If Wisconsin was a test case for voting in the age of the coronavirus, it did not go well for many voters.
Thousands were forced to congregate for hours in long lines on Tuesday with no protective gear. Thousands more stayed home, unwilling to risk their health and unable to be counted because requested absentee ballots never arrived.
Voters reported being afraid, angry and embarrassed by the state's unwillingness to postpone their presidential primary elections as more than a dozen other states have already done. Neither Joe Biden nor Bernie Sanders will be declared a winner at least until next Monday in accordance with one of several court orders that shaped the contest.
And there was evidence that minority voters were disproportionately impacted by widespread poll closures in their communities. Michael Claus, 66, wore a protective mask and a Tuskegee Airmen cap, as he waited to vote. The number of people who have died from the virus in the United States was 12,956 on Wednesday morning according to a New York Times database.
The African American man said he tried to vote absentee and requested a ballot in March but it never showed up. His only option was to vote in person. He blamed the Republican-controlled state legislature.
"They could have delayed the election with no problem," Claus said. "They decided if they can suppress the vote in Milwaukee and Madison, where you have a large minority presence, you can get people elected you want elected. And that's sad."
The chaos in Wisconsin, a premiere general election battleground, was expected to reverberate across states that still have primaries ahead. Alaska, Wyoming and Ohio are conducting contests by mail this month, and other states, including Georgia, are slated to hold in-person voting in May.
Election experts warned that Wisconsin was an example of what not to do. And the experience added immediate context to the broader debate about protecting voting rights this November.
"We have moved forward with an election, but we have not moved forward with democracy in the state of Wisconsin," warned Neil Albrecht, executive director of Milwaukee's election commission.
Democrats in and out of Wisconsin had pushed for the contest to be postponed, yet Republicans — and the conservative-majority state Supreme Court — would not give in. The fight over whether to postpone the election was influenced by a state Supreme Court election also being held Tuesday. A lower turnout was thought to benefit the conservative candidate.
Lest there be any doubt about the GOP's motivation, President Donald Trump on Tuesday broke from health experts who have encouraged all Americans to stay home by calling on his supporters to "get out and vote NOW" for the conservative judicial candidate.
The election was unlike virtually any other in recent memory. Milwaukee, the state's largest city, opened just five of its 180 traditional polling places, forced to downsize after hundreds of poll workers stepped down because of health risks. The ensuing logjam forced voters to wait together in lines spanning several blocks in some cases. Many did not have facial coverings.
As of Tuesday night, Wisconsin reported more than 2,500 coronavirus infections and 92 related deaths — 49 of them in Milwaukee County, where the voting lines were longest.