Republicans tried to suppress the vote in Wisconsin. It backfired


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By Sam Levine, The Guardian

Wisconsin Republicans lost a state supreme court race on Monday after pushing to hold an election amid the Covid-19 pandemic

Ballots cast in Racine, Wisconsin are tabulated on Monday. Photograph: Mark Hertzberg/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

In the end, it wasn’t even close.

Less than a week after forcing Wisconsin voters to risk their health and go to the polls, Wisconsin Republicans suffered a stunning defeat on Monday night.

Daniel Kelly, a conservative justice on the state supreme court, lost his seat to Jill Karofsky, a liberal challenger, by more than 163,000 votes. Such a wide margin is remarkable in Wisconsin, where a race for a different state supreme court seat was decided last year by just 6,000 votes.

The election served as an early litmus test of Donald Trump’s political strength in Wisconsin, a state he critically needs to win in November. And it was the most significant test so far of whether a state could hold a fair election in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Republicans in the state refused a last-minute request to delay the election. That decision was widely seen as a cold political calculation – fewer people would turn out to vote in person, which would benefit Kelly.

Ultimately, that calculation was wrong. Turnout was just over 34%, the highest for a spring election in the state since 2016, when both parties had competitive presidential primaries. It was only the second time in over half a century that a challenger defeated an incumbent for a seat on the state supreme court, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Karofsky’s victory means the conservative majority on the supreme court will narrow from 5-2 to 4-3.


The election offers a strong rebuff to Trump, who insisted that Democrats wanted to postpone the election and move to an entirely vote-by-mail contest to boost their political chances. Trump has also repeatedly, and falsely, claimed that mail-in balloting leads to widespread voter fraud – there is no evidence of that in Wisconsin or elsewhere – and that it only benefits Democrats…

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