Control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has officially changed hands, months after the election victory of liberal justice Janet Protasiewicz.
In April, Protasiewicz defeated her conservative opponent Dan Kelly in what was seen as a continuation of an abortion backlash.
Protasiewicz's appointment to the court means that liberals now have a narrow 4-3 majority, giving the left a significant new hold on power in a pivotal swing state.
Protasiewicz ran as an unabashed partisan and defender of abortion - ripping the state's Republican-drawn electoral maps as "rigged" and tagging her opponent as a "true threat to our democracy." The election was the most expensive judicial race in American history.
It looks like Democrats are getting their money's worth.
The new majority has moved swiftly to consolidate its power - and partisans on the left are wasting no time teeing up court cases for the new court to rule on.
Already, liberals have filed lawsuits challenging the state's electoral maps, and Wisconsin's liberal attorney general has prioritized a challenge to the state's abortion law.
"It’s an absolute seismic shift in Wisconsin policy and politics,” C.J. Szafir, the chief executive of the conservative, Wisconsin-based Institute for Reforming Government, said. “We’re about to usher in a very progressive state Supreme Court, the likes that we have not seen in quite some time. And it’s really going to change how everything operates.”
Republicans have called for Protasiewicz's recusal, but some of the loudest criticism has come from the court itself.
Justice Rebecca Bradley, a conservative, called the new majority a rubber stamp for the Democratic party and ripped Protasiewicz for failing to recuse herself from redistricting cases.
"These four justices will adopt new maps to shift power away from Republicans and bestow an electoral advantage for Democrat candidates, fulfilling one of Protasiewicz's many promises to the principal funder of her campaign," Bradley wrote. “‘Rigged’ is indeed an apt description — for this case."
The new majority moved swiftly to strip the court's conservative chief justice, Annette Ziegler, of much of her power and vested it in a new committee - leading Ziegler to decry a "coup."
“This is nothing short of an unprecedented coup. For 40 years, the role of the Chief Justice has been understood and respected. Your short term goals will cause long term, irreparable damage to the judiciary. What a historical disgrace," she wrote in an e-mail to her colleagues.
The consequences of the court flip for the integrity of Wisconsin's elections are already becoming clear.
In 2020, Wisconsin allowed absentee ballot drop boxes that were later ruled illegal last year. Two weeks before the court changed hands, the Democratic law firm of Clinton adviser Marc Elias sued to allow the drop boxes again.
Biden carried Wisconsin by just 10,000 votes in 2020 - and the state is certain to play a pivotal role once again in 2024.