Wisconsin Election Results: What to Watch For

The lines were long. Voters wore masks and gloves. And nearly a week after Wisconsin had people go to the polls in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic — despite closing hundreds of precincts — the results are expected to arrive on Monday evening.

County and municipal clerks cannot report results until 4 p.m. Central time because of a court order that extended the deadline for returning absentee ballots, but they have been allowed to do some of the work of processing votes already, which could speed up the reporting process tonight.

“Election officials are able to feed ballots into optical scanners now, and until the deadline for ballots to arrive,” said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission. “What they cannot do until 4 p.m. is create a report of the results.”

Here’s what to watch for when the results come in:

At the last minute, Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, dropped his previous insistence that he did not have the power to change the election date without the consent of the Republican-controlled State Legislature. Mr. Evers tried to mail absentee ballots to all voters or move the primary given the pandemic, but the State Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservative justices, overturned the governor’s effort.

Now the balance of power on the court itself is at stake, with a conservative incumbent justice, Daniel Kelly, facing off against a liberal challenger, Jill Karofsky. The court is technically nonpartisan but a victory for Mr. Kelly would preserve what has been the court’s five-to-two conservative advantage.

That is arguably the most important contest from last Tuesday’s balloting, with the winner in a position to decide a case before the court that could purge more than 200,000 people from the Wisconsin vote rolls in a critical battleground swing state for the presidential campaign.

The court seat is significant enough that President Trump weighed in on Twitter, praising Mr. Kelly as a jurist who “loves your Military, Vets, Farmers.”

Mr. Sanders actually carried Wisconsin in 2016 — he won all but one county that year in his insurgent bid against Hillary Clinton — but he is expected to fare far worse against Mr. Biden this year.

The presidential primary results — even for an election held mid-pandemic — are likely to be closely scrutinized ahead of November, for relative pockets of Mr. Biden’s strengths and weaknesses in a state that some project could be the tipping point of the entire presidential race.

Recent polls in Wisconsin have shown Mr. Biden with a narrow lead over Mr. Trump, often within the margin of error.

The number of polling stations in Milwaukee shrank to only five from about 180. Some voters in the city, which has the biggest minority population in the state, waited for more than two hours to vote, staying six feet apart to the extent that they could. But in some other parts of the state, many of which are whiter, voting was not nearly as disrupted, with the addition of options that included curbside ballot access.

Many who waited in line to fulfill their democratic duties were filled with fear.

“They say they don’t want you to get sick, but then they send you out here in the damn crowd,” Lawrence Johnson, a 70-year-old cleaning worker, said while in line. One woman became a symbol while holding a homemade “This Is Ridiculous” sign.

A big question surrounding the results is how low and depressed Milwaukee’s turnout was relative to other parts of the state.

Maggie Astor contributed reporting.

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