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Janet Protasiewicz
Janet Protasiewicz participates in candidate forum in Madison, Wis., on Jan. 9, 2023.John Hart / AP file

Turnout spikes in Wisconsin Supreme Court primary

Unofficial results show higher turnout than recent election cycles, with the most votes coming from a Democratic stronghold.


Turnout in the closely watched primary in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race reached its highest point in years Tuesday — an increase of almost 4 percentage points from the 2020 spring primary. 

Nearly 21% of the state’s voting-age population turned out on Tuesday, according to unofficial results. In 2020, turnout in the primary featuring a state Supreme Court race was around 16%, according to estimates from the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Previous primaries in 2018 and 2016 saw even lower turnout, about 12% and 13%, respectively.

That figure could change slightly after results are certified. It doesn’t factor in voters who only participated in local races. Just under one million ballots have been counted so far for the Supreme Court candidates.

In the 2020 spring primary, voters cast around 700,000 ballots for Supreme Court candidates. That ballot also included a special election for the 7th Congressional District, which brought in 116,000 votes.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, a conservative, advanced to the April 4 general election with about 24% of the vote, as did liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz. 

Preliminary results show high turnout for the liberal candidates. Protasiewicz and Dane County Circuit Court Judge Everett Mitchell together garnered about 54% of the vote, compared to the two conservatives’ 46%. 

Protasiewicz alone won nearly 47% of the vote — more than Kelly and Waukesha County Court Judge Jennifer Dorow, the other conservative, combined. 

Dane County, home to Madison, cast 141,613 votes Tuesday — the most of any county in the state and a sign of high Democratic interest in the race. Protasiewicz won 68% of the vote in Dane, the second-most populous county, which has been a crucial and growing Democratic stronghold.