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Duke alumna Jill Karofsky wins Wisconsin Supreme Court seat over incumbent conservative

After the nation focused its attention to the Wisconsin elections last week—which were held after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a delayed Election Day or mail-in ballots—Jill Karofsky emerged victorious in the hotly contested State Supreme Court race. Turns out, she's a Duke alumna.

A circuit court judge since 2017, Karofsky, Trinity '88, was the liberal challenger to conservative incumbent Dan Kelly, whom President Donald Trump had endorsed. In an upset victory, she won by more than 160,000 votes, a significant margin in a purple state that Trump narrowly carried in 2016. Her race was one of the most important in the state, as both Democrats and Republicans had virtually uncontested presidential primaries. 

The coronavirus pandemic has much of the country avoiding large gatherings. Health officials worried about holding an in-person election, and closed many polling places across the state. Officials were also concerned about Black neighborhoods in Milwaukee, which have been hit the hardest by COVID-19. 

Nevertheless, Republicans in the state legislature refused to mail absentee ballots to every Wisconsin voter or change the primary's date, despite the Democratic governor's wishes. When the governor postponed the election to June, the State Supreme Court overturned his ruling. Karofsky's victory could carry major implications for voting procedures in November, as a Kelly win would have cemented the Court's conservative majority. With Karofsky's win, the conservative majority has been narrowed to 4-3.

Karofsky graduated with degrees in political science and Spanish. She also ran cross country and track at Duke. 

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