Wisconsin Supreme Court election analysis

Despite the unseasonably cold and snowy weather on Tuesday, thousands of people turned out to vote in the Spring general elections. The offices up for election included a State Supreme Court seat, two referenda and two Appleton School Board seats. The results of the election were released after polls closed at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, with final unofficial results in by 8:30 for the local elections.

The election on Tuesday brought an end to a long-fought and highly watched race between Judge Rebecca Dallet, a circuit court judge from Milwaukee, and Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Michael Screnock for the seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.

Dallet, a former District Attorney and adjunct professor at Marquette University Law School, won the seat with nearly 56% of the vote statewide and an equal lead in Outagamie County. Though the race for State Supreme Court is non-partisan, Dallet was endorsed by the Democratic Party of Outagamie County and is generally seen as the more progressive or liberal candidate and her win could mark a continuation of the “blue wave” that many pundits and media outlets have claimed will characterize the 2018 mid-term elections in November.

Governor Scott Walker responded to Dallet’s success in a tweet Tuesday night saying, “Tonight’s results show that we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI.” That tweet was then followed Wednesday morning with a string of messages asking for donations and pointing out the unemployment rate in Wisconsin, which has followed the national average in a steady decline since 2013.

Dallet’s opponent, Michael Screnock, an attorney in Madison who was appointed by Governor Walker to the Sauk County Circuit Court, was supported by the Republican Party and endorsed by the National Rifle Association, among other conservative groups.

While the Supreme Court race has dominated the conversation surrounding the election on April 3rd, there are other issues and offices which were up for consideration by voters. In Outagamie County there were two referenda on the ballot, one which was being held statewide and one from the County Board of Supervisors.

The statewide referendum was a constitutional amendment concerning the elimination of the State Treasurer position. That position is elected very four years and has one purpose, to serve on the Board of Commissioners for Public Lands, which oversees the sale of school and university lands and then the use of funds that are received from those sales.

The amendment, which failed 38% to 61% statewide, would have replaced the Treasurer’s spot on the Board of Commissioners for Public Lands with the Lieutenant Governor, who is appointed by the Governor. This would, according to opponents of the measure, have reduced separation of powers and given the governor too much power.

Supporters argue it would have saved taxpayers money and removed an unnecessary office according to State Representative Rob Brooks in a press release from February 2015.

The referendum from the Outagamie County Board of Supervisors concerns an issue that many Lawrence students may be familiar with because of a guest lecture presented by College Democrats back in February of this year about gerrymandering, or the drawing of legislative districts in a way that is designed to influence the outcome of an election.

The referendum in question specifically was a resolution against partisan gerrymandering, which is done with the intent to keep a particular political party in power and disenfranchise voters of the other party. The resolution calls for redistricting decisions to be made without taking into account demographics, political affiliations, or the residency location of an incumbent. This resolution passed in a landslide with 72% of the vote.

In addition to the referenda, there were elections held for Appleton Common Council, school board, and County Supervisor. The only one of these on Lawrentians’ ballots that was contested was the election for School Board. The candidates were current members Leah Olson and Kay Eggert, who were facing challenger Brian Farmer.

That race was probably one of the less politicized of the nonpartisan races on the ballot, as the three candidates seemed to all present more or less the same priorities, providing a quality education that works for every student.

Where the candidates differed was the exact issue they chose to focus their campaign on, as indicated in a survey done by the Appleton Post-Crescent. Olson and Eggert chose to focus their campaigns on the issues of mental health and readying students for a post-secondary education.

Farmer, on the other hand, focused more on recent issues related to open meetings laws and the Appleton School Board administration as well as decreasing proficiency ratings for students indicated by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s report card for the Appleton Area School District. Olson and Eggert won the two seats available with 41 and 39% respectively.