This is it. We have just one week before our last opportunity to determine who the next justice on Wisconsin’s supreme court will be. “We the people” will make that decision as we cast our ballots in this winner-take-all, high-stakes election. In fact, some media outlets around the country are calling this race the most important election of this year.
So, what makes this state supreme court race so important? Why are people all across the country not just watching this race but are heavily investing financially in it? Why has this already become the most expensive race of its kind in the country, not just in Wisconsin? Why are we as voters being besieged with all kinds of ads about these candidates—from the candidates and from third-party groups?
The answer to all those questions is not that difficult. I think there are two main reasons for the high-notoriety of this race between self-described liberal progressive Janet Protasiewicz and self-described judicial conservative Daniel Kelly.
First, this is the opportunity the liberals have dreamed about and hoped for and quite honestly worked for, for over a decade. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has leaned conservative for at least the last ten years, sometimes by as much as a 5-2 conservative to liberal margin. In recent years, the liberals have eaten away at the conservative majority to where it is now a tenuous 4-3 conservative majority. I say tenuous because Justice Brian Hagedorn, who was elected as a judicial conservative has voted enough with the liberals that his conservative credentials and bent are not now trusted or assumed.
This mostly conservative court has, for the most part, thwarted liberals’ attempts to get their agenda accomplished through the courts. And they have certainly not been able to advance that agenda in the state legislature which has, since 2011, been firmly controlled by conservative Republicans.
Liberals see gaining this judicial seat, that has been held by conservative Pat Roggensack, as their opportunity to flip the court to 4-3 liberal in just one election. In doing so, they can then be pretty much assured of getting their agenda to become the law of the land in many areas.
Considering this, the independent group Institute for Reforming Government, which is based in Wisconsin, recently issued an memo in which they look at the future of the Wisconsin Supreme Court after this election. The memo discusses a number of what the author, Attorney Anthony LoCoco describes as “hot-button” issues, including Abortion, Act 10, Election Integrity, Public Health Emergencies, Redistricting, Right to Work. School Choice, Free speech, the right to keep and bear arms, agency regulatory authority, and more—all of which are potential, and I would say very likely, subjects that will come before our state’s highest court.
If the liberal candidate wins this election and flips the balance, it’s pretty safe to assume each of these issues will be decided to give a liberal outcome—just as the liberals are hoping. If the conservative wins and retains the conservative majority, then we would expect that most of these issues would be decided in a more conservative manner. The liberals are fairly salivating and are working overtime in hopes that this flip happens.
The second reason this election is both high-profile and high-stakes is that by pretty much anyone’s calculation, the path to the White House in 2024 runs through Wisconsin. I think election prognosticators to some degree see this statewide race as a kind of bellwether as we look forward to the next presidential election. Is the state more red or blue right now? What election strategies and tactics work best to turn the voters out for the two sides?
We also know that Wisconsin needs election reform—and that has been thwarted handily by Governor Evers the last four years. But more lawsuits are bound to be filed challenging some of the current election laws. For instance, if the court flips liberal, we could see the end of requiring photo ID to vote, and loosening of other voting regulations. Decisions from the state Supreme Court on voting laws could have a profound impact on the 2024 election.
Wisconsin voters have the final say in this critically important election. Absentee-by-mail ballots must be in the clerks’ offices by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, April 4. Early in-person voting is taking place right now through this Friday in most municipalities. Tuesday, April 4, the official Election Day, is the last opportunity “we the people” have to have our say in this winner-take-all election.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
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