Despite predictions of record-breaking voter turnout, attendance at Tuesday’s primary election fell far short of Government Accountability Board forecasts.
Although the GAB predicted a robust 28 percent turnout rate, unofficial election results show only 19 percent of Wisconsin residents showed up to cast their votes, according to numbers from the Associated Press.
Approximately 847,000 people voted in the primary election, about 19 percent of around 4.3 million Wisconsinites of voting age living in the state, according to unofficial results collected by the AP.
High predictions for voter turnout were initially born of expectations the highly competitive Republican gubernatorial and Senate primary would drive voters to the polls.
The GAB anticipated the lack of an incumbent in the governor’s office as well as several other highly contested congressional primaries would produce high voter participation, according to a GAB statement.
However, the fiercely competitive nature of the races may have had the opposite effect. “I think a lot of voters already have campaign fatigue,” said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. “There’s so much money in the races for governor and the U.S. Senate, and so much of the ads that are on television or on the radio are negative, that that tends to depress voter turnout in my view.”
Negative campaign advertising is designed to demoralize the supporters of the opposition and discourage them from supporting their candidate, but when all sides are engaging in the practice, it can serve to lower turnout overall, Heck added.
And the election season is still far from over.
With the enormous amounts of money being spent on the gubernatorial and Senate campaigns, negative campaigning and ensuing election fatigue that kept voters from the polls Tuesday may also have the same effect in November, Heck said.
Nevertheless, the GAB was not altogether disappointed with the turnout results.
Although turnout fell short of predictions, GAB spokesperson Reid Magney pointed out Tuesday’s turnout was still the fourth highest in a fall primary election since 1960.
“It was still a good turnout even if it was lower than projected,” Magney said.