Wisconsin Voters Delivered A Huge Victory For Abortion Access And Voting Rights With Their State Supreme Court Justice Pick

The race, which was seen as a referendum on abortion rights in Wisconsin, drew national attention and a huge swell of activist organizing, especially among young voters.

Voters in Wisconsin turned out in force to elect Janet Protasiewicz to the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, tipping the balance of the court to the left and delivering a resounding victory for abortion access and voting rights in Wisconsin.

With nearly all ballots counted on Wednesday morning, Protasiewicz, a liberal county circuit judge, won 55.5% of the vote and handily defeated her conservative opponent, Daniel Kelly.

"We did it, Wisconsin!" she tweeted on Tuesday night, declaring victory.

The race was seen as a referendum on abortion rights in Wisconsin — where polls show a majority of adults support abortion access — and drew national attention and a huge swell of activist organizing in Wisconsin, especially among young voters.

Teddy Landis, the youth director for Project 72 WI, a group organizing students across the state, said protecting abortion access was the "number one issue" for young voters in this race.

"I've worked on races where it's really tough to convince people to vote and that this was not one of them," Landis, 25, said. "As soon as we made clear how this would be a generational election, students were really excited to vote."

The organizing paid off: Voter turnout for the race was the highest in history for an off-cycle spring election, CBS News reported. Students also turned out in greater numbers than the general population, Landis said, citing early data collected by Project 72 WI. Turnout numbers were high even before Election Day, with more than 434,000 early voting and absentee ballots cast, according to numbers from the Wisconsin Election Commission.

It was also the most expensive state judicial race in US history — more than $42 million was spent in this election, nearly three times higher than the previous record.

🚨This is the line at UW Eau Claire for the SPRING Wisconsin Supreme Court election. I never saw a line like this here in 2022!!!!! I love organizing and I love Gen Z 🥺💕

Twitter: @Lnsciales

When Protasiewicz is sworn in in August, it will be the first time in 15 years that liberals have control over Wisconsin's highest court.

What's more, major cases that would define abortion access and voting rights in the state are likely to land on the Wisconsin Supreme Court's docket soon. After the national right to an abortion was ended with the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June of last year, an 1849 abortion ban took effect in the state, and a lawsuit challenging the ban is currently making its way through the court system. Protasiewicz's election also likely means an opportunity for interested parties to bring a redistricting challenge before the court with the hope of undoing Wisconsin's infamously gerrymandered legislative districts

During the campaign, Protasiewicz was particularly outspoken about her support for abortion rights, and she criticized the Republican-drawn district maps.

Kelly, on the other hand, condemned his rival for speaking openly about her views and said his opinions would not guide his decisions on the court. However, he was endorsed by a slew of radical anti-abortion groups and once wrote in a now-deleted blog post that Democrats support abortion to "preserve sexual libertinism."

Landis said student voters were eager to vote for a pro–abortion rights candidate this time around, especially considering the stakes.

"The last time we had the chance to elect a progressive pro-choice majority to the Wisconsin Supreme Court was 2007," Landis said, referring to Linda Clifford, a candidate who lost that race to her anti-abortion opponent Annette Ziegler. (Ziegler makes up part of the court's conservative bloc today.)

"Which, like, most of our students were 5 years old," he added. "That was the same year that Shrek the Third came out, and there's been three Shrek movies that have come out since then. So for students, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the direction of the state that they either live in or go to school at."

Pro–-abortion rights groups also hailed Protasiewicz's win.

“For over a decade, anti-choice ideologues have held their iron grip on Wisconsin's highest court, leaving voters hungry for change," NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju said in a statement. "Judge Janet's resounding victory comes as abortion access faces an onslaught of attacks by extremist state courts determined to tear up our rights at every step. This win could make all of the difference."

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