Liberal beats Trump-endorsed conservative for Wisconsin Supreme Court seat

FILE PHOTO: Voter Matt Phillips feeds his completed ballot into a counting machine inside a polling station at Hamilton High School during the presidential primary election, held amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S., April 7, 2020. REUTERS/Daniel Acker/File Photo

(Reuters) – Liberal challenger Jill Karofsky won a hotly contested race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday, beating a conservative incumbent in state elections marred by court challenges and worries about coronavirus health risks.

Karofsky was projected by the Associated Press to have upset conservative incumbent Dan Kelly, who was endorsed by Republican President Donald Trump, for a court seat that could help decide future voting rights and redistricting issues in Wisconsin, a vital general election battleground.

The Supreme Court race highlighted a slate of thousands of elections held last week for state and local offices, as well as a presidential primary.

The release of the results was delayed by a court order that extended the deadline for receiving mailed absentee ballots until Monday.

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.

State Republicans, warning of possible fraud and administrative issues if the elections were delayed, had won legal challenges blocking Democratic efforts to postpone last 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 race for the Supreme Court.

Despite the result, conservatives will still hold a narrow 4-3 majority on the non-partisan Wisconsin Supreme Court, with the next seat up for election in 2023. The court is expected soon to decide a case that seeks to purge more than 200,000 people from Wisconsin’s voter rolls.

Reporting by John Whitesides in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney

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