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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wisconsin voters braving lines in face masks — after a last-minute Supreme Court ruling against extending the absentee deadline — could foreshadow a nationwide legal struggle over how to conduct elections during the coronavirus outbreak, election experts say.

Why it matters: "It's a harbinger of what's to come in the next skirmishes in the voting wars" from now through November, Richard Hasen, a professor and national election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, told Axios.

  • Wisconsin's breakdown showed how easily states' election law battles — already marked by bitter clashes over voting rights — can be supercharged by the virus.
  • When asked about Wisconsin on Tuesday, President Trump discouraged mail-in voting and cast doubt on its reliability. He called it “very dangerous,” “corrupt” and a mechanism for cheating.

By the numbers: Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C. still have presidential primary deadlines between now and June 23.

  • Fourteen have already postponed in-person elections or extended mail-in voting deadlines because of COVID-19, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
  • Many could face similar challenges over decisions on election procedures or deadlines as coronavirus spreads.
  • Georgia, for example, has a primary on May 19. But poll workers are quitting and precincts have shut down, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers' last-minute decision to extend the mail-in ballot deadline complicated the situation. Election law experts hope most states will avoid that mistake, and start rolling out new policies and procedures well in advance.

What to watch: 2018 was a record year for election-related litigation, and Hasen expects 2020 to surpass it.

  • The Democratic National Committee has filed lawsuits in Georgia, Arizona and Texas because the states list Republican candidates first on general election ballots, something Democrats claim gives Republicans an unfair advantage. They've also sued over Kansas' delay in implementing a new law that would allow easier access to ballots.
  • The Republican National Committee is assisting New Mexico's state party to stop a lawsuit calling for an all vote-by-mail election, according to the RNC's Mandi Merritt. The RNC is also defending state election laws in Minnesota and Michigan.
  • Both parties have been involved in election-related legal fights in Wisconsin.

Another factor in the Wisconsin mess was divided government, with the Republican-controlled legislature shutting down Evers' attempt to postpone the Tuesday primary.

  • Other states with split political control could face similarly heated battles over election processes, Joe Sandler, a D.C.-based election and campaign finance lawyer, told Axios.
  • In addition to Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Montana, Michigan, Kentucky and Louisiana have Democratic governors but Republican-controlled state legislatures.
  • Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have a Republican governor and a Democratic-controlled state legislature.

What they're saying: Partisan fighting and finger-pointing over long-debated election reforms has flared up as the coronavirus forces some states to consider alternatives to in-person voting.

  • Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel published an op-ed on Monday charging that "Democrats’ all-mail ballots proposal is a ruse to legalize ballot harvesting nationwide."
  • "What the RNC is doing — and they've made it very, very clear — over the course of the entire cycle is an orchestrated campaign of voter suppression, and the DNC is fighting back," the DNC's David Bergstein told Axios.

Go deeper:

The race to change how America votes

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”