Recent election yields low turnout

Citizens across Wisconsin made their way to the polls April 2 to vote for the State Supreme Court Justice and Superintendent of Public Instruction.

While certain districts and counties were voting for their clerks and school board members among others, the main focus was the race between the justice and superintendent nominees.

This race for Supreme Court justice was between incumbent Pat Roggensack and challenger Ed Fallone. For the superintendent position, it was incumbent Tony Evers against Don Pridemore.

According to, so far the polls show the incumbents have come out on top, with Roggensack edging out Fallone 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent. Evers beat out Pridemore 61.2 percent to 38.9 percent.

Roggensack’s victory didn’t surprise some people, among them David Helpap, UW-Green Bay assistant professor of public and environmental affairs.

“For state Supreme Court to have an incumbent lose is pretty rare, simply because of name recognition, resources, these types of things,” Helpap said.

Unless some sort of controversy happens with the race, like 2011’s controversial budget bill, Helpap expects the current trend of incumbent-led election to continue.

“You need some sort of driving event to get people interested in races like this,” Helpap said.

Some of these elections, mainly lower-level state ones, may not receive as much attention as others.

Helpap said this is probably because lower-level state elections, even state Supreme Court, don’t register with many voters. Some of them don’t realize the type of legislation coming before this court.

“If these judges think they can get re-elected on a minimal budget with minimal advertising and attention, that’s what they’re going to do,” Helpap said.

Despite the availability of voting booths on campus, students didn’t show up to vote, although some would have.

Johnathan Currah, sophomore business administration major, said he knew there was an election and would have voted if he had known who and what was up for election.

Aaron Mueller, sophomore environmental science major, voted. According to Mueller, there were not many people voting.

For those who didn’t vote, there could be more at stake than they might think.

Whether it’s Walker’s controversial budget repair bill, Act 10, or voter ID legislation, the state Supreme Court hears a lot of issues that impact students, Helpap said.

“If they realized this legislation was going before those courts, I think they would get more involved,” Helpap said.

Depending on the legislation going through the courts, electing the Supreme Court justice and state superintendent could impact the UW System.

In terms of a direct impact, Helpap said it wouldn’t be likely because the court can’t make a decision unless a challenge relating to campus or the system is made. However, there could be some indirect impacts.

“When courts talk about voter ID, it will impact what students can show at the polls when they vote here on campus,” Helpap said. “When they talk about Act 10 again, it will dictate what the faculty and staff here can do, and it may dictate resources.”

While there tends to be less media coverage for these types of elections, Helpap said they are just as important as other ones. However, Helpap said last year’s supreme court race did grab more attention than previous years.

“The reason we saw that attention was because that race was seen as a referendum on Scott Walker and the legislature he was passing,” Helpap said.

Even with the negative attention the Prosser race received, Helpap still believes these are important elections.

“I’m not sure if the reason is that good behind it, but if people would realize the type of impact the Supreme Court had, rather than use it as a proxy for an elected official, I think it would be a good thing,” Helpap said.

Due to the fact that these elections are less publicized in the media, Mueller said he could see why the turnout was low.

“I would like to see more people there, but I guess I didn’t expect that many people,” Mueller said.