Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down governor’s mask mandate

The Wisconsin Supreme Court became the latest state court to strike down a governor’s mask mandate, this time declaring Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) statewide edict “unlawful” by a 4-3 vote. 

The court found Evers’ mask mandate to be in violation of state law because it was done unilaterally and went on beyond a 60-day time frame for executive emergency orders.

To extend the mask mandate beyond 60 days, Evers needed legislative approval, something that he could not get in the Republican-controlled state legislature.

“The question in this case is not whether the governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not,” Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote in the majority opinion.

Vaccinations continue in state

Evers originally ordered the mandate in August, but wants to keep it in place as case numbers begin to increase slightly in the state.

It is the third time a Wisconsin court has checked his executive power since the pandemic began. In May, the state Supreme Court struck down Evers’ stay-at-home order after it surpassed the 60-day mark, and in October a state appeals court prevented Evers from limiting capacity in bars, restaurants and other indoor locations.

Some fear another surge in cases is imminent even though vaccinations continue to increase. In Wisconsin, 2.7 million residents have been vaccinated so far and distribution has been the fastest of any state.

On Monday, all adults in the state became eligible to get the vaccine, making Wisconsin one of the first states to open vaccinations to anyone 16 or older.

Local mask mandates continue

The court order only applies to Evers’ statewide mandate, and several local mask mandates in Milwaukee and Dane County where Madison is located remain in place.

Evers said he used science in deciding to continue the mask mandate and wanted to keep residents safe by continuing the mandate.

He urged people to continue wearing masks even without the mandate and said he would continue working to get residents vaccinated in order to bring case numbers down.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) said residents and businesses “don’t need state government telling them how to live their lives” and that they should be able to make their own decisions about wearing masks.

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