Last Tuesday, voters in Wisconsin overwhelmingly backed Janet Protasiewicz, the pro-choice Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge, altering the makeup of a court that’s been in conservative control for the last 15 years. It was a monumental victory in a state where a woman’s right to choose has come under attack and gerrymandering has helped Republicans build large majorities in the state legislature.
And Justice-elect Protasiewicz didn’t just eke out a victory by capitalizing in Democratic strongholds. She won by 11 points, far surpassing the margins of recent statewide Democratic candidates, including Governor Tony Evers, who won the Governor’s seat by 3 points, and President Biden, who won re-election in 2020 by just over half a point.
Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker claims younger voters are primarily responsible for this outcome, and while Protasiewicz certainly did well in the younger, reliably Democratic Dane County and other Democratic strongholds, she actually won a majority of votes in 27 counties across Wisconsin, double the number Biden won in 2020. So yes, while young voters certainly exercised their rights and made their voices heard, that’s only part of the story. Justice-elect Protasiewicz also won over a large share of swing voters – the types of voters that had helped Republicans like Donald Trump and Scott Walker win close races in previous cycles.
In Kenosha County, where Donald Trump won in 2020 with 51% of the vote, Protasiewicz took home 54% of all ballots cast. This was 7 points better than Biden in 2020 and 6 points better than Evers in 2022. She held all of the counties won previously by the Democratic candidates and flipped 12 others in her favor. Some of these, including Vernon and Jackson counties, are rural with an older population, evidence of the liberal victory being driven by a statewide rejection of Republican extremism.
Continuing on, let’s look at Eau Claire County. According to the most recent Census data, it’s over 90% white and over 58% of its population is over the age of 30. In 2020, Biden carried just over 50% of the vote there. And in 2022, Evers carried 57%. Protasiewicz beat both of those numbers handily, as she won with 64% of all votes, making it her best performing county compared to previous candidates. To put this in perspective, former Governor Walker only lost this county by two points in 2014. Protasiewicz flipped several other counties blue that Walker and Trump both carried previously, including Outagamie and Brown Counties near Green Bay and Grant County west of Madison.
The people of Wisconsin’s response was clear. They weren’t interested in a Supreme Court firmly in the grasp of conservatives.