What to know about the Feb. 18 Wisconsin primary elections
Following statewide primary elections on Tuesday, Feb. 18, the field of candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice will narrow from three to two. Those two candidates will advance to the April 7 election, which is also the day of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential primary.
The Supreme Court race will be the only one on Tuesday’s ballot this year. The Beloit Daily News reported on Feb. 12 that no candidates will be listed for Beloit City Council, Rock County Board of Supervisors or School District of Beloit Board of Education.
The three candidates are incumbent justice Daniel Kelly, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky and Marquette University Law School professor Ed Fallone. Justice Kelly was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2016 by former Republican governor Scott Walker, after Justice David Prosser, a judicial conservative announced his retirement.
According to Milwaukee Public Radio, Kelly has been endorsed by conservatives, while Karofsky and Fallone are both backed by liberals in the state. The office of state Supreme Court justice is officially non-partisan, but the court currently has a 5-2 conservative majority.
Beloit City Clerk-Treasurer Lori Stottler told the Beloit Daily News that a low voter turnout is expected on Tuesday—just 5% of eligible voters in the city of Beloit—because only one relatively low-profile race will appear on the ballot. For that reason, the city has consolidated its polling places from its typical nine to just two. Ward 16, which includes Beloit College, will vote at Central Christian Church at 2460 Milwaukee Road. That location is about two and a half miles from campus or a six-minute drive; Ward 16’s typical polling place, the First Congregational Church, is about a block from the residential side of campus.
In a Feb. 10 email, Stottler said that the city government was looking into “allowing students to ride the public transit system for free on election days by showing their ID,” adding, “so the transportation issue should not be a problem so long as students are willing.” On Feb. 13, she told The Round Table in a follow-up email that she had not yet confirmed the details of this arrangement.
As of the evening of Feb. 16, no information was available online about transportation to Central Christian Church from the Office of Student Success, Equity and Community, which typically provides students with transportation for more high-profile elections.
Before his appointment to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Daniel Kelly spent about 20 years in private practice, and he has appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Although he has stated that he believes his personal views do not belong in a courtroom, Kelly identifies as a judicial conservative. In a 2014 essay, Kelly wrote about his belief that slavery and affirmative action both “spring from the same taproot” and that they are morally the same under the law.
Jill Karofsky formerly served as a state prosecutor and as the executive director of the Wisconsin Office of Crime Victim Services and co-chaired the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Response Team. She has been honored by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault and by Dane County Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence. She has also been an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Ed Fallone has taught at Marquette University Law School for 28 years. With his wife, he founded Stem Cell Now, an organization that advocates for fetal tissue research. He has served on the boards of the organizations Voces de la Frontera Acción, the Latino Community Center and Catholic Charities Legal Services for Immigrants. If elected, Fallone would be the first Latinx justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He has been endorsed by Wisconsin for Bernie.
The new justice will serve 10 years on the court; Kelly is currently serving the last four years of Justice Prosser’s term.
The city is taking advantage of the low projected voter turnout, according to the Beloit Daily News, to test new bilingual and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant voting machines. 49 new ExpressVote machines have been purchased by Rock County municipalities at for $3,445 per unit to replace aging voting machines, and nine of those were purchased by the city of Beloit.
Stottler reminded Round Table readers to bring a student ID to the polling place as Proof of Residence if they need to register to vote on Tuesday and to bring a valid photo ID whether or not they are already registered.