(Reuters) – Results will be released on Monday for a hotly contested state Supreme Court race, a presidential primary and other elections conducted in Wisconsin last week despite health fears from the coronavirus and a flurry of 11th-hour legal challenges.
The chaotic process in Wisconsin, which featured an explosion in absentee balloting and long lines of voters braving health risks and stay-at-home orders, was seen as a potential preview of the national election in November if the pandemic lingers.
Thousands of state and local offices were on the Wisconsin ballot, led by a state Supreme Court race between Dan Kelly, a conservative incumbent endorsed by Republican President Donald Trump, and his liberal challenger, Jill Karofsky.
The winner will help the court decide future voting rights and redistricting issues in Wisconsin, a vital general election battleground, including a case now before the court that seeks to purge more than 200,000 people from Wisconsin’s voter rolls.
State Republicans, warning of possible fraud and administrative issues if the elections were delayed, won legal challenges blocking Democratic efforts to postpone Tuesday’s in-person voting and extend the time for absentee voting.
But Democrats said Republicans were primarily motivated to keep down turnout in the Supreme Court race, particularly in Democratic-dominated urban areas such as Milwaukee, where a lack of workers meant the closure of all but five of the city’s usual 180 polling places.
Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said in a Monday press call that the decision to hold in-person voting on Tuesday amounted to “voter suppression on steroids,” because it forced thousands of voters to choose between casting a ballot or staying at home to avoid infection.
Spurred by worries about health risks from voting in person, a record-high nearly 1.3 million absentee ballots were requested for the elections, state officials said. Some residents who requested absentee ballots said they never received them.
The DNC called for Wisconsin’s next election, a special congressional race scheduled for May 12, to be entirely conducted by mail. State Democrats are urging the Republican-controlled legislature to guarantee every voter an absentee ballot well in advance of the election.
All absentee ballots had to be hand-delivered or postmarked by last Tuesday and received by 4 p.m. CDT (2100 GMT) on Monday to be counted. Election results will start being released sometime after that on Monday, the Wisconsin Elections Commission said.
The election turmoil overshadowed Wisconsin’s Democratic presidential primary between former Vice President Joe Biden and his last remaining rival at the time, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, in the race to pick a challenger to Trump for the Nov. 3 election.
Sanders dropped out on Wednesday, after the Wisconsin voting was finished, making Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee and rendering the primary result even less meaningful.
Reporting by John Whitesides in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney and Tom Brown