Clerks ask state legislators to not change 2020 election dates

A "vote here" sign is seen in Howard Nov. 6, 2018. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

BROWN COUNTY (WLUK) -- Municipal and county clerks aren't happy to hear state Republicans might try to move up the presidential preference primary election in 2020.

It's a move Governor Scott Walker says Republicans are considering before he leaves office.

Democrats believe Republicans are trying make the change to protect a state Supreme Court seat.

State Supreme Court races are supposed to be nonpartisan, but candidates tend to be backed by the major political parties.

The possibility of three elections in three straight months in 2020 had Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno emailing state lawmakers Friday morning.

“For us to try to do more than what we're physically and monetarily capable of doing would be pretty ridiculous,” said Juno.

As 2020 stands now, there will be a statewide non-partisan primary election on February 18th with the general election and presidential preference primary on April 7th. That April ballot will include a state Supreme Court race for the seat currently held by Justice Daniel Kelly. Governor Scott Walker appointed him in 2016.

There is speculation Republicans want to move the presidential primary to March to protect Kelly's seat. That's because Democrats are expected to have high turnout in April to select a candidate to face President Donald Trump.

“Just the cost for a presidential preference election, from 2016, statewide the costs were $6.8 million, so you'd be adding that amount into the costs of having an election in February, as well as another election in April,” said Juno.

Juno says county and municipal clerks across the state are in agreement about not changing the dates. She says they have been emailing each other since word came out there might be an effort to change the dates.

Walker has confirmed Republicans are talking about changing election dates, but he would not say whether it has anything to do with the Supreme Court race.

“The bottom line is I was in county government,” said Walker, Milwaukee’s former county executive. “I always thought it was odd that those of us who were in nonpartisan office were on the ballot at the same time as there were partisan elections.”

In 2016, there was also a state Supreme Court race on the ballot while both parties were voting on Presidential candidates. Walker was asked why Republicans didn't attempt a change then.

“I can't do anything unless you get a time machine, I can't go back,” said Walker.

Walker says cost will also be considered if legislation is proposed. So far, nothing has been formally introduced.

Several Democrats, including State Senator Dave Hansen, have said the election dates should not be changed.

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