The Wisconsin spring general election on April 4 will decide who fills three open seats on the Common Council, settle a pivotal Supreme Court race and resolve questions on three statewide referenda, including one related to bail reform.
Here’s what you need to know.
District 1 voters will decide between candidates Andrea Pratt, the daughter of former Mayor Marvin Pratt, and David Bowen, who previously served as a county supervisor and state representative.
Pratt, chair of the Rufus King Neighborhood Association, has worked at MPS, for the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee and the City of Milwaukee Common Council. She currently works as an equity specialist with the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion.
She calls attention to her lifelong residency in District 1, where she’s raised and educated her children. This gives her a good understanding of the district’s issues, she says.
Bowen was a member of Urban Underground before assuming the role of program director for the leadership development and issue-engagement group. He is a two-time graduate of Public Allies, also a leadership development program. Bowen has supported numerous violence prevention initiatives in Milwaukee and led other campaigns related to race and equity during his time as a public official.
District 1 includes a large area on the city’s North Side that extends from West Capitol Drive from North 9th to North 35th streets, north to West Bradley Road.
The District 5 race features Annette Jackson, a Milwaukee resident and business owner, and Lamont Westmoreland, a businessman and former high school basketball coach.
Jackson has also worked in several departments within the City of Milwaukee. She said she plans to focus on the concerns of the community, including road conditions and making local government more accessible to residents.
Westmoreland is the president and CEO of LTW Affordable Painting LLC. and a licensed high school basketball official in Wisconsin. His top priority issues include reckless driving, vehicle thefts and break-ins and absentee landlords.
District 5, on the city’s Northwest Side, runs from West Center Street to West Good Hope Road.
Voters in District 9 will choose between a retired Milwaukee Board of School director and educator, Odell Ball, and a current educator, Larresa Taylor.
Ball’s platform includes plans to address reckless driving, increase drivers education and support red flag laws related to firearms. He also seeks to address lead abatement and to stop illegal dumping.
Taylor plans to focus on the elimination of blight and supporting small businesses and economic development in the area. She also hopes to improve housing and employment opportunities in the area.
District 9 extends from the North Side to the far Northwest Side of the city and includes Silver Spring Drive from North 43rd to North 64th streets and extends north to County Line Road from North 70th to North 124th streets.
Council members are responsible for representing the interests of residents of their districts, serving on committees and making policy decisions that affect the quality of life in the neighborhoods they represent and the city as a whole.
The Common Council has been understaffed for months, but this election will fill all the vacant seats.
Wisconsin Supreme Court
The race between former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, a conservative, and Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal, for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court has drawn national attention and big bucks.
Millions in donations from both inside and outside groups have poured in for both sides, with the main issue being presented to voters – Kelly’s stance against abortions and Protasiewicz’ pro-choice lean. Other issues include redistricting and voting rules.
Whoever wins this race will shift the balance of power in the state’s top court to conservative or liberal and could end up as the deciding vote on key cases that are expected to come before the court in the coming years. Those are expected to include rulings on access to abortions, redistricting and voting rules for future elections.
Other judicial races
Also on the Milwaukee ballot are spots for judges. Most of these for Milwaukee County Circuit Court and municipal judges feature a single candidate.
While much of the focus on this election has been on the Supreme Court race and local aldermanic races, three statewide referenda could result in significant changes that will impact residents of Milwaukee.
Two, both related to the criminal justice system, could lead to amendments to the state constitution.
One asks voters whether the constitution should be amended to change the bail system by giving judges more flexibility in determining bail amounts for accused violent criminals. Advocates argue that a change to the system is needed to protect the public from “serious harm,” while critics worry that the measure would penalize the poor.
A second measure would also give judges more flexibility, in this case to impose conditions of release prior to conviction.
Placed on the ballot by the Legislature, the governor cannot veto constitutional amendments.
A third measure, which will not impact state law because it is advisory, asks voters whether able-bodied, childless adults who receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits should be required to look for work to receive those benefits.
Another advisory measure on the county ballot asks whether a Wisconsin statute that bans abortion at any stage of pregnancy without exception for rape, incest, or health of the patient be repealed to allow legal access to abortion.
School board races
Also on the ballot, depending on where you live, are three contested races and one that’s uncontested, to fill four spots on the Milwaukee Public School Board of Directors. See NNS coverage here.
For those looking to cast their ballots before April 4, the early voting period runs from through April 1. Residents can vote at the Midtown Shopping Center, 5740 W. Capitol Drive; the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building, 841 N. Broadway; or the Zablocki Library, 3501 W Oklahoma Ave., on weekdays from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Voter registration, including address changes, ends on March 31 at all locations. For more info on how to vote in Milwaukee, visit the election commission website here.
Additional neighborhood early voting sites include the Good Hope Library, 7715 W. Good Hope Road;, Mitchell Street Library, 906 W. Historic Mitchell St.; Villard Square Library, 5190 N. 35th St.; and Washington Park Library, 2121 N. Sherman Blvd.
Voters are also encouraged to go to MyVote.wi.gov to look up their polling place, view a sample ballot, view early voting locations and times and to request an absentee ballot.
Mendez, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, graduated from UW-Milwaukee, with a double major in Journalism and Media Communications and Sociology. In 2008, he won a Society of Professional Journalists' regional award for social columns dealing with diverse issues such as poverty, homelessness and racism. Currently, he's a master's degree student at the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.
His interests include scholastic research, social networking and the Green Bay Packers.