2 views on Wisconsin’s decision to hold in-person voting Tuesday

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Wisconsin, voters headed
to the polls today, following days of confusion. Amna Nawaz has more on the first state to
hold a major election with in-person voting in the midst of a stay-at-home order. AMNA NAWAZ: Multiple political and legal battles
preceded today’s contests. The Wisconsin Supreme Court yesterday overturned
an executive order by the state’s Democratic governor to put off in-person voting until
June. And the U.S. Supreme Court ruled along ideological lines to cut off an extension
for absentee voting. Wisconsin stands in contrast to more than
a dozen other states that have delayed their primaries in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We get two views now, first from Wisconsin
Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. Lieutenant Governor, welcome to the “NewsHour.”
And thanks for making the time. You made clear how you feel about this in
a tweet this morning. You said — quote — “Good morning, and welcome to the S-show.” That
stands for a word I cannot say right here. Tell me specifically, what are you worried
about the impact of today’s elections will be? LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES (D-WI): Well, I honestly
feel that I was sharing the frustration of so many people across our state, people who
wanted to exercise their right to vote, the people who requested an absentee ballot and
have not gotten one yet, the people who have been standing in line for two hours to vote. I believe that I shared their frustration.
This is a day that didn’t have to happen. And it definitely didn’t have to happen in
this fashion. Governor Evers issued an order to try to delay
this election, to move it until June. And Republicans in the legislature, they decided
to put people’s health and safety at risk and in jeopardy. And in doing that, they have caused mass hysteria.
They have caused chaos. And we see it at the polling locations. You see where people unaware
of what to do, because they have an absentee ballot that they may not have been able to
return yet. They have been told that if you didn’t return
the absentee ballot in or and if you haven’t received one already, even though you have
requested one, that you were expected to show up and vote in person. Now, that compromises a person’s health, because
we know that coronavirus has run rampant. Here in this state, we have over 2,500 positive
test results. We’re now up to 92 deaths in our state. People don’t want to take that
risk. And what it does is, it disenfranchises voters.
It makes people not want to get up, get out of the house and go risk it. AMNA NAWAZ: Let me ask you, Lieutenant Governor,
about that confusion, though, because there’s been criticism of Governor Evers too. You have had cases, coronavirus cases, in
Wisconsin for several weeks. He didn’t move to change anything about the election until
just a few days ago. If public health is really the primary concern, why not change something
sooner? Why not act earlier? LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES: I mean, the governor,
even before yesterday, called on the legislature to act on the election. He also moved to make sure — or to make it
possible for people to return their absentee ballots to April 13, almost a week after today.
And many people operated under that assumption. And it’s a shame and it’s unfortunate that
Republicans in the legislature decided that they want to roll back those provisions to
allow people to come get a chance to exercise their right. AMNA NAWAZ: I know this is — there’s been
a greater push by Democrats to also move, especially during the pandemic, to greater
mail-in voting means. I want to put to you what Republicans say
about that, though. They say overhauling the systems in 50 states is no easy task, it opens
up the process to a whole new world of fraud. And they also accuse Democrats of taking advantage
of the pandemic to get around what they call election integrity. What do you say to that? LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES: The thing, when they
say it’s no easy to ask, what is easy? We are dealing with a pandemic. Nothing is going
to be easy right now. We have to — people are changing their entire
ways of life. It’s not easy for farming communities. It’s not easy for urban communities. It’s
not easy for sick and elderly populations. It’s not easy for a whole lot of people. But
it is up to us, as government, to be able to respond appropriately. And that means we have to take on the tough
tasks. You shouldn’t seek elected office if you aren’t ready to take on the tough task.
And if creating a process, a system that would allow for more access to voting, more access
to democracy, is something that overwhelms you, then you probably shouldn’t be in office
or a decision-making capacity. AMNA NAWAZ: Lieutenant Governor, I should
ask. The election. Of course, is not just about
a Democratic presidential primary. There are a lot of state and local offices at stake
today. People say, isn’t it important to get those roles filled because we’re in a pandemic?
You need officials in those spots right now. LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES: In the event that
the election was delayed, as it should have been, I don’t think that it’s too much of
an inconvenience to have those people in office for another month or two, given the circumstances,
given the fact that we are dealing with a pandemic. Like I said, this is not easy for anybody.
We have to make certain adjustments. And I think that that is one that people would be
able to agree upon. AMNA NAWAZ: That’s Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor
Mandela Barnes with us today. Thank you for your time. LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES: Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: And for a different take, I’m
joined by Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee. Ms. McDaniel, welcome back to the “NewsHour.” I want to start by asking you to speak directly
to folks in Wisconsin. What do you say to the voters who feel like
they have to make a choice today between protecting their health and exercising their right to
vote? RONNA MCDANIEL, Chair, Republican National
Committee: Well, the RNC hasn’t engaged in states that are changing their elections. And that’s up to your governor and your state
legislature. Where we intervened in Wisconsin specifically is when the DNC came in and tried
to remove safeguards to the integrity of the election, like I.D. requirements or extending
the election an additional six days, and keeping it open for six days. So, that’s when we intervened. But we haven’t
done that in any other state as they have moved their elections. That’s really up to
the local state government. AMNA NAWAZ: To be clear, it was Republicans
on the ground who were pushing back against the efforts to move the election. Understanding that Governor Evers’ efforts
came late just a few days before the actual election, should they have allowed the election
to go forward today? RONNA MCDANIEL: That’s a state issue. The RNC only got involved when the DNC filed
a lawsuit to remove those safeguards. And that’s why we have been engaged in Wisconsin.
But the legislature and the governor needed to come together and work on that. And I think
the governor, as the leader of the state, should have acted sooner and started doing
all these 11th-hour proposals to try and change the election. And I think it’s a failure of leadership on
his part that he didn’t move sooner. AMNA NAWAZ: Let me ask you from the voter’s
perspective And there’s clearly an access issue. There
were a number of polling places that had to be closed because of coronavirus concerns.
Do you believe that everyone in Wisconsin who was eligible to vote got their chance
or will get their chance to do so today? RONNA MCDANIEL: So, Wisconsin still had early
voting. And they still had the absentee — opportunity to receive those absentee ballots. None of
that was prevented through this process. What we felt uncomfortable with is an election
being open for seven additional days, when you had an Election Day of April 7. So, anyone
who postmarks their ballot by today at 8:00 p.m., their vote will count. And that is the right way. We want everyone
to be able to vote. We just want to make sure there are safeguards that make sure that people
who shouldn’t be voting don’t vote. AMNA NAWAZ: There are concerns about the absentee
ballots, though. There were a number of people, thousands of people, in fact, who requested
them who still haven’t received as of this morning. With all the confusion around that process,
do you really believe that everyone there who wants to vote will get a chance to do
so today? RONNA MCDANIEL: Well, they’re going to have
to look to their state government, because the governor and the legislature was pushing
for April 7. And if they didn’t get that process done,
that’s going to be up to the state to make sure that they got those ballots out. Of course,
we want everyone to be able to vote. What we didn’t want is to see safeguards taken
away, like I.D., making sure that the voter who is turning in the ballot is the voter
whose name is on the ballot, those types of things that safeguard the integrity of the
election. With so much uncertainty right now in our
country, we need people to have competence in our election process. And that’s why the
RNC got involved and pushed for these I.D. requirements, the witnesses for absentee ballots,
and also not keeping an election open six additional days beyond the election date. AMNA NAWAZ: While there is a global pandemic,
while the virus still is — of cases rising here in the United States, do you believe
any state should be holding in-person voting? RONNA MCDANIEL: You know, what — that’s going
to be up to the state governors to decide. You haven’t seen the national parties get
involved in that. That’s up to the states and the legislatures, based on what’s happening
with their population. What I will say, though, is, you have seen,
at the national level, Democrats try and push election agendas, like ballot harvesting,
which certainly isn’t safe when you’re going door to door to collect ballots, or things
like getting rid of absentee witness I.D. requirements. So those are things that we’re going to push
back on. We do not want to dismantle the things that keep our election integrity in place.
And that’s where the RNC is getting involved. The states can determine when they hold those
elections. That’s why the states and the governors and the legislatures have that role. AMNA NAWAZ: That is Ronna McDaniel, chair
of the Republican National Committee, joining us today. Thanks for your time. RONNA MCDANIEL: Thank you.

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