Voter Turnout 'Just Wild' in Wisconsin

Voters and public officials are reporting long lines at many Wisconsin polling places Tuesday -- with Dane County Clerk Karen Peters calling the local turnout "just wild" so far.
by | June 5, 2012

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The Wisconsin State Journal

Voters and public officials are reporting long lines at many Wisconsin polling places Tuesday — with Dane County Clerk Karen Peters calling the local turnout "just wild" so far.

"It ranges from 28 to 42 percent already; it is a huge turnout. We could hit 80 to 88 percent," Peters said of Dane County's turnout. At midday, she was fielding calls wrapping up a status report from local clerks.

Sun Prairie's four polling places were steadily busy, logging nearly 5,000 votes through 11 a.m., said Arrin Linzenmeyer of the clerk's office. There were lines as the day started — also reported at many polling places in the county as voters anticipated extended longer waits as the day progressed.

In Madison, City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said turnout was at 26 percent by 11 a.m., which was an orphan number because, she said, "we really have nothing to compare it to." That percentage is the 42,961 votes case of 165,312 registered.

However, she said, "typically the numbers will double from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and then double again from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m."

At 11 a.m., the highest turnout in Madison was at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, off of Regent Street in Madison's District 5, where turnout was already at 51 percent. There were no voting problems reported in Madison.

State election officials had predicted that between 60 to 65 percent of the voting age population, or about 2.6 to 2.8 million people, will cast regular and absentee ballots in the historic recall election that pits Republican Gov. Scott Walker against Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

The race is widely viewed as one of the most significant contests nationally this year outside of the presidential race. The lieutenant governor's job, along with four state Senate seats, are also up for recall.

"Everything leading up to this election, it completely felt like a presidential (election)," said Witzel-Behl, speaking of the workload, number of officials needed for the polls and the number of absentee ballots her office received prior to the election. In Monona, at least 50 people were in line at 7 a.m. to vote, City Clerk Joan Andrusz said. While the lines are long, Andrusz said the short ballot should make for a quick voting process.

At the South Madison Police District Station, there was a line out the door and around the corner when polls opened at 7 a.m.

" At least I can say I tried," 59-year-old Isaac Shuler of Madison said about why he voted Tuesday for the first time in decades.

Democrats and labor activists gathered more than 900,000 signatures to force the recall after Walker pushed through a bill that ended nearly all collectively bargaining powers for most public workers.

But not all public workers voted against Walker. Retired state employee Jerry Darda, 73, of Madison said he voted for the governor because the recall was "ridiculous" and that Walker should be able to finish his job.

In the town of Pine Grove in Portage County, union boilermaker Ray Phillips voted for Barrett: "My mind has been made up from the beginning."

The state Government Accountability Board was hearing reports of strong turnout across the state, spokesman Reid Magney said. GAB officials said they have received complaints about robocalls, including some saying petition signers don't have to vote today to be counted in the election.

Not true, Magney said. People still need to vote to participate in today's election, even if they signed the petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

"We're telling people to be skeptical about information they get from robocalls, emails, door-to-door canvassers, etc." he said in an email. "Rely on information from sources you trust, such as newspapers, TV and radio stations."

The GAB had heard of relatively few problems at polling places. A voting machine in the town of Rothschild, near Wausau, was damaged overnight and had to be replaced Tuesday morning, he said.

And a polling place in Milwaukee was reportedly asking voters to show identification even though that is not required, Magney said. Walker is back on the ballot just 17 months after his election, locked in a rematch with Barrett, whom he beat in 2010 by 5 percentage points, as he tries to become the first U.S. governor to successfully fend off a recall.

"I've been villainized for a year and a half. We've faced a year and a half of assaults on us. My opponent has no plans other than to attack us," Walker said at a campaign stop Monday, claiming that his agenda has put the state on the right economic track.

Responded Barrett: "Gov. Walker has divided the state, but we will never allow him to conquer the middle class. This started out as a grassroots movement and it's going to end as one."

©2012 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)


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