I’m a Gen Z woman in Wisconsin, and I’m utterly delighted with the recent election of a justice to the Wisconsin Supreme Court for a 10-year term. Voters across the state‚ bolstered by a high turnout among Gen Z, delivered a stunning rebuke to those seeking to ban abortion.
It’s an election outcome that bodes well for women across America and for our chances of preserving abortion access in the 2024 presidential election. The move also safeguards against possible efforts to overturn Wisconsin’s results in that race, as was attempted unsuccessfully in 2020, with judges voting 4-3 against doing so and only one judge crossing party lines.
By electing Judge Janet Protasiewicz to the State Supreme Court, voters flipped the majority control of the court toward abortion access. The result means next year, the court is likely to overturn the state’s recent abortion ban, dating back to 1849, which was reinstated by the court on the day of the U.S. Supreme Court’s fateful Dobbs decision.
The Wisconsin court is also likely to end the use of redistricted legislative maps that heavily favor one set of issues and candidates over the other. It means that our votes will finally count on critical issues for many voters across the state. Access to democracy has been restored.
My earliest recollections of Wisconsin politics go back to 2011 when I was just 10. My mom is a teacher in the state. It is when then-governor Scott Walker and the legislature passed Act 10, a bill that stripped public employees, like my mom, of their collective bargaining rights. She was distraught because it dehumanized her in her job. Teachers are essential employees, and seeing her so upset was a key moment in my political awakening. Soon after that, Walker approved heavily redistricted legislative maps. These maps undermined democracy for the next decade. I have heard countless people tell me “our votes don’t count in Wisconsin” over the subsequent years, and it has been a demoralizing struggle to convince them to engage in our democracy.
Whenever people tell me that, I tell them, “That’s what they want you to think.” And it turns out Wisconsin votes do matter. That’s what this is about.
In 2017, I joined the women’s march in Madison. I was insulted by the anti-women rhetoric in the 2016 presidential election, and I needed a way to make my voice heard, given that I couldn’t vote during the 2016 election. Going to the women’s march ignited my passion for advocating for people who are oppressed by our government. And I became a political science major when I went to college. Now, I can vote.
The loss of bodily autonomy following the Dobbs decision set reproductive rights back by nearly 50 years in the United States, yet for Wisconsin women, it set our rights back by almost two centuries, back to a time when women didn’t have the right to vote or own property. The 1849 law bans abortions in all cases and makes it a felony to carry out the procedure. Although the procedure is legal if done to save the patient’s life, it is incredibly difficult to carry out in such circumstances. In this unacceptable situation, young women have been going out of state for abortions.
Recent elections since the Dobbs decision have felt more personal for Gen Z voters. Our rights are literally on the line, and I had countless conversations over recent weeks with young women, trans, and non-binary people who were determined to make their voices heard at the ballot box.
As an IGNITE fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, I make young women aware of the power of elective democracy. I was heavily involved in getting the Gen Z vote during the 2022 midterms. And I am proud of my conversations with young women to turn them out in the recent election.
Watching the votes roll in, I was amazed at how early the Associated Press called the outcome. This was a landslide by Wisconsin standards, and it says a huge amount about how strongly young women feel about their future.
Wisconsin’s Gov. Tony Evers had wanted to put abortion on the ballot, suspecting that the outcome could be similar, but the anti-choice legislature overruled him. So, Judge Protasiewicz’s campaign became a proxy on the abortion issue. The state election commission registered more than 300,000voters age 18 to 24 in the run-up to the election. About 1.2 million votes were counted by the time the election was called. I like to think Gen Z’s voices were influential in making the landslide so heavy.
When the Dobbs decision came down, we predicted that it would politically enrage a generation of young women. The 2022 midterms were swept by a youth wave that isn’t pulling back. Alongside millennials, Gen Z is on the way to becoming part of the largest voting bloc, and we care about the issues more than candidates.
In that regard, Judge Protasiewicz ran an unusual campaign. She was forthright about her position on abortion and redistricting. She made it easy for voters to differentiate her from her competition. I think that as a woman running against a man, she was brave in campaigning differently, knowing that access to democracy has been barred to women in equal measure for far too long. She spoke her truth.
For more than a decade, influential people in Wisconsin have sought to disenfranchise women. We have proven that we won’t be silenced, and our power will grow over the coming years. America, take notice.