The Note: Wisconsin votes amid confusion and worse

Primary day arrives in Wisconsin on Tuesday amid utter chaos.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Voting in the United States is messy. The novel coronavirus crisis is making it messier -- and potentially a whole lot uglier.

Primary day arrives in Wisconsin on Tuesday amid utter chaos. All three branches of state government contributed to the vast confusion: The state Supreme Court blocked the governor's last-minute bid to postpone the primary, after the legislature declined to push back the date the way 16 other states and territories have.

So there will be in-person voting in a state under stay-at-home orders and with nearly 2,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19. When and if voters do show up, they could find closed polling locations or -- worse -- conditions that contravene the advice of medical professionals, putting voters and poll workers at risk.

Amid all that, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in late Monday to limit the window for mail-in ballots to be submitted -- potentially driving more voters to cast ballots in person.

"The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a dissenting opinion that was joined by two of her colleagues.

In Wisconsin, a public-health crisis collided with partisan motivations, legislative gridlock and bureaucratic realities around the patchwork system of voting in the United States.

That's one state's acute problem Tuesday. But it could happen anywhere, as efforts to build across the country to expand the ways that Americans can safely participate in the November election.

The Wisconsin primary

  • Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (CDT)
  • What's at stake? 84 delegates
  • Watch ABC News Live for coverage and analysis.
  • The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

    It was rare moment of bipartisanship and also a fleeting one. Both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden said they had a good call Monday.

    Biden's team said that he shared several suggestions for the administration as it works to address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Trump added that he did not necessary agree with all of Biden's suggestions but agreed it was a "very good talk ... a friendly conversation."

    "It was a warm talk. I enjoyed it," Trump said.

    Moments later though, Trump dispassionately remarked that he did not learn anything on the call from Biden and went on to blame the former administration -- and make large accusations about the former administration -- as he has been quick to do throughout his tenure.

    With an emergency this profound, affecting all parts of the country, economy and health care system, a little willingness to accept ideas and advice from unlikely partners could surely go a long way.

    The TIP with Meg Cunningham

    Although the presidential race is at the forefront of many voters' minds nationwide, a coveted state Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin is drawing much of the attention as voters head to the polls Tuesday.

    Although Kelly recused himself from the case, he tweeted on Monday siding with Republicans in telling officials to prepare full steam ahead after Gov. Tony Evers ordered the polls closed.

    The state is poised to clear over 200,000 voters from its rolls in 2021, although back-and-forth from opposing groups leaves it unclear on whether or not those voters should be purged from the rolls a year earlier than planned. It's a party-aligned fight which has made the race for the Supreme Court all the more important for both Republicans and Democrats -- and part of the reason why both parties were so dead set on having election day their way.


    Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, calling the Democratic front-runner a "a friend, a man of courage, a man of conscience," and promising to do whatever he can to support his candidacy.


    ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features Dr. Richard Besser, who tells us what to make of state officials saying they could be hitting their "apex" of novel coronavirus cases. Then, ABC News' James Longman gives us an update on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was moved to intensive care Monday due to coronavirus complications. And, ABC News Political Director Rick Klein tells us about how the confusion over voting in Wisconsin on Tuesday could offer a window into the rest of the presidential election going forward.

    Five Thirty Eight Politics Podcast. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, we dig into some of the challenges that would accompany holding an election amid the coronavirus pandemic. As of the publishing of this podcast, it is unclear whether Wisconsin will be the only state in the country to hold in-person voting during the month of April -- the state is scheduled to go to the polls on Tuesday. The Democratic governor issued an executive order to postpone the election on Monday, but the last-minute move was being challenged in court by the Republican-controlled legislature. The team discusses why the state wasn't able to agree on a postponement earlier.


  • Former Vice President Joe Biden delivers virtual remarks via Facebook for Pennsylvania's American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) convention.
  • President Donald Trump participates in a small business relief update at 3 p.m. at the White House.
  • Members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing at 5 p.m.
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    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.