WI Supreme Court seat up for grabs in Tuesday’s primary election

With the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this past weekend, there has been a lot of discussion about the future of America’s highest court. However, there’s also an open seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court and the primary is up for grabs Tuesday.

Incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley’s seat is going to be on the ballot this week. She was appointed to her seat by Gov. Scott Walker after the death of Justice Patrick Crooks last year.

Bradley is being challenged by both Milwaukee County Judge Joe Donald and Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg and local government officials say it’s a primary race worth weighing in on.

Voter turnout is only expected to be about 10 percent for Wisconsin’s primary election Tuesday.

“Somehow the spring election sort of doesn’t seem to have the same kind of panache that we get when it’s a fall election,” said La Crosse County Circuit Judge Ramona Gonzalez.

However, Gonzalez said it should because it involves a seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court is the last word in the state of Wisconsin for any laws that are made,” said Gonzalez.

“The Supreme Court does impact all of our lives from criminal law to civil law, if you have ever sued someone or gotten sued, insurance debates, personal injury debates, the labor laws, act 10 was something that went to Supreme Court,” said Tim Gruenke, La Crosse County district attorney.

Right now, seven justices are on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.

“When Gov. Walker appointed Rebecca Bradley, that made it five conservatives and two liberals and that is the status right now,” said Joe Heim, UW-La Crosse political science professor.

Heim said Walker’s administration has benefited from the conservative leaning Supreme Court.

“I would say the Walker administration has won virtually every case in front of the court,” said Heim.

However, with Bradley’s seat open, Heim said if voters choose to elect a more liberal justice, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court could become more balanced with four conservatives and three liberals.

“It’s kind of an investment for the liberals to retake the court down the road but not immediately,” said Heim.

Gonzalez isn’t a fan of looking at the Supreme Court as an extension of political ideology.

“A Supreme Court justice shouldn’t be a republican or democrat, a conservative or liberal because the law, justice is blind, it’s supposed to be blind,” said Gonzalez.

Gruenke agrees but said he doesn’t think things will change.

“It would be nice if it were non-partisan and non-political but most of our issues end up going to the Supreme Court because they are political,” said Gruenke.

But no matter a person’s views or political affiliation, Gruenke and Gonzalez just hope people take time to head to the polls.

“People don’t understand what they got until someone tries to take it away from them and voting is one of the most important things we have,” said Gruenke.

“If you were to tell people that we were going to elect the governor or president of the U.S. and only 10 percent of the people eligible to vote would be able to make that decision, we would be up in arms. Why would only 10 percent get to choose for the rest of us? But that is exactly what is going to happen if you don’t get out and vote,” said Gonzalez.

The polls open at 7 a.m. and will remain open until 8 p.m.

When you head to the polls, make sure you bring your photo ID with you because you won’t be able to cast a vote without it.

If you are voting in the city of La Crosse, make sure you know where your polling place is. The city recently changed its districts by going from 17 polling places to just 13.

Everyone should have received something in the mail saying where you need to vote, but if you have any questions, call the county clerk at 608-785-9581 or visit myvote.wi.gov.