Major Bright Spot: Jill Karofsky’s Victory Is A Big, Surprising Win For Democracy

Mosiac in the dome of the Rotunda of the Wiscosin State Capitol. (Photo by Mark L. Taylor)

By Ruth Coniff
Wisconsin Examiner (4/14/20)

It was over so soon, Jill Karofsky’s supporters were reluctant to believe it. Even after the Associated Press announced that Karofsky had won, beating conservative Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, a Scott Walker appointee, to win a 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, on social media Karofsky supporters were warning each other “We’ll know for sure tomorrow . . .”

But Karofsky’s win by a margin of more than 7% is solid — way beyond any recount. Kelly conceded, graciously, early in the evening. At 7 p.m. Karofsky declared victory in a hastily organized video-chat press conference from her living room, with her two children standing behind her. During the press call, when Karofsky’s colleagues from the Dane County Circuit court came knocking on her door to congratulate her she dispatched her daughter to answer the door and then interjected, “now the dog escaped!”

As politics in our state and our nation descends into an abyss of cynical self-dealing, Karofsky’s victory is a major bright spot; a sign of hope in a season when we badly need it.

It was a very human moment in a race that garnered millions of dollars in outside spending and national media attention for the brass-knuckles tactics of Republicans, who refused to consider moving the election in the midst of a pandemic, and ran to the state Supreme Court to reverse Gov. Tony Evers’ order that in-person voting be postponed because of the  public-health emergency. Adding insult to injury, the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Republicans’ favor in a hasty, last-minute decision that cancelled a lower court’s order extending the deadline for absentee voting. That decision caused further chaos by requiring that ballots be postmarked by Election Day, even though many valid ballots were metered and carried no postmark at all.

Much needed win for democracy

Despite all that, democracy won. People came out to vote wearing masks, waited in long lines at the handful of polling places that remained open, and, somehow, incredibly, overcame these attempts to rig the system, expressing their will and electing Jill Karofsky to the state Supreme Court.

“There isn’t any doubt that the goal of the chaos in the courts was to suppress the vote,” says Sachin Chheda, a longtime Democratic political consultant in Wisconsin. “And as far as we can tell, it backfired.”

“People put themselves at risk to vote,” Chheda adds, “And I think thousands of people in Wisconsin who would have voted for Dan Kelly said, ‘We’re not going to support this kind of behavior.’” …

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