May 29, 2023  |  
 | Remer,MN
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Cami Mondeaux, Breaking News Reporter

NextImg:Three things the Wisconsin Supreme Court election signals about 2024

Wisconsin voters are heading to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballots in a contentious primary for the state’s Supreme Court in a race that could have significant knock-on effects on key matters ahead of the 2024 elections.

Voters are set to elect a replacement for outgoing conservative Justice Patience Roggensack, who will retire from the high court once her term ends in July. Roggensack’s absence leaves an open seat on the seven-judge panel that currently holds a 4-3 conservative majority — meaning whoever wins the election could shift the balance of power.


Four candidates will appear on the ballot, including two liberal judges and two conservatives. The top two candidates will advance to the general election on April 4.

Here are three things to watch during the Wisconsin election that could set the stage for high-profile battles in 2024:

Liberals eye open seat to revive redistricting fight

The open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court opens an opportunity for liberal judges to revive previous battles over the state’s legislative map, which Democrats have criticized as being overtly partisan.

The current legislative map that was drawn by Republican lawmakers was approved by the conservative majority last year, prompting pushback from several Democrats who argued the newly drawn boundaries were rigged in the GOP’s favor. If a liberal lawmaker secures Roggensack’s seat on the Supreme Court, it could prompt outside groups to revive legal battles and urge the judges to strike down the map.

Such legal battles could affect the 2024 elections, as a new legislative map would change the battlefield for prospective candidates — possibly forcing current lawmakers to campaign in districts they don’t currently represent.

Abortion returns to forefront 

Elections for state supreme courts are meant to be nonpartisan, but the race in Wisconsin takes on a different tone because it is likely to take on new battles over abortion access after the reversal of Roe v. Wade last year.

With the reversal of Roe, the question of abortion’s legality has returned to the states, meaning judges in state courts have jurisdiction over the matter. As a result, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is expected to take on a number of abortion-related challenges — which could swing in either direction depending on a conservative or liberal majority.

Both anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights groups have gotten involved with the election, urging voters to back their respective candidates. Meanwhile, candidates have heavily leaned on the issue as they campaign for the seat.

Candidate options show how Wisconsin voters are leaning ahead of 2024

The proxy fight between two conservative and two liberal judges could also serve as a bellwether ahead of the 2024 election cycle, showing how voters are leaning in the battleground state. Wisconsin has long been considered a key swing state, meaning whoever wins the seat on the state Supreme Court could give a massive advantage to Republicans or Democrats as they battle in other state elections.

The contentious primary election will feature four candidates, including liberal Judges Everett Mitchell of the Dane County Circuit Court and Janet Protasiewicz of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court as well as conservatives Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow and former state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly.

From left, Wisconsin state Supreme Court candidates Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell, and Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz participate in a forum at Monona Terrace in Madison, Wis., Jan. 9, 2023.


The top two candidates will advance to the general election in April, when the victor will be decided to take Roggensack’s seat in July. It’s not entirely clear which way voters are leaning, meaning the April election could feature another high-profile contest between a liberal and conservative candidate, or it could feature two like-minded contenders.

Protasiewicz and Dorow have emerged as top contenders in the election, with the two raising the most campaign money compared to their competitors, according to data from the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. The two reported nearly identical cash-on-hand balances as of Feb. 6, raising the stakes for another contentious battle if the two advance to the general election.

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