Wisconsin Republicans' moves to suppress voter turnout at the state's election last week backfired as Democratic challenger Judge Jill Karofsky on Monday was declared the winner of the state Supreme Court race, "easily" defeating the conservative incumbent.
"Tonight's election results show that Wisconsinites want a change, especially at the local level," said Grecia Lima, national political director of Community Change Action.
In-person voting took place Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic and after a last minute effort by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to postpone in-person voting was thwarted by the conservative-controlled state Supreme Court. The court also blocked an effort to extend the deadline for absentee voting.
Karofsky's win over President Donald Trump-backed incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly narrows the conservative majority to 4-3.
In a statement Monday evening, Karofsky spoke to the voting catastrophe that occurred April 7.
"Although we were successful in this race, the circumstances under which this election was conducted were simply unacceptable, and raise serous concerns for the future of our democracy," she said. "Nobody in this state or in this country should have been forced to choose between their safety and participating in an election. Too many were unable to have their voices heard because they didn't feel safe leaving their home or their absentee ballots weren't counted."
"Wisconsinites showed their resiliency by overcoming many of the barriers created by the legislature and the courts to try and silence voters in this state, but nobody should ever be denied their right to vote," Karofsky added.
According to author and voting rights expert Ari Berman, Karofsky's win can be seen as a "huge upset and defeat for attempts to undermine voting rights."
"There is nothing more disgraceful in a democracy than preventing people from voting and to see it backfire on the Wisconsin GOP is sweet revenge," Berman wrote on Twitter.
But with the coronavirus crisis still raging and the November election just months away, officials are being urged to swiftly enact policies to protect both voting rights and public health.
'We need fair elections that keep everyone safe," said Lima. "We need automatic voter registration and a mail-in ballot for all voters. The presidential election is rapidly approaching and our voters—pro-immigrant, progressive voters, black and brown voters—are ready to take the country in a new direction."
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who now serves as chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, made a similar observation.
"Republicans' brazen attempt to steal a seat on the Supreme Court may not have worked, but it still endangered he health and well-being of people across Wisconsin and voters shoud not forget it when they cast a ballot this November," said Holder.
Calling for the "troubling pictures from Wisconsin" to "serve as a cautionary tale that must not be repeated," Holder added, "Political leaders in Congress and at the state level need to stat taking steps right now to ensure that no toher voters around the country are forced in a choice betwen staying healthy or casting a ballot."
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