State election officials predict more than 1.3 million people will vote in next Tuesday’s primary election, the highest turnout in more than half a century for a partisan primary.
The predicted voter turnout is 30 to 35 percent, according to a Government Accountability Board statement. This percentage equates to between 1.3 million and 1.5 million of the state’s eligible voters.
“It’s hard to venture a guess on the turnout since we are in uncharted waters, but the GAB estimate seems reasonable based on turnout rates in other races,” University of Wisconsin political science professor John Coleman said.
According to the GAB statement, the highest voter turnout in a September partisan primary in the last 50 years was about 28 percent in 1964.
Additionally, the highest turnout in the past decade was in 2002 with approximately 23 percent. Wisconsin’s highest turnout was nearly 39 percent in 1952, the statement said.
“Generally, when the GAB comes out with a statewide prediction we tend to have a higher turnout for the city of Madison,” Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said. “So we really don’t know what to anticipate for voter turnout, … but we are prepared for a large number just in case.”
The public’s intense interest in the recall election may also prompt a higher turnout, GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said in the statement.
Still, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Executive Director Andrea Kaminski said recent changes to voting laws may hinder some, particularly students, from voting in the upcoming elections.
Kaminski said college students leaving for the summer should “go out and vote on May 8” and request an absentee ballot from the Madison’s City Clerk’s office before the June 5 election.
“It’s really all about educating people about their rights and what their options are,” Witzel-Behl said.
The primaries on Tuesday will focus on Republican and Democratic primaries for governor and Democratic primaries for the lieutenant governor along with four state Senate seats.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Secretary of State Doug La Follette, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, and Mequon citizen Gladys Huber are the five Democratic candidates in the primary. Madison citizen Arthur Kohl-Riggs will run against Gov. Scott Walker in a Republican primary.