail theft.
posted by Mitheral at 5:14 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


Do we have any results yet?
posted by sundrop at 11:55 AM on April 8


The GOP knows all about ballot fraud.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:12 PM on April 8


There won't be any results for another week. But given poor conditions for voting in urban areas and no apparent change to voting in less dense areas, I bet the Republicans are going to be pretty happy with how it eventually shakes out.
posted by Jpfed at 12:16 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


An anecdote, via comment on Mltshp:
My friend drove to his polling place twice yesterday to try and cast his ballot but he said there were at least 20 or 30 people milling around outside not even pretending to keep distance from each other both times so he ultimately didn't vote. Well done, Wisconsin GOP, it worked.
Idiots just milling around, or actively discouraging voters?

We won’t have any official results until Monday, April 13. That’s because in striking down federal district court judge William Conley’s order allowing absentee ballots postmarked after April 7 but received by April 13 to be counted, SCOTUS left in place his subsequent ban on county reports of results until that latter date. (NY Mag recap, April 8, 2020).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:12 PM on April 8




From the Guardian, "Yes, Wisconsin Republicans used the pandemic to stop people from voting":
All this is as shocking as it is unsurprising. Wisconsin, once a thriving crucible of progressive politics, has turned into a vanguard of the Republican assault on democracy. Remember that the commanding Republican advantage in the state assembly is itself a creature of grotesque gerrymandering: despite winning only 46% of the state vote in 2018, state Republicans succeeded in capturing 66 of the 99 seats in the state assembly. Recall, too, that no sooner had Tony Evers secured the governorship in 2018, then this same gerrymandered body raced to strip the newly elected Democrat of powers long enjoyed by the state’s chief executive.
One fact mentioned in this article that I probably should have known but didn't is that "America is alone among advanced democracies in permitting many state judges to be elected officials."
posted by mhum at 9:35 AM on April 9 [7 favorites]


So, to vote absentee, I drove through my 24hour pharmacy to have the pharmacist be my witness, and then I drove to the approved library dropoff labeled bookdrop to submit my ballot.

This last week there has been a lot of talk about disallowing votes that don't have postmarks. I don't think mine was even mailed, it was to be picked up by an official. Does that mean the official stamped them somehow? or are all those ballots also be to be thrown out?
posted by dreamling at 8:05 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]




Republican legislative leaders in Wisconsin are holding millions of dollars in federal Medicaid and unemployment benefits hostage, as they try to force Governor Tony Evers to cede some of his powers to the Republican-controlled legislature.

The Governor should just do what's right, and let the Republicans sue him, and I'm pretty sure the "harm" part of the injunction decision will fall on Evers' side and it'll stay in play -- providing relief to people -- until it winds through the courts.
posted by mikelieman at 2:29 PM on April 13


Currently, NYT shows challenger Karofsky up on incumbent GOPer Kelly by 5.8 with 55% reporting. Totals are currently weighted heavily toward Milwaukee County, however, which is 99% in.

FWIW, NYT reporters' county-level analysis there suggests that this race is currently tracking several points more favorable to the liberal candidate than the last WI-SC election in 2016.
posted by Not A Thing at 4:38 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Objectively, nothing will change* if Karofsky wins (Supreme Court will be 4-3 R instead of 5-2), but god, will it feel good.

*Immediately, obviously it helps us when more conservative judges come up for re-election, but it's hard to believe 2023 will ever happen right now.
posted by brook horse at 4:52 PM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Guess what? It feels fucking good.

All that voter suppression and they couldn't keep a Republican incumbent. Maybe there's hope for WI yet.
posted by brook horse at 5:27 PM on April 13 [13 favorites]


All that voter suppression and they couldn't keep a Republican incumbent. Maybe there's hope for WI yet.
A quote from the article to underscore this point: "Karofsky’s victory marked the first time in a dozen years that a Supreme Court challenger beat an incumbent — and just the second time in more than half a century."
posted by Nerd of the North at 6:05 PM on April 13 [8 favorites]


brook horse: "Objectively, nothing will change* if Karofsky wins (Supreme Court will be 4-3 R instead of 5-2), but god, will it feel good."

Importantly, the state Supreme Court will be deciding on whether to allow some 200K voters to be purged from the rolls for November's election. Since one of the conservative justices had earlier sided with the voting rights group bringing the case, Karosky's win means there should be a majority for stopping the purge.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:59 PM on April 13 [9 favorites]


Importantly, the state Supreme Court will be deciding on whether to allow some 200K voters to be purged from the rolls for November's election. Since one of the conservative justices had earlier sided with the voting rights group bringing the case, Karosky's win means there should be a majority for stopping the purge.

Huh, good to know! I guess I was too jaded and assumed our conservative justices would always vote along party lines (as they have in the past). Nice to know we have our own Roberts.
posted by brook horse at 7:03 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Seeing that 91% of ballots in Milwaukee were absentee ballots, I'd look for Republicans to spend the next 6 months making absentee voting and voting-by-mail more or less impossible in any state where they have control of the election rules.
posted by Copronymus at 7:22 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Oh, Wisconsin, I am so relieved and happy for you. I'm angry they made you do that, but I'm so glad for the victory in the years to come.
posted by sciatrix at 7:35 PM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Oh btw my SIL got her absentee ballot yesterday. So she couldn’t have gotten it in even if they extended the deadline for absentee ballots. 🙄
posted by brook horse at 1:54 PM on April 14


Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Signals He’ll Participate In Voting Case After Losing Reelection - Talking Points Memo, Kate Riga, 4/16/2020:
Justice Daniel Kelly, who lost his Wisconsin Supreme Court seat to liberal Jill Karofsky in the controversial April 7 election, is angling to rejoin a case that might end in a mass voter purge before vacating his seat in August.

Kelly previously recused himself from the case because it could’ve had some bearing on who voted in an election in which he was on the ballot. Since that election has now passed, he said in a Wednesday order, he sees no reason for his further lack of participation.[...]

He gave the involved parties until April 22 to voice their opinions on his participation.

Karofsky’s campaign did not take kindly to the order. [...]

The case could ultimately decide if more than 200,000 voters stay on the voting rolls for the election in November.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:36 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


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