To download a PDF of this guide in English, click here, To download a PDF of this guide in Spanish click here.
Control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court will be decided this spring.
Four candidates are running in the February 21 primary for one seat on the court. You’ll vote for one of them; the top two vote-getters will then compete in the April 4 general election. Although the race is nonpartisan, Jennifer Dorow and Daniel Kelly are viewed as Republican-supported conservatives, with Everett Mitchell and Janet Protasiewicz as Democratic-supported liberals.
Why your vote matters
Conservative justices currently have a 4-3 majority; this election will either maintain that majority or switch the majority to the liberals. Four years ago, a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat was decided by 6,000 votes, while three quarters of eligible voters stayed home. This primary could be equally close.
This primary is also particularly important because, in a narrowly divided state, it’s possible that either two conservatives or two liberals may advance to the April 4 general election.
We’ve assembled background about the candidates’ experience, positions, publicized endorsements, and rulings where relevant. To learn how and when to vote, see the last section of this guide. To learn more about the candidates, you can watch a live candidate forum.
On LGBTQ rights, Dorow criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision to overturn a Texas law that had criminalized consensual sexual conduct between same-sex individuals. She called the decision “a prime example of judicial activism at its worst.”
On redistricting and gerrymandering issues, responding to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s approval of Republican-drawn maps that strongly favor that party’s legislative candidates, Dorow called the process “interesting,” but declined to comment further on the maps or the court’s rationale.
In a Court vote on gun rules, Kelly wrote the 2017 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that struck down a gun ban on Madison’s buses, based on a state law prohibiting municipal gun regulations stronger than state laws.
Endorsements; Mitchell’s endorsements include former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, Madison police chief Shon Barnes, and Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett, along with judges, other police chiefs, and elected officials.
How to Register and Vote in the February 21 Wisconsin Supreme Court Primary
Here’s how to register and vote in the February 21 primary election for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Four candidates are running; the top two will advance to the general election on April 4. That election will decide control of the Court. See our nonpartisan guide to the candidates’ backgrounds, positions, and endorsements.
Thursday, February 16 by 5:00 p.m.—Last day for an absentee ballot request to be received by your municipal clerk (regular voters). (See this deadlines page for indefinitely confined, hospitalized, and military voters.)
Tuesday, February 7 to February 19—early voting—You can request and vote an absentee ballot in-person in your municipal clerk’s office(dates may vary depending on your municipality; check their office before you go)
Tuesday, February 21 at 8:00 p.m.—Deadline for an absentee ballot to be received by your municipal clerk (by mail or delivery).
Tuesday, February 21,7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.—Primary Election Day at your polling place.
Voting Tools and Information
To vote in Wisconsin, you’ll need to register, discover your voting options, and find your polling place for in-person voting. Here’s where to go to make all that happen.
Wisconsin’s officialMyVote site gives you tools and requirements for registering to vote, voting early, voting absentee, finding your polling place, and more.
If you’re a student, your student photo ID card may work as voter ID, but only if it’s issued by a Wisconsin university or college, or technical college, and only if it contains the date the card was issued and your signature, with an expiration date no later than two years after date of issuance. (Valid student IDs can still be used if expired, but then must be accompanied by a separate document that proves current enrollment, such as a tuition fee receipt, enrollment verification letter, or class schedule.)
When a school’s ID card isn’t sufficient as voter ID, some schools will issue a separate photo ID card for voting on request. Links on this page show which schools’ IDs are acceptable for voting and which schools provide voting-compliant ID.
All voters in Wisconsin can request an absentee ballot be mailed to them for any reason, so long as they’ve already registered. You can request an absentee ballot on the MyVote site and must provide a copy of a valid photo ID with your first absentee ballot request.