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Voters return 76% of absentee ballots in time

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Latest on Wisconsin's primary election (all times local):

New numbers from the Wisconsin Elections Commission show voters have returned at least three-quarters of the absentee ballots they requested in time for them to count in the state's spring election and more could be in the mail.

According to the elections commission, as of 8 p.m. Tuesday voters had requested nearly 1.29 million absentee ballots. Clerks had issued nearly 1.28 million absentee ballots and had recorded 990,129 returned. That's about a 77% return rate.

Voters had until 8 p.m. Tuesday to drop absentee ballots off at the polls. Clerks also will accept any ballots postmarked Tuesday that they receive through the mail until April 13, which means clerks could be getting more ballots in the mail in the coming days.

5 p.m.

The city of Milwaukee's top election official says hundreds of absentee ballots filed without a witness signature during the roughly 24 hours a federal judge said the requirement didn't apply won't count.

U.S District Judge William Conley on Thursday lifted the witness signature requirement for absentee voters in light of social distancing mandates to slow the coronavirus. A federal appellate court reinstated the requirement the next day. State election officials have said ballots filed without a witness signature are therefore invalid and voters who cast them can't vote again in any way.

Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht says that as of Tuesday afternoon the city had received 750 absentee ballots without a witness signature. He says those ballots will not count.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett apologized Tuesday for the election, saying it's embarrassing that the Republican-controlled Legislature didn't postpone the election and now tens of thousands of people to choose between voting and risking infection at the polls.

4:40 p.m.

Wisconsin state Supreme Court hopeful Jill Karofsky blasted the justices Tuesday for ordering the state's spring election to move ahead during the coronavirus pandemic.

Karofsky is trying to unseat incumbent Justice Dan Kelly, who is part of the Supreme Court's five-person conservative majority. The race is officially nonpartisan but Democrats back Karofsky and Republicans support Kelly.

Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order Monday postponing in-person voting to June but the Supreme Court struck it down 4-2 in a matter of hours. Kelly recused himself.

Karofsky told reporters Tuesday that the court's decision is another example of how the court is broken. She said there's no way the justices had time to truly analyze Evers' order and the extent of his emergency powers under state law before they issued their decision. That creates the perception that the court reached the decision ahead of time.

Kelly spent Tuesday sending out tweets asking people to vote.

Karofksy has accused Kelly of being corrupt because he constantly sides with conservative groups when they come before the court. Karofsky herself has accepted $1.3 million from the state Democratic Party. She said Tuesday that if she gets on the court she would recuse herself from any litigation involving the state Democratic Party. She also said that she would recuse herself from any challenge to the election's validity if the case directly impacts her.