In Tuesda’ys historic recall election, Madison voting wards saw a decrease in student turnout compared to previous gubernatorial elections.
According to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, the election’s timing in early June significantly affected low student turnout, despite the high publicity of the recall election that pitted incumbent Walker against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
“Voter turnout among students was unfortunately low,” Verveer said.
Overall turnout from student dormitory areas was relatively low, but off-campus housing sent fairly strong numbers to the polls, Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said. According to Resnick’s Twitter account, student numbers reflected the recall’s May 8 primary turnout, with student off-campus wards providing twice as many voters as dorm wards.
Ward 56, which includes Sellery Hall, Witte Hall and Lucky apartments, had 297 votes cast in the election, a majority of which were absentee ballots, Verveer said.
Resnick’s tweets showed Wards 57, 58 and 59 with 325, 234 and 192 votes respectively, and all ultimately leaned in favor of Barrett.
Despite low student turnout, which did not reach voting numbers seen in the 2010 gubernatorial election, Madison voters showed up in droves to participate in the recall election. According to Verveer, Madison’s voting wards showed numbers equal to or higher than the 2010 gubernatorial election, which amounted to 67 percent for the entire city.
Resnick said there were minimal reported issues at the polls, but Verveer added he witnessed voters experiencing problems with a new residency law that requires voters to reside at their home for 28 days prior to the election.
“Many students were turned away because of, I think, a very problematic, unwise, restrictive new law,” Verveer said.
In accordance with the stipulation, students registered to vote at their residency in Madison would be required to sign up for an absentee ballot if they returned home for the summer.
Wisconsin’s League of Women Voters also reported “widespread” problems with the residency law at polling places across the state, according to Executive Director Andrea Kaminski.
Kaminski said several students who had returned home for the summer were turned away at the polls because officials told them they had not lived at home for the required 28 days.
Carolyn Castore, the League’s election coordinator, stressed that students could claim their parents’ residency to be their home if they have not registered at their Madison address, a stipulation she claimed several polling officials had overlooked.
“We know that students are being disenfranchised,” Castore said. “We know that they came, they tried, they had their proper documentation, but they weren’t allowed to register and they left.”
Castore said the League received a minimum of 250 calls from students encountering problems with the residency law throughout the afternoon.
Verveer added further complications arose because the residency law also requires that individuals provide proof of residence. He estimated that a couple dozen students were discouraged and turned away because they were unable to provide an appropriate proof of residency.
“Students just didn’t have anything in writing stating where they lived in the last month,” he said.
- Leah Linscheid contributed to this report.