Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee’s Voter Turnout Is Way Down

18,803 voted in person. Total current turnout less than half that in April 2016.

By - Apr 7th, 2020 11:32 pm
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A voter waiting in line at Washington High School. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A voter waiting in line at Washington High School. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

At least 75,292 Milwaukee voters cast a ballot in the April 7th Spring Election. And it’s possible that total could grow by as much as 40,223 as more absentee ballots are received in advance of an April 13th deadline.

But the turnout reported after the last in-person ballots were cast Tuesday evening is well below the 140,000 votes forecasted by Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht before the pandemic.

And it’s likely that most of those absentee ballots never arrive back in city hands. They have to be postmarked by the end of the day Tuesday and thousands of them have never have made it to those that requested them, part of an unexplainable, statewide glitch.

The city reports issuing 96,712 absentee ballots and receiving 56,489 back as of 8:20 p.m.

Approximately 18,803 Milwaukeeans cast in-person ballots Tuesday, a number of whom were likely victims of the missing ballot glitch and never received their requested ballot.

Voters faced long lines that stretched over an hour at points at each of the city’s five polling places and at some polling places reached two-and-a-half hours. The city reduced its polling places from 180 to five in response to a shortage of approximately 1,000 election workers.

“We have moved forward with an election, we have not moved forward with democracy in the state of Wisconsin,” said Albrecht during a press briefing Tuesday morning.

The election itself looked like nothing seen in Milwaukee before. Poll workers dressed head-to-toe in personal protective equipment, voters wearing masks and others using curbside voting. Lines at some polling sites, including Riverside High School, stretched for blocks.

Actual results from in-person ballots cannot be tabulated until after 4:00 p.m. on April 13th, but the Milwaukee Election Commission reported the number of in-person ballots cast, absentee ballots issued, absentee ballots returned (including early voting) and provisional ballots cast.

The total reported is below the 167,765 votes cast in April 2016, the last Presidential Primary and the last time races for mayor, Milwaukee County Executive, Common Council and other city offices were on the ballot. That election featured contested presidential primaries for both Republicans and Democrats.

Tuesday’s total is greater than the 68,770 ballots cast in the April 2019 Spring Election that featured a competitive race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court at the top of the ballot, a circuit court contest and local school board races. That race featured the highest turnout of any spring race since the 2016 election.

The total in no way reflects the spirit of many voters or poll workers. Hundreds of the former were still in line after polls closed waiting to cast their ballots, some waiting until after 10 p.m. to do so, and all of the latter knowingly went to work on a job that placed them at a high risk of contracting COVID-19.

The election itself has been one of the most unusual in Wisconsin history. Governor Tony Evers had originally said the election must go on as planned, but then called for a mail-in-only election after a host of local leaders began calling for one, including Mayor Tom Barrett. Evers then called for a special legislative session for Saturday to address the matter, but the Republican-controlled houses adjourned after only a few seconds. Senate Majority Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos publicly backed staying the course and said Evers could have acted earlier.

But on Monday things went to another level. Evers postponed the April 7th Spring Election until June 9th via executive order just after noon. Then less than five hours later the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed the decision. Just over an hour after that the US Supreme Court ruled that all absentee ballots must be postmarked by April 7th.

Individual Polling Site Totals

  • Hamilton High School: 3,774
  • Marshall High School: 3,910
  • Riverside High School: 3,914
  • South Division High School: 3,577
  • Washington High School: 3,628

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Categories: Politics

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