Evers Wrong to Call for December 30 Primary

September 27, 2019

by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director

Who cooked this one up?

Gov. Tony Evers has set Monday, Jan. 27, as the date for the general election to fill Rep. Sean Duffy’s seat in the House of Representatives. And that means the primary will be held on Monday, Dec. 30.

Who holds elections on a Monday, anyway?

And why would anyone in their right mind choose to hold a primary right smack dab in the middle of the Christmas and Hanukah holidays? (Speaker Robin Vos has just asked Gov. Evers to change the date, ostensibly out of tender regard for the sensibilities of Wisconsin Jews, who would be celebrating the last day of Hanukah on Dec. 30.)

“I’m not aware of any elections being held before on a Monday, nor between Christmas and New Year’s Day,” says Reid Magney, public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The Elections Commission suggested a range of dates for Evers to choose from, including holding it concurrent with the spring election, Magney adds. And the Commission alerted Evers that there might be problems holding a primary during the Christmas holidays, including difficulty finding poll workers, Magney says.

Having a primary during the holidays just isn’t cool.

As Rep. Mark Pocan told reporters a few weeks ago, “If you have a primary or a general around Christmas … you get terrible turnout. … That doesn’t benefit anyone. You should want as many people as possible to participate.”

That’s precisely the point here: Evers has made a decision that is anti-democratic, small “d.” Because of his decision, the turnout is likely to be one of the lowest in Wisconsin history.

Magney of the Wisconsin Elections Commission says that turnout in spring primaries, for instance, is typically around 10 percent, with spring election turnout typically about double that.

I wouldn’t be surprised if turnout for the Dec. 30 primary is going to be about 2 percent, and turnout for the special election on Jan. 27 in the vicinity of 6 percent.

That’d be a bad joke on our democracy.

Democrats typically claim to want a big turnout, both on principle (it’s good for democracy!) and because, usually, the more people who turn out, the better Democrats do.

But that might not be the case in the heavily conservative 7 th Congressional District, so it looks like Evers is either intentionally trying to drive down turnout in the primaries (But to what end? Perhaps so a weaker Republican might sneak through?) or just doesn’t care and wants to make voting as inconvenient as possible for predominantly non-Democratic voters.

Either way, this is outrageous.

I know Scott Walker didn’t even bother to follow the law and schedule a special election until he was forced to do so. But imagine if he had proposed a primary on Dec. 30. You can bet that a lot of Democrats would have been screaming to the high heavens.

Now, just because Evers does it, all you hear is crickets.