A record number of more than three million Wisconsin voters voted in this fall’s election, according to the recently-certified results from the state’s elections agency.
The Government Accountability Board certified the election results Thursday and found that 3,071,434 voters showed up to the polls earlier this month. The number was the highest since the state began keeping track of such records in 1948, surpassing the record number in 2004’s election.
The more than three million voters who turned out this fall made up 70.1 percent of the voting age population. That was the fourth highest percentage in the state’s history, with only 2004, 1960 and 1952 having higher percentages.
In a statement announcing the statistics, GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said the record numbers showed Wisconsin voters’ “deep-rooted commitment” in choosing their elected officials.
He said the agency’s Back to Basics program, aimed at ensuring the elections went smoothly, was successful. The program included training sessions for officials, presentations around the state and an improved website for voters, according to GAB spokesperson Reid Magney.
“Preparation was key to preventing problems at polling places,” Kennedy said in the statement. “Our ‘Back to Basics’ initiative helped ensure election officials were ready for the large turnout and voters had ready access to information about their registration status and polling place location.”
Magney said the GAB is constantly looking at ways to improve elections and will continue to go through data to find out how it can improve its training and voter experience at the polls.
Wisconsin has had a larger than usual amount of elections lately, with two rounds of recall elections since 2011, one of them a statewide gubernatorial recall election. There were also various changes in voting laws, including a photo ID provision, which was in place at first but has been struck down and remains in the courts.
All those elections may have made voters realize the importance of showing up to the polls and contributed to the record turnout this fall, according to League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Executive Director Andrea Kaminski.
“People in Wisconsin have had a couple of years where we’ve really seen how important elections are,” Kaminski said. “People are engaged as citizens, and they’re not going to sit an election out.”
She called the GAB’s program “just what the doctor ordered,” as the various changes in laws required for voters and officials to be more informed on the process.
Despite the large amount of voters this fall, Kaminski said about 30 percent of Wisconsin’s eligible voters did not go to the polls this fall, and organizations must continue to work in understanding the reasons why and what they can do to change that.
Dietram Scheufele, a University of Wisconsin life sciences communication professor, said a large part of the large turnout could be attributed to micro-targeting, a new kind of campaigning that President Barack Obama’s campaign used this election cycle.
That strategy, Scheufele said, is one that the Obama campaign used to change its marketing strategy to one that individualized messages, helped by Obama’s superior ground game.
“What used to be going after 18- through 22-year-olds with particular types of messaging in particular types of media has now shifted to marketing towards you directly,” Scheufele said.
Obama won the state with 52.78 percent of the vote, while former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., got 45.94 percent of the vote.