Wisconsin’s primary election will take place Tuesday, August 9. The election will decide key political figures for positions like governor and secretary of state. The election is a partisan primary, which means voters must choose one political party when casting their ballots.
When it comes to students voting in Wisconsin’s primary election, University of Wisconsin political science professor and director of the Elections Research Center Barry Burden thinks it’s “hugely important.”
“[The primary] sets the stage for the general election in November,” Burden said. “It determines who [the] candidates will be in both the Republican and Democratic party.”
The Race for Governor
The Democratic candidate for governor is incumbent Tony Evers, and Republican candidates include Rebecca Kleefisch, Tim Michels, Timothy Ramthun and Adam J. Fisher.
Currently, Wisconsin holds a divided government, with a Democratic governor and Republican legislature, according to Burden.
“If the Republicans were to win the general election, they would have full control of state government and would pass a lot of the initiatives that have been vetoed by Gov. Evers,” Burden said. “If Evers stays in office, he will prevent Republicans from being able to do all the things they’d like to do.”
According to his campaign website, Evers promises to build safer communities, connect Wisconsin communities, grow the workforce and small businesses, improve public schools, protect access to healthcare and provide tax relief for working families.
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Kleefisch, who was endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence, claims she will secure elections and prevent fraud, grow the economy by cutting taxes, fund the police, stand up for life, fight for the 2nd Amendment and reshape education by expanding school choice and banning Critical Race Theory from Wisconsin classrooms.
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Michels for Wisconsin governor. Michels’ platform includes restoring election integrity, increasing support for police, prosecuting riot organizers and increasing parent say in education.
Burden described the different endorsements from Pence and Trump as a test between the traditional establishment of the Republican Party and Donald Trump. The difference between the two candidates, he said, is the way they will govern.
“Rebecca Kleefisch is the more traditional candidate. She served in office before as lieutenant governor, and she’s backed by essentially every legislative leader in the state and some beyond the state, like Ted Cruz and Mike Pence,” Burden said. “Tim Michels has come from the outside and really did not work his way through the party infrastructure.”
The future of several ongoing issues, particularly concerning students, are dependent on this governor’s race. For example, Burden said the governor’s race can determine future funding for the university. Another decision that rests in the hands of the governor’s race is abortion policy, especially since the Supreme Court overturned of Roe v. Wade, Burden said.
“Wisconsin has a law on the books from 1849 that basically bans abortion in the state,” Burden said. “Gov. Evers has said he will not enforce that law and would likely modify it. The two leading [Republican] candidates would both want to enforce that and are pretty strongly pro-life, so there are real differences between the parties on issues that would matter to students.”
The Senate Race
Running as Republicans for Wisconsin senator are incumbent Ron Johnson and David Schroeder, and Democratic candidates include Mandela Barnes, Steven Olikara, Kou Lee, Peter Peckarsky and Darrell Williams.
Burden said the senate race is important in different ways, with the U.S. Senate currently divided 50/50 between the two parties.
“The seat in Wisconsin is one of the most competitive and will probably determine whether the Democrats keep their very narrow hold on the Senate, or whether Republicans manage to gain control,” Burden said. “This affects everything from Biden’s agenda in the White House to appointment of Supreme Court justices – really any piece of federal legislation [like] gun control, taxes, education.”
Johnson’s campaign focuses on parental school choice, transitioning away from Obamacare and investing money in defense, science, drug and disease research, along with transportation infrastructure.
Three Democratic senate candidates, Tom Nelson, Alex Lasry and Sarah Godlewski dropped out of the race and endorsed Mandela Barnes. Barnes is now the frontrunner for the Democratic senate race, according to U.S. News. Burden said Barnes is all but certain to be the nominee.
“The U.S. Senate nomination on the Democratic side is basically settled at this point; all of the Democratic leadership has rallied around Mandela Barnes,” Burden said. “He has endorsements from not only his fellow competitors who have dropped out but also the governor and Tammy Baldwin and some other national Democratic figures like Bernie Sanders.”
Barnes’ campaign priorities include fighting inflation and lowering taxes, reproductive justice, LGBTQIA+ rights, climate change, marijuana legalization and child care. Democratic candidates Olikara, Lee, Peckarsky and Williams remain in the race.
What else is on the ballot?
The primary election ballot will include candidates for Wisconsin’s governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer and United States senator.
Two Democratic candidates are running for lieutenant governor — Peng Her and Sara Rodriguez — while the Republican ballot has Patrick Testin, Will Martin, Kyle Yudes, Roger Roth, David C. Varnam, Cindy Werner, David D. King and Jonathon Wichmann.
The only Democratic candidate for attorney general is incumbent Josh Kaul. Eric Toney, Karen Mueller and Adam Jarchow are running as Republican candidates.
Incumbent Doug La Follette and Alexia Sabor are running as Democrats for secretary of state, and Republican candidates include Amy Lynn Loudenbeck, Jay Schroeder and Justin D. Schmidtka.
Running for state treasurer are Republicans John S. Leiber and Orlando Owens. Aaron Richardson, Angelito Tenorio and Gillian M. Battino remain on the Democratic ballot
The Wisconsin August 9 primary election determines who will make the ballot for the November general election. The general election will take place on Tuesday, November 8.
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Voting remains an important aspect of citizen engagement. Students should vote in Wisconsin’s primary election as it determines the outcome of many important issues relevant to students in the community they call home, Burden said.
To be eligible to vote in Wisconsin’s primary election, voters must be U.S. citizens who are 18 years old on or before election day, must have resided in Wisconsin for 28 consecutive days before the election and cannot be serving a felony sentence, according to the UW Voter site.
Before heading to the polls, voters must register either online or in person. First time voters and individuals who moved to a new address or changed their last name can register to vote either online or in person, according to the UW Voter site. Voters whose addresses — including the apartment number — have not changed since the last election do not need to re-register.
To register to vote, individuals need a Wisconsin driver’s license or DOT ID card number, according to the UW Voter site. For those without these methods of identification, voters can provide the last four digits of their social security number as identification. Individuals who register online should check that their current residence matches the one on file with the DMV. To update your address, visit the DMV website.
In-person registration takes place at the City Clerk’s Office until 5 p.m. Friday, August 5. If you choose to register in person, you must provide proof of residence either in paper or electronically. This can include a Voter Enrollment Verification Letter, a current and valid Wisconsin driver license or ID card, a paycheck, a current residential lease or any official identification issued by a Wisconsin governmental body or unit. Voters can also register in-person at polling stations on election day with the same requirements.
Students can vote early during in-person absentee voting at Union South and Memorial Union until Friday, August 5, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. On election day, however, voters must head to their designated polling location between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Students can find out their polling locations here.
When voting in person, individuals must bring a photo ID to prove their identity, which includes a valid Wisconsin driver’s license, Wisconsin state ID, U.S. passport, tribal ID, Certification of Naturalization, Veterans Affairs ID or a U.S. Uniformed Services card, according to the UW Voter site. Out-of-state students can either vote in Wisconsin or their home state, but not both.
UW students without these forms of identification can receive a UW voter-compliant ID card for free. Students may download their Voter ID card here and will receive a PDF of the card that they can print out. Students who do not have their WisCard yet or want a hard copy of the Voter ID card can obtain one at the WisCard Office.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include updated information about Voter ID cards.