Wisconsin, You're Up!
For Wisconsinites, abortion is yet again on the ballot in one of the most critical elections in the state’s history and the most important American election of 2023.
Theoretically, our judiciary should be apolitical—above the fray of politics. The reality, however, is that our courts have become as polarized as the electorate. Whether the judge is nominated, appointed, or elected, they reach the high courts as a result of either a democrat or republican having thrown their name into the ring. And judges are people just like you and me. They come to the bench with preconceived notions about the law and its role in our everyday lives. No matter how hard some may try, they inevitably view everything through the lens of their own lived experience and beliefs. And the decisions that the individual state supreme courts render have a genuine impact on the lives of Americans, no matter which state you call home.
Call it naivete or willful ignorance, but some of us genuinely did not believe that Roe would fall until it did. When the Dobbs’ opinion was issued, we found that it had almost nothing to do with the fact pattern in Roe other than it was an abortion case. The conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court disregarded this lack of substantive similarity and took advantage of the opportunity to overturn it along with Casey. But, as Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his separate concurring opinion, the Court went too far in overturning Roe. Dobbs is what happens when a court has been hungry to revisit a particular issue–they take whatever opportunity presents itself and run with it. And, now, each state is left to pick up the pieces. For Wisconsinites, abortion is yet again on the ballot in one of the most critical elections in the state’s history and the most important American election of 2023.
The Wisconsin state Supreme Court has had a conservative majority since 2008. But, on April 4th, the state’s electorate can end that stranglehold by filling the void left by the retirement of a conservative jurist, Patience Roggensack, with the Honorable Janet Protasiewicz. And, if the pending abortion amendment passes, the states’ 1849 law, which was held at bay by Roe, may yet again be the law of the land if the case challenging the law reaches the state supreme court and the conservative majority is still in place
“For 14 years, conservatives have controlled the Wisconsin Supreme Court, issuing decisions that upheld limits on unions, affirmed a voter ID law, expanded gun rights, curbed the powers of the Democratic governor, banned absentee ballot drop boxes, and established political districts that ensured Republican dominance in the state legislature.”
–WUWM 89.7 Wisconsin NPR
In addition to abortion, there are other issues on the ballot.
To appear tough on crime, Republican legislators have proposed an amendment to the state constitution surrounding the issue of cash bail in criminal proceedings. Currently, judges in most states can grant or deny bail to individuals facing criminal charges. In doing so, they must consider the current charges, the accused’s criminal history, and the likelihood that a defendant will remain local and appear for trial. This is entirely within the judge’s discretion as there is no hard and fast rule about who must remain in custody and who may be released pending trial. Often, a very high bail will be set to ensure compliance by the accused. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, not so much. What happens with high bail requirements is that those most adversely affected by such a decision are people experiencing poverty. Even if the charges are minimal and relate to a non-violent crime, a bond of any amount can be an absolute roadblock to freedom for low-income individuals. And, given the number of cases in the state courts, and the process involved in bringing them to trial, the accused could be incarcerated for years as they wait for their day in court. This means that an innocent person can be held indefinitely without a finding of guilt which flies in the face of the presumption of innocence. The League of Women Voters recommends you vote “no” on this amendment.
Also on the ballot is a question of work requirements for those who receive state benefits. Currently, many individuals receiving tax-funded benefits in Wisconsin are required to “required to participate in work, or activities to help you get ready to work, in exchange for cash assistance.” And guess what? The outcome of this referendum will not affect current laws. Instead, Republican legislators are using it as a barometer to determine Wisconsinites' view on this topic by evoking the specter of the welfare queen and doing what white America has always done–concluding that the wrongful actions of one person of color automatically equates to the criminality of all people of color. The League of Women Voters also recommends voting “no” on this.
Voting has always been important. It may now be even more so as conservative legislatures and officials aim for just about every right we enjoy. We are here to help you with all things vote-related. Need to know where your polling location is? Text polls to 50409, and we will give you the place and directions to get there. Voter ID laws? Yep, we have them as well. Registration requirements? We have got you covered. Need other information? Text vote and take your pick from a list of options. Better, create a vote drive for your preferred candidate and work to turn others out to vote, just like you would get friends to sign a petition.
Get out and vote Wisconsin! The stakes have never been higher.