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Monday, June 24, 2024
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Students walk in to the polling site for the April 2023 general elections.

Wisconsin reflects the major stakes in the 2024 election. Here’s what you need to know

The 2024 election is on the horizon. Here’s what you need to know about the key races on your ballot.

Wisconsinites will head to the polls this November to vote in the presidential race, U.S. Senate race and Wisconsin Legislature races. 

Wisconsin holds considerable power in the presidential election as a state with 10 electoral votes and a high level of political diversity as a swing state. Wisconsin’s electoral votes have gone to the winners of four of the past six presidential elections, making it a contentious battleground for voters this year.

Here’s what you need to know about the key races on your Nov. 5 ballot. 

The presidential race

Democratic President Joe Biden and former Republican President Donald Trump both secured the necessary delegates to clinch the nomination for their respective parties in March.

Both Biden and Trump were able to secure delegates by large margins for their parties’ nominations in the Wisconsin presidential primary on April 2. On the Republican ballot, 77.9% of Wisconsinites had voted for Trump, while Biden led by 87.6% on the Democratic ballot. 

The 2024 presidential election cycle comes amid a political landscape dominated by campus protests calling for divestment from Israel and issues such as abortion, the economy and health care.

While Biden continues to struggle with young voters, Trump faces tough challenges ahead in court after his conviction on all accounts for one of his four separate criminal indictments

A look at Joe Biden

After his first successful bid for the presidency in 2020, Biden is on the campaign trail asking for a second term to “finish the job.” 

Republicans criticized Biden throughout his presidency for what they see as rampant spending in his economic policies, and he has caught fire from progressives for his opposition to encampments on college campuses protesting the war in Gaza.

In April’s Democratic primary, roughly 32% of University of Wisconsin-Madison voters voted “uninstructed” as a protest vote against Biden’s policy on Gaza, with 8.4% of voters statewide also voting “uninstructed.”

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Ahead of the 2024 election, student loan forgiveness also remains a key issue for the Biden administration.  

Biden unveiled the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan during his visit to Madison in April. The plan forgave $13.8 million in student loan debt for almost 2,000 Wisconsinites, according to a White House press release. The White House also said a total of 44,380 Wisconsinites have been approved for $2 billion in debt relief.

Abortion is expected to persist as a top issue on the ballot for Democratic voters in Wisconsin. The 2024 Marquette Law School poll found roughly 24% of Democratic voters declared abortion to be their most important issue.

The Biden administration said they intend to protect abortion access across the U.S. through executive orders and pressure Congress to pass the federal protections guaranteed in Roe v. Wade before it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022. 

Infrastructure is one of the biggest policy goals of Biden’s administration, with the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act securing $1.2 trillion for expanding roads, broadband access and clean water across America.

These initiatives are dominant in Wisconsin where the Biden administration has made numerous campaign stops to tout apprenticeship programs and labor unions.  Most recently, Harris visited Milwaukee in May to emphasize the administration’s efforts to bridge homeownership gaps and promote small businesses. 

Wisconsin will receive additional funding for highways, bridges, public transit options, airports and EV charging stations over the course of next year, according to the Department of Transportation.

A look at Donald Trump

While facing four separate criminal indictments and losing his first bid for a second term to Biden in 2020, Trump is back on the campaign trail.

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley emerged as a serious challenger to Trump and was still able to gain 12.8% of the vote in April’s Republican primary, even after dropping out of the race, signaling discord with Trump in the GOP.

Trump was convicted on all 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments to porn actor Stormy Daniels on May 30. His sentencing is scheduled for July 11, just four days before the Republican National Convention is set to take place in Milwaukee. 

Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Brian Schimming called the trial a "sham" and the resulting verdict "rigged" at a press conference May 30. 

"We are going to have the Republican Convention here and we will be nominating Donald Trump at that convention," Schimming said. "I will tell you the phone calls and messages that I have gotten in the last hour or so to a person have been very strongly supportive of the President."

The southern border has remained one of the biggest issues for American voters, with a February Gallup poll showing 28% of Americans claiming immigration to be the most important problem facing the country and 55% claiming that “large numbers of immigrants entering the United States illegally” is a critical threat to the nation.

Stephen Miller, who worked on Trump’s immigration policies during his first term, told the New York Times that if elected, Trump “will do whatever it takes” to secure the southern border. 

Trump has vowed to carry out mass deportations and reinstate policies like Title 42 — a COVID-era policy that allowed U.S. authorities to expel migrants to Mexico without allowing them to claim asylum. 

Miller further said Trump would again try to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants work permits to and protects undocumented children brought to the U.S. from deportation.

Undocumented immigrants play a pivotal role in Wisconsin’s economy. The state’s $45.6 billion dairy industry relies heavily on labor from Central American migrants as many farmers view them as a cheap and largely unregulated source of labor, according to ProPublica.

A major controversy of Trump’s campaign is his link to Project 2025, a plan that would use executive order Schedule F to fire dissident government employees and use presidential appointees to dismantle the Departments of Education and Energy and enact conservative reform, as outlined in the ninth edition of the Heritage Foundation’s “Mandate for Leadership.” 

LGBTQ+ and climate activists criticized the plan’s goals to rescind legal recognition of trans people, label material relating to gender identity as “pornography” and pressure state governments to acknowledge only heterosexual marriages, as reported by PBS.

The plan would also cut funding to government organizations that promote the scientific consensus that human activity is responsible for climate change and would pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which it labels as “climate fanaticism.”

A lack of action on climate change would severely damage Wisconsin’s complex ecosystem through its effects on the migratory patterns of wildlife, and result in a crippled agricultural sector according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

While on the campaign trail, Trump dodged questions on a national abortion ban, saying it should be “left to the states” in a video posted to Truth Social. As president, Trump nominated three of the six Supreme Court justices who issued the concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned constitutional protections for abortion established in Roe v. Wade.

Additionally, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in May that Trump “won’t commit” to accepting Wisconsin’s presidential election results if he does not win. 

“If everything’s honest, I’d gladly accept the results,” Trump told the Sentinel. “If it’s not, you have to fight for the right of the country.”

U.S. Senate race 

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin faces Eric Hovde, a multimillionaire businessman from California, in this year’s Wisconsin Senate race.

On the economy, Baldwin promised to support the American industry by voting for policies that require building materials be manufactured in the U.S. to diminish the power of foreign interests, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will create jobs in the manufacturing, transportation and construction industries. 

In 2022, Baldwin also helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill that lowers drug prices by making drug companies negotiate with Medicare and caps the cost of insulin at $35 per month. 

Hovde attacked Biden and Baldwin for inflation and the increasing national debt, something he claimed places a $265,000 debt on individual taxpayers in his campaign ads

Hovde blamed these developments on rising federal spending and the Federal Reserve increasing the money supply during lockdowns, and he promised to practice “responsible fiscal management” in the Senate.

Baldwin defended abortion rights and wrote the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023, a bill that would guarantee access to abortion in every state.

Meanwhile, Hovde previously said he “totally opposed” abortion and was “100% pro-life” in his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign.

Hovde said in a May 19 interview with WISN’s UPFRONT he would like the issue to be decided by Wisconsin voters in a referendum and that he supports exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. He also said it was “reasonable” to support a ban that fell between 12-15 weeks. 

One of Baldwin’s major areas of legislation is the opioid epidemic, referencing her mother, who suffered from an addiction to opioids.

Under the Trump administration, Baldwin voted for the bipartisan INTERDICT Act that gives U.S. Customs and Border Protection more tools to stop the trafficking of fentanyl from Mexico and China. She has also more recently introduced the Naloxone Education and Access Act to increase the availability of opioid overdose reversal drugs nationwide.

Connecting the opioid epidemic to the crisis on the southern border, Hovde said Democratic border policies have “empowered cartels” to traffic fentanyl into the U.S. and that this, combined with the increased stress placed on hospitals by migrant crossings, has endangered the lives of American citizens. 

While the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that the number of drug overdose deaths has increased since Biden took office — following a trend that began during the COVID-19 pandemic — hospitals in the U.S. have faced difficulties in distributing resources in recent years mainly due to the effects of the pandemic, according to the National Library of Medicine, not the result of increased numbers of migrants accessing health care.

The Wisconsin Legislature

Four Madison-area Assembly Districts are also up for election this November.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed new legislative maps into law in February, replacing ones drawn by Republicans in 2011, giving Democrats the opportunity to seize control of the Legislature if they perform similarly to how Evers did in his 2022 reelection campaign.

In the 76th Assembly District, Rep. Francesca Hong, D-Madison, is running against Republican challenger Daniel Howell, a former mayoral candidate and class of 2024 UW-Madison graduate.

The newly created 77th Assembly District encompassing the UW-Madison campus will see a three-way battle between pharmacist Thaddeus Schumacher, 22-year veteran of the Dane County Board of Supervisors Chuck Erickson, and attorney Renuka Mayadev  — all Democrats.

The 78th Assembly District will see an election between Rep. Sheila Stubbs, D-Madison, and Maia Pearson, a Democrat and Madison School Board member.

Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, the current 78th Assembly District representative, is running unopposed in the 79th Assembly District after incumbent Rep. Alex Joers, D-Madison, announced he will run in the new 81st District.

Where to vote on campus

You can vote at the following polling locations on the UW-Madison campus:

  • Memorial Union
  • Holt Center
  • Union South
  • First Congregational Church
  • Smith Hall
  • Gordon Dining & Event Center
  • Chazen Museum of Art
  • Nicholas Recreation Center
  • Hillel at University of Wisconsin
  • Lowell Center

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Nov. 5. Those who are still in line at 8 p.m. will still be allowed to vote.

In order to vote in Wisconsin, you can register online at MyVote Wisconsin.

State News Editor Anna Kleiber contributed to this article.

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