Conservatives currently have a 4-3 majority on the court. One of the conservative justices, Patience Roggensack, is retiring, giving liberals a chance to flip the court. The outcome of that race in April will determine control of the court through the 2024 presidential elections.
“The stakes are monstrous,” said Barry Burden, the director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. “There’s a confluence of factors that have come together, intentionally or not to make this a terribly important race for the future of the state.”
Few state supreme courts across the country have played as powerful a role in shaping high-profile laws in recent years as the Wisconsin supreme court has. The court has frequently decided election disputes in the state, where contests are regularly decided by razor-thin margins. In 2020, it narrowly rejected a request from Donald Trump’s campaign to consider throwing out enough mail-in votes to overturn the election results.
“Wisconsin’s been the tipping point state in the last two presidential elections,” said Ben Winkler, the chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic party. He pointed out that Wisconsin “is the only state where four of the last six presidential elections came down to less than one percentage point. Which means that small shifts in the rules around voting can have a decisive effect in presidential elections.
The state supreme court has also picked maps that allowed Republicans to maintain control over the state legislature and outlawed ballot drop boxes, making it harder for voters to return their mail-in ballots.