Wisconsin’s Historic Supreme Court Vote
September 9th, 2020
Earlier this year, Wisconsin held its Supreme Court elections. Justice Daniel Kelly (R), the incumbent, faced off against County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky (D). Justice Kelly had been appointed by then-Governor Scott Walker (R) in 2016, and was running for the full 10-year term. The election was controversial–the Democratic Governor tried to postpone the election due to the pandemic and the subsequent lack of polling stations, while the Republican legislature and Republican-dominated Supreme Court pushed for the election to continue as scheduled. The Supreme Court election had been hotly contested, with outside groups spending approximately $5 million on the race, a record for Wisconsin Supreme Court elections. Political parties made up a large percentage of that spending, even though the election was ostensibly non-partisan.
Despite the longer lines in urban, predominantly Democratic districts, Judge (now Justice) Karofsky won the election, making her the first challenger to unseat an incumbent Republican since 2008. This shifted the Republican advantage on the court from 5-2 to 4-3, meaning control of the court could shift in the next election.