A look at Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court primary results

Welcome to the Thursday, February 23, Brew. 

By: Juan Garcia de Paredes

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. A look at Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court primary results
  2. Update on this year’s and next year’s ballot measure certifications
  3. Learn everything you need to know about the school board primaries in Oklahoma (and more!) with On the Ballot, our weekly podcast.

A look at Wisconsin’s Supreme Court primary results

The field is set for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court general election. 

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly advanced from Tuesday’s primary, defeating Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow and Dane County Circuit Judge Everett Mitchell. With 99% of votes counted, Protasiewicz had received 446k votes, or 46.4% of the total votes cast, and Kelly had received 233k votes, or 24.2% of the total. Dorow received 210k votes (21.9%) and Mitchell received 72k votes (7.5%). 

Compared to previous primaries, Protasiewicz received more votes than any other primary candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court since 2016. Before Tuesday, the primary candidate with the most votes since 2016 was Kelly, who received 353k votes in the 2020 primary. Kelly would go on to lose against Jill Karofsky in the general election that year. 

The Apr. 4 general election will determine who will succeed Justice Patience Roggensack, whose term will expire in July 2023, and who did not run for re-election. The winner will serve on the court for a term of 10 years. 

While Supreme Court elections are officially nonpartisan, Protasiewicz and Mitchell ran as liberal candidates in the primary, while Kelly and Dorow ran as conservatives. The current court is considered to have a 4-3 conservative majority. With Roggensack—a member of the court’s conservative majority—retiring, the general election will determine the ideological control of the court.

According to Wisconsin Public Radio’s Shawn Johnson, “A Kelly victory would preserve the court’s 4-3 conservative edge, while a Protasiewicz win would give liberals a majority for the first time since 2008.”

“Should Protasiewicz win the general election on Apr. 4, the court could revisit its 2022 redistricting decision that helped Republicans grow their already lopsided majorities in the Wisconsin Legislature. Justices could also overturn Wisconsin’s pre-Civil War abortion ban,” Johnson said. 

The court had a 4-3 liberal majority from 2005 to 2008. In 2008, conservative candidate Michael Gableman defeated incumbent liberal Justice Louis Butler, giving conservatives a 4-3 majority on the court. The conservative-leaning judges expanded their majority to 5-2 in 2016. That majority was reduced back to 4-3 in 2018 and increased again to 5-2 in 2019. In 2020, liberal candidate Jill Karofsky defeated then-incumbent Daniel Kelly 55.2% to 44.7%, reducing the conservative majority on the court to the current 4-3 split.

The turnout rate in Tuesday’s state Supreme Court primary was around 20.5%. That’s an increase from 2020, when the turnout in the primary for the state Supreme Court seat up for election that year was 15.5%..

Following the primary results, Protasiewicz said, “We’re saving our democracy in the state of Wisconsin. […] That’s what I’m explaining to people. I’m talking about the ability to vote, to have a vote that counts about women’s rights, reproductive freedoms, the fact that the 2024 presidential election results could likely come into our Supreme Court chamber, just everything people care about.”

Kelly said voters “don’t want to gamble on who the next Supreme Court justice is. They want to have someone who has a proven public record of being faithful to the constitution and to the people of Wisconsin. And I see my record as doing that. And I think that’s what makes the difference.”

The open Wisconsin Supreme Court seat is one of two state supreme court seats on the ballot in 2023. The other one—a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court—will be up for election on Nov. 7. The primary for that seat will take place on May 16. 

Additionally, two intermediate appellate court seats in Wisconsin are up for election on Apr. 4. A primary for those seats was scheduled for Feb. 21, but it was canceled after fewer than three candidates filed for each election.  

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Update on this year’s and next year’s ballot measure certifications

As of Feb. 21, 2023, five statewide measures have been certified for the ballot in three states for elections in 2023. That’s the same as the average number certified at this point in other odd-numbered years from 2011 to 2021. 

For 2024, 11 statewide measures have been certified in five states. That’s the same as the average number certified at this point from 2010 to 2022.

Here’s an update on the latest ballot measure activity.

One new measure was certified for the ballot last week:

  1. Utah Elections of County Sheriffs Amendment

Signatures have been submitted and are pending verification for two initiatives in Maine and Michigan:

  1. Maine “Right to Repair Law” Vehicle Data Access Requirement Initiative (2023)
  2. Michigan $15 Minimum Wage Initiative (2024)

Signatures were verified for four indirect initiatives in Maine and Ohio, and the initiatives are now before legislators:

  1. Maine Creation of Pine Tree Power Company Initiative (2023)
  2. Maine Prohibit Foreign Spending in Elections Initiative (2023)
  3. Maine Voter Approval of Borrowing Above $1 Billion by State Entities and Electric Cooperatives Initiative (2023)
  4. Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2023)

From 2011 to 2021, the average number of statewide ballot measures certified in an odd-numbered year was 33. By this time during odd-numbered years from 2011 through 2021, an average of five statewide measures had been certified for the ballot. 

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Learn everything you need to know about the school board primaries in Oklahoma (and more!) with On the Ballot, our weekly podcast.

On the Ballot, our weekly podcast, takes a closer look at the week’s top political stories.

In this week’s episode, host Victoria Rose and Ballotpedia’s Marquee Staff Writer Doug Kronaizl talk about the school board primaries that just took place in Oklahoma, as well as results in the Wisconsin Supreme Court primary that took place on February 21st. 

Episodes of On the Ballot come out Thursdays.

Click below to listen to older episodes and find links to subscribe.

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