New salvo in expanding political fight over vote-by-mail as Wisconsin results come in

Hours before results in Wisconsin’s controversial primary were expected to be reported, a conservative-leaning group is going up with a six-figure national ad buy taking aim at what it describes as “brazen attempts to manipulate the election system for partisan advantage” by some Democratic politicians and liberal activists who it says are “exploiting the coronavirus pandemic.”The cable and digital ad by the Honest Elections Project spotlights the partisan battle in Wisconsin and beyond over last Tuesday’s primary, and broader efforts to expand mail-in voting.POLITICAL BATTLE ESCALATES OVER PUSH TO INCREASE VOTING-BY-MAIL AMID CORONAVIRUS PANDEMICTwo last-minute moves by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and allied progressive and voting rights groups to postpone in-person voting and extend the deadline to vote by absentee ballot due to health concerns amid the pandemic were opposed by the GOP-controlled legislature and squashed by Wisconsin’s conservative-dominated Supreme Court.And a push to extend absentee balloting was also shot down by a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that was supported by the justices nominated by Republican presidents and opposed by those nominated by Democrats.“The facts about the Wisconsin election: Record absentee voting. Five times more than 2016. Democrats didn’t think they could win so they tried lawsuits, changing the rules, even canceling the election. They create chaos. It’s wrong,” the narrator in the spot claims.And the narrator declares that “the responsible solution – clear election laws, vulnerable people protected with expanded absentee voting, fraud prevented, disasters and risky new methods avoided. The bottom line – it should be easy to vote and hard to cheat.”The organization – which describes itself as “a nonpartisan group devoted to supporting the right of every lawful voter to participate in free and honest elections” –  tells Fox News that they’ll spend $250,000 to run the spot for a week. The results in Wisconsin are expected later on Monday, after a 4 p.m. CT deadline for absentee ballots postmarked by last Tuesday’s primary to be received. Voters in urban areas braved long lines during the primary due to a lack of poll workers showing up out of health concerns, which forced cities to vastly reduce the number of polling stations and made social distancing more difficult.THE LATEST FROM FOX NEWS ON THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN There was much more at stake in Wisconsin’s primary than just the Democratic presidential nomination battle between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who at the time was still an active presidential candidate. There was also a crucial general election contest for a Republican-held state Supreme Court seat, and numerous municipal elections including in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city.The partisan fight in Wisconsin the past few weeks is an initial skirmish in the broader battle between Democrats and Republicans over expanding voting by absentee ballot for November’s general election.NH’S GOP GOV. OKS EXPANDED ABSENTEE BALLOTING IN NOVEMBER DUE TO CORONAVIRUSFive states – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington – currently vote entirely by mail. Separately, a majority of states now allow for no-excuse absentee ballotingBiden recently predicted “there’s going to be a great deal more absentee balloting” in the general election. And last week, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee emphasized in a “Today” show appearance that it’s time to start looking into what it “would take to have voting by mail.”The $2 trillion economic stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by the president nearly three weeks ago – which aims to help workers, small businesses and large companies devastated by the shutdown of much of the nation’s economy due to the pandemic, as well as provide aid to hospitals on the front lines in the crisis – also included $400 million to help states move toward mail-in voting.Senate Democrats had pushed for $2 billion in election funding, with House Democrats angling for double that amount. Congressional Democrats say they’ll work to increase funding in the next stimulus package.A study from the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice released last month spotlighted sweeping changes to current voting practices across the country – such as universal mail-in voting, ballot drive-by drop off boxes from coast to coast, and easier online voter registration – to make voting in November safe. Their price tag to implement the changes was $2 billion.The push by Democrats will face plenty of opposition from the president and Republicans, who’ve long opposed moves to broadly expand voting by mail and early voting by arguing that it invites voter fraud abuse. Democrats – pushing back on such arguments – say that cases of actual voter fraud are limited and claim that Republicans are trying to suppress voter turnout to improve their chances of winning elections.Honest Election Project Executive Director Jason Snead told Fox News in a statement that “politicians and activists are exploiting this crisis to push a political agenda that would permanently change our democracy, including risky new voting schemes like a national all-mail election. That plan invites chaos and election fraud and is the wrong direction for the nation.”And he said that “voting by mail is less secure than voting in person, so it’s common sense that we need to strengthen election integrity measures that protect every vote. States need to take sensible, temporary steps—like expanding absentee voting—to ensure vulnerable people can safely participate and the integrity of our elections are maintained.”The president’s turned up the volume in his opposition to expanding voting by mail and absentee ballots as a way to minimize health risks posed by voting in-person during the pandemic.”Mail-in voting is horrible. It’s corrupt,” the president argued last week during a daily Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House.Trump then suggested that “you get thousands and thousands of people sitting in someone’s living room signing ballots all over the place. … I think that mail-in voting is a terrible thing.” But the president didn’t offer evidence to back up his claim that voting by mail is rampant with fraud and abuse.A bipartisan 2005 commission report on voting reforms noted that vote-by-mail “increases the risk of fraud,” though places like Oregon had largely avoided that problem. The coronavirus threat, however, has refocused interest in mail-in options as lawmakers look for ways to minimize gatherings.Pushing back, the president last Wednesday tweeted that “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”And two weeks ago the president claimed during an appearance on Fox News that a vote-by-mail proposal by House Democrats would have ensured no Republicans would ever be elected again.Biden called the argument by Trump “absolutely ridiculous.”“Republican and Democratic governors have said vote by mail is not something that is going to lead to fraud,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told Politico on Monday. “We must ensure that come this November, voters have options. If you want to vote by mail or vote no, excuse absentee, you should be able to do that.”Fox News’ Judson Berger contributed to this report. 
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