Schools, courts, local officials on ballot in Wisconsin spring election

By: - March 17, 2021 4:05 pm
"I voted" stickers in Primrose (Photo by Henry Redman)

“I voted” stickers in Primrose (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

On April 6, voters across Wisconsin will cast their ballots for local councils and school boards, judges at multiple levels and state schools superintendent. This week, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin (LWVWI) released a voter guide to help people learn what will be on their ballot. 

Voters enter their address and can find what will be on their ballot, information about the candidates, videos of candidate forums and information about how and where to vote in-person or absentee. 

“On April 6, Wisconsin voters will be casting their ballots for those who will lead in our schools, hold judicial seats on circuit and appellate courts and advocate for our communities at the local level,” Eileen Newcomer, LWVWI voter education manager, said in a statement. “That is why the League is committed to providing Wisconsin voters with essential election information at all levels of government.”

The one statewide office to be elected in April is the superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction. The race is between Jill Underly, the Pecatonica Area School District superintendent, and Deborah Kerr, a retired Brown Deer superintendent. 

In the February primary, the two candidates were split by just one percentage point. Kerr says she’s a Democrat, but is the more conservative-aligned candidate, receiving money and support from a number of right wing groups and politicians. 

She’s also expressed support for the favored education policies of Wisconsin’s conservatives, including vouchers and charter schools. 

Underly has been endorsed by a number of Democratic politicians from Wisconsin and received an $18,000 contribution from the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Wisconsin Educational Association Council (WEAC). 

There are also two state appellate court districts with contested elections. Both races have drawn a lot of money from powerful conservative interests

In the 3rd District, covering most of northern Wisconsin, Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge Greg Gill has been backed by Republican politicians and local parties. He’s also received a substantial amount of financial support from high-profile conservative donors including John Menard and Richard Uihlein. 

Gill is running against Wausau criminal defense attorney Rick Cveykus. The progressive-aligned lawyer has taken out personal loans in order to compete with the large amount of money pouring into the race — an anomaly from past appellate court races in Wisconsin. 

The 2nd District appellate race, in the counties surrounding Milwaukee, has also drawn an unusual amount of money, though the ideological lines aren’t as neat. Incumbent Jeff Davis was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers, but has been endorsed by Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patience Roggensack. Davis’ challenger, Shelley Grogan, is a judicial assistant for Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley and has been endorsed by other conservative members of the court. 

Grogan is an open conservative activist and her endorsements and fundraising reflects that. She’s also received money from Menard and Uihlein. 

Lower than the appellate level, judges will be elected to county circuit courts across the state in April. 

Hundreds of local races will also be on the ballot, with school boards, county executives and city councils set to be decided. Those races are all specific to their communities, though some have taken on more national themes

The deadline to register to vote by mail or online is March 17, although voters can still register in-person on Election Day. For most voters, the deadline to request an absentee ballot is April 1. Absentee ballots must be received by municipal clerks by 8 p.m. on April 6.


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.