MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Latest on the coronavirus outbreak in Wisconsin (all times local):
Wisconsin election officials are recommending that fall candidates circulate nomination papers by mail as much as possible in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
Candidates can begin circulating nomination papers on April 15. The Wisconsin District Attorneys Association sent the state elections commission a letter this week saying going door-to-door with nomination papers could be a crime under Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order.
The commission agreed Friday that it doesn’t have any authority to change state election law. The panel voted unanimously to recommend campaigns use the mail as much as possible to get papers to supporters and reaffirm that supporters can download single nomination sheets, sign them and mail them back.
Gov. Tony Evers is considering moving a May 12 special election to fill northern Wisconsin’s vacant 7th Congressional District seat due to the coronavirus.
Evers’ legal counsel Ryan Nilsestuen said Friday that they were taking a “close look” at postponing the election to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy. Evers has the power as governor to set the date of special elections and has already rescheduled the date of the 7th Congressional District from January to May.
When asked if he thought Evers had the power to move the date, Nilsestuen said, “We’ve already changed the date once.”
Evers tried to do away with in-person voting in Tuesday’s presidential primary and spring election. But that date is set in state law and the Wisconsin Supreme Court said Evers didn’t have the power to move the date.
Nilsestuen said Evers was looking at the number of coronavirus cases in the largely rural 7th Congressional District and will ultimately make a decision based on the science. He said the governor would be working with election clerks in the district to make sure that any change would be done in an orderly way with the least amount of disruption.
Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany is running against Democrat Tricia Zunker in the race.
Two of the most conservative members of the Wisconsin Senate on Friday accused state health officials of stoking fear over the coronavirus and warned that extending a stay-at-home order into May could lead to civil disobedience.
Republican state Sens. Steve Nass, of Whitewater, and Duey Stroebel, of Cedarburg, issued separate statements that were both highly critical of how Gov. Tony Evers’ administration has reacted to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Stroebel called for a “fresh look” to re-evaluate policy choices and begin planning for “reopening our civil life.”
“Every sickness and death is a tragedy, but so are businesses and livelihoods ruined by shelter in place orders,” he said. “Besides being counterproductive, indefinite sheltering orders will eventually lead to civil disobedience.”
Nass released a letter he sent to a state Department of Natural Resources official about Evers’ decision to close 40 state parks and recreational areas.
Nass accused Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm of promoting “excessive levels of fear.” He also said state health officials told lawmakers that they want to see safer-at-home restrictions extended for up to six months.
Evers has not said whether he will seek to extend his current order, which runs through April 24. He had asked the Legislature to allow his original public health emergency declaration to continue indefinitely. Without such an extension, the Legislature would have to renew it in early May.
More than half of Wisconsin’s 133 hospitals reported on Friday that they have less than a one week supply of goggle and gowns worn when treating coronavirus patients.
More than a third of hospitals are also reporting they have less than a week’s worth of face shields, N95 masks and paper medical masks, according to a Wisconsin Hospitals Association website.
Wisconsin, like many other states, faces a shortage of personal protective equipment vital to health care workers who are treating COVID-19 patients.
Gov. Tony Evers and members of his administration have said that supplies they are receiving from the national stockpile will not come close to meeting the need. They are searching for other sources besides the federal government to get health care workers what they need.
The Hospital Association is also reporting that there are 368 COVID-19 patients on ventilators in the state.
As of Thursday, 111 people had died from the coronavirus and nearly 2,900 had tested positive in Wisconsin.
U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson, in rare bipartisan unity, are calling on the U.S. Postal Service to investigate what happened to missing absentee ballots in Wisconsin.
In a letter to the Inspector General the senators cite numerous accounts from the state that the Postal Service failed to fulfill its critical mission of getting all those ballots in the hands of voters.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission reported Thursday that nearly 1.3 million absentee ballots had been requested by voters and about 235,000 ballots had not yet been returned as of Thursday.
What’s not known is how many of the outstanding ballots were completed by voters and mailed back by the Tuesday deadline.
State officials reported three tubs of ballots from Oshkosh and Appleton were discovered in a mail processing center. The Milwaukee Election Commission has also called for an investigation into a separate set of undelivered ballots.
Baldwin is a Democrat from Madison. Johnson is a Republican from Oshkosh.
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