Former President Barack Obama encouraged Wisconsin voters on Tuesday to vote early in the race for a state Supreme Court position. The race will determine which party holds a majority in the state’s highest court.
Former conservative state Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly is running against liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz to fill the seventh seat on the court, which is split 3-3 after the retirement of conservative Justice Patience Roggensack.
“Today is the first day of early voting in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election,” Obama tweeted. “It’s going to be close, so don’t wait until April 4th. Make a plan to vote today and encourage your family and friends to do the same.”
Obama’s call comes as the court is expected to hear important political cases, including one that would address the state’s abortion ban that dates back to 1849. Governance of abortion has returned to state legislatures and courts after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. The current law makes abortion a felony except to save the life of the mother.
Protasiewicz has been a strong supporter of abortion access, touting the issue of abortion throughout the race. Kelly has not spoken on the topic as publicly, but he has received support from several prominent anti-abortion groups. However, neither candidate has specifically indicated how they would rule in an abortion case.
Another prominent issue for the candidates is the state’s redistricting maps. Protasiewicz said during a debate Tuesday that the Wisconsin legislative and congressional maps have issues, and she believes the court should intervene. But Kelly said he does not believe the court should have a role in the redistricting maps.
“The way you draw those lines is almost entirely political, except that there are some legal requirements you have to meet,” Kelly said. “We’ll leave the political questions to the state legislature where they belong.”
Tuesday marks the first day state residents can vote in the pivotal race. Polls are open until April 4.