Voter turnout in Dane County for last week’s primary election was higher than it was for Wisconsin’s spring election last year, in spite of health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tuesday’s election was held after Gov. Tony Evers attempted to postpone the state’s spring voting by executive order, but was unable to do so after the conservative-leaning Supreme Court overturned his decision.
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Increases in turnout both in Dane County and across the state were attributed to the Democratic primary driving liberal voters to the polls and the casting of an unusually high volume of absentee ballots.
According to a Wisconsin State Journal report, turnout in Dane County was already up 2% with 74% of precincts reporting.
At the statewide level, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. defeated progressive rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has since ended his presidential bid, by a margin of nearly 300,000 votes. In Dane County, Biden beat Sanders by 25,468 votes, according to the County Clerk’s Office.
In conjunction with the Democratic primary, a pivotal state Supreme Court election between conservative-leaning incumbent justice Daniel Kelly and liberal challenger Jill Karofsky served as a rallying point for state Democrats looking to unseat Kelly. Kelly was slated to be the deciding vote on a case which could remove registration for over 200,000 Wisconsin voters.
Karofsky carried 55.3% of the vote statewide and 81.4% of the vote in Dane County.
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In Madison, University of Wisconsin sophomore Elena Haasl beat Jose Rea for the District 5 County Supervisor seat and unopposed UW freshman Max Prestigiacomo was elected District 8 Alder.
Results from Wisconsin’s April 7 election are perhaps most notable, however, because of a spike in absentee voting. More than one million absentee ballots were submitted across the state with 155,195 coming from Dane County.
According to FiveThirtyEight, absentee voting accounted for the majority of ballots submitted.
The results of Wisconsin’s spring election makes the state a focal point of the raging partisan debate regarding the prospect of transitioning to a vote by mail system for the upcoming presidential election, a move which Democrats say will prevent voter disenfranchisement amid a pandemic and Republicans say will lead to voter fraud.
“No one should have to choose between their health and our democracy,” Biden said. “We have to deal now with how we’re going to conduct a full, fair and safe election in November.”