The Big Election Is Over. What’s Next?

Election-2023 Wisconsin Supreme-Court

Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz, center, holds hands with Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet, far left, and Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, right, at Protasiewicz's election night watch party in Milwaukee, on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. Protasiewicz, 60, defeated former Justice Dan Kelly, who previously worked for Republicans and had support from the state’s leading anti-abortion groups. (Mike De Sisti /Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

By Pat Kreitlow
April 7, 2023

A push for a completely new map of legislative and congressional districts. A dimmer future for the state’s 1849 abortion ban. And activists imploring Wisconsinites to stay engaged and get involved.

The votes have been counted. The commercials have stopped running. Dan Kelly has deleted his Twitter account. The 2023 election is in the past, but leaders and activists say there’s a lot that needs to happen between now and the fall 2024 campaign in order to not lose the momentum built by substantial voter turnouts this week and last November—starting with simply staying on top of the issues.

“You have more power than you realize,” said former Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes on UpNorthNews Radio. “Your voice is important.”

“There are so many opportunities,” said Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski in another radio interview. “Whether you want to be a volunteer or step up and run yourself, we are not short of opportunities for civic engagement.”

Barnes said the pitch to keep people focused on important issues will be made easier by having a state Supreme Court “that prioritizes and values justice, and we’ll be that much closer to having the will of the people being the law of the land.”

After Justice-elect Janet Protasiewicz joins the court on August 1, activists will be eager to see cases advance to the court that could strike down the state’s abortion ban written in 1849 and end the gerrymandering that has given Republicans a majority of legislative and congressional seats highly disproportional to their actual support among Wisconsin voters. Protasiewicz beat Kelly on Tuesday with the help of record voter turnout motivated by people eager to see progress.

“The results … send a clear message,” Steven Webb II, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, said in a statement. “Wisconsinites are committed to reproductive freedom and upholding our state’s proud tradition of civic engagement.”

“It’s been a hard battle,” said Dr. Ann Helms, a Milwaukee-based neurologist and Wisconsin state lead for the Committee to Protect Healthcare. “It’s a small change. I think there’s still that assault on science and on the ability of professionals to be the experts. It’s the scary thing about a lot of these laws that are coming out. But I think the people of Wisconsin want doctors and patients to be making healthcare decisions.” 

Dr. Kristin Lyerly, an obstetrician-gynecologist, said the Protasiewicz win has her feeling something that’s been missing for a long time: Hope.

“We’ve been feeling ‘hope-less’ for a long time,” Lyerly said. “But now I feel like we’re on a totally different course and this feels good.”

While some will keep an eye on the court when control passes to the four progressive justices, others will focus their activity on keeping Wisconsinites informed and motivated so that turnout remains at high levels until progressives achieve their goals. Young voter turnout has been especially strong in recent elections. A Twitter post by former Gov. Scott Walker blamed the results on “years of liberal indoctrination,” but Maggie Keuler, chair of the College Democrats of Wisconsin, wasn’t having it and responded to him directly. 

“You know as much as I do that when students vote, Democrats win,” Keuler posted “That’s why you spent your time in office doing everything you could to make it more difficult for us to vote. You can’t stop us, this election is proof of that.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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