It’s time to end the farce of non-partisan elections in Wisconsin

So, how did that non-partisan race go for you last week? What? You didn’t know that neither David Prosser nor JoAnn Kloppenburg had a political party affiliation?

Of course they did. But nothing showed up on the ballot you marked. These were the spring cycle of elections in Wisconsin. Spring elections are reserved for non-partisan races according to Wisconsin law. Statute 5.60(1)(ar) says, “No party designation may appear on the official ballot.” However, the statute says nothing about a candidate campaigning as a member of a party.

That’s what needs to start happening.

I feel strongly that refusing to acknowledge a party is allowing a candidate (either one, any race, take your pick) to demonize his or her opponent. Instead of simply saying, “Kloppenburg is the Democrat in this race,” we go on for weeks about how she’s this or how she’s that and oh-by-the-way you know she’ll kill babies. Prosser wasn’t the Republican in the race. He was “Scott Walker’s rubber stamp” or a union hater.

It’s time to cool it.

I never feel like I need a good scrubbing down more than after a non-partisan election is Wisconsin. We are nasty to each other for the weeks leading up to the vote. It’s time to grow out of the pretension that this state is so much more elevated than those choosing to use parties in smaller races. Whatever tradition of a rumored bi-partisan cooperation must have died before I even landed here.

Start with the state-wide races. Make them all partisan. Eventually phase in the county and finally the local races. That will let candidates fight it out on a political battlefield, not a personal one.


  1. John Foust says:

    Aww, spring! I heard the first call for civility today! “Twee! Twee! Tiiiime-for-heeealing! Heeealing!”

  2. Well thank goodness you and I agree all that healing isn’t necessary, Mr. Foust. 😉 Just to clarify, my point is to make the races partisan and quit hiding behind “nice” because obviously it isn’t working.

  3. John Foust says:

    As I always say, “Follow the logic.”

  4. Which really means nothing in this context. I do love how you guys will fling what you consider to be profound statements at the rest of us when they don’t make sense at all.

    Logically, anyway.

  5. cindy. good point. the state judicial code of ethics has a ban on judges and candidates for judge acting in a partisan manner. you can get the code on the internet. so your point would mean that the state supreme court would have to change their own ethics rules. that is quite complex and includes more than the justices. the js had an article about appointment of judges. appointments, no matter in what form,are highly political. elections include all the people who vote. more publicity should be given to the bar association polls. i still favor non-partisan judicial elections with an oversight commission that has power to control spending and advertising.

  6. Thank you so much for the information Dick. That’s something I did not know.

    So the parties are usurping this non-partisan situation when it comes to the judicial race. That gives the issue a different angle.

  7. Ryan Morgan says:

    If you made Wisconsin Supreme Court justices lifetime appointments by the governor that must be approved by the state Assembly and Senate rather than 10 year elected positions, you could also avoid this problem.

  8. i am against lifetime judicial appointments, even for the US supremes. i am also for term limits. the norm is that a judge appointed by the Governor hopes to get support from that party and in turn help the Gov that helped him/her. most judges have a political background which is how they got known. not a bad thing, since the pols help elect and appoint. Governors used to respect bar association recommendations but that went by the wayside and money is now the game. some call it greed. we as lawyers 50 yrs ago selected a lawyer who was intelligent and knew the law and helped him-her run for office. we were non partisan in nature of the law and only wanted a learned judge that we could respect and had no political agenda. since then it has been money and big money to buy the office. or maybe a political deal. thus the non partisan candidate for a judgeship has NO chance. now you have to also have the abortion, gun and green people putting up the money to elect a judge who will never hear one of their cases just to prove a point. the bar association could do more to publicize the qualifications of candidates and sitting judges but only send out this bland poll that means nothing to the public. back to the subject, electing is the best of the worst. in my elections for judge (16) i always respected the voice of the people. i wish their was a group called “lawyers for the law” who were more active than now. problem is that lawyers serve diverse clients. “give up your troubles and lets get happy”.