Wisconsin Voters Head To The Polls To Decide Balance Of State Supreme Court
State Capitol of Wisconsin in Madison
Credit: Henryk Sadura via Getty Images.

Voters in Wisconsin head to the polls on Tuesday to decide the balance of the state Supreme Court in one of the most expensive court races in history. 

Neither candidate running for the open seat belongs to a political party. Conservative candidate and former Justice Dan Kelly, backed by most Republicans, is facing off against liberal candidate Judge Janet Protasiewicz, the preferred candidate of most Democrats, with the winner determining the ideological slant of the divided court and earning a 10-year term on the court. 

Protasiewicz has reportedly been backed by donations from left-wing billionaire George Soros and Gov. J.B Pritzker (D-IL), while Kelly has received support from groups like Fair Courts America, a conservative judicial organization. Total spending has exceeded $40 million, an astronomical amount compared to previous years when total spending was only around $10 million. 

Hollywood has even thrown its weight behind Protasiewicz, with director Steven Speilberg contributing to her campaign and actor Mark Ruffalo encouraging voters to “change the future of Wisconsin by electing Janet Protasiewicz & flipping the state supreme court.”

Both candidates have suggested that the other is unfit to serve, with Kelly pointing to Protasiewicz’s left-wing ties and claiming she has a soft-on-crime sentencing history, while Protasiewicz linked Kelly to attempts to challenge the 2020 presidential election in the Badger State. 

“This election is about protecting the Rule of Law. My opponent has promised to force her personal politics on everyone in Wisconsin. She would choose the Rule of Janet over the Rule of Law. We cannot let her win,” Kelly said last week. 

During a debate earlier this year, Protasiewicz claimed that she was “running against probably one of the most extreme partisan characters in the history of the state.” 

Though officially non-partisan, the candidates have nearly polar opposite views, with Protasiewicz openly championing her support for abortion and Kelly receiving the endorsements of key pro-life groups in the state. Protasiewicz had an ad featuring a woman celebrating an abortion because the child could have been born with disabilities. 


The election could be a deciding factor in a case over Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban, which became relevant after Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer. 

The candidates could also play a key role in deciding the fate of other laws in the state, including election integrity measures, election maps, and gun laws. Last year, the state made a bombshell ruling, saying that Wisconsin voters could not turn their ballots into unmanned drop boxes and that voters would not be allowed to give them to others to drop off for them. This case, decided 4-3, would likely have been different with a different balance on the court. 

Republicans currently control the state’s general assembly, but Democrat Gov. Tony Evers won re-election in November, meaning lawmakers are limited in what laws they can get passed. 

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