Tuesday, February 16, 2016

April vs November electorates in Wisconsin- by the numbers

With it being the day of the primaries for the Supreme Court throughout Wisconsin, as well as for the executives in Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee, I wanted to show how the statewide electorates change for these April elections, based on the circumstances and what's on the ballot.

To give you an idea how this is different, let's start with what we think of as a "typical" Wisconsin electorate. Here are a look the top areas for turnout in the last 2 November general elections, and I am going to split the City of Milwaukee off from the rest of Milwaukee County, as it'll give a better illustration of how this stat breaks down.

2014 Governor’s Election
Dane County 10.47%
City of Milwaukee 8.65%
Waukesha Co. 8.43%
Rest of Milw. Co. 6.62%
Brown County 4.16%
Racine County 3.30%
Outagamie Co. 3.11%
Winnebago Co. 2.87%
Washington Co. 2.75%
Rock County 2.42%

2012 Presidential Election
Dane County 9.91%
City of Milwaukee 9.40%
Waukesha Co. 7.95%
Rest of Milw. Co. 6.65%
Brown County 4.20%
Racine County 3.37%
Outagamie Co. 3.08%
Winnebago Co. 2.91%
Kenosha County 2.64%
Rock County 2.63%
(Washington Co. 2.57%)

Notice how the City of Milwaukee’s share steps up in the presidential election year? The higher City of Milwaukee share also seems to eat into the higher proportions both Waukesha and Dane Counties had of the vote in 2014. Also see how dead-red Washington County is diluted and was passed on the turnout list by the bluer Rock and Kenosha Counties in the 2012 presidential election, which went for Democrat Barack Obama by 7%, compared to Scott Walker's 5.7% victory in 2014.

Now, let's take a look at how the dynamic changes with the April Supreme Court elections. I'll start with 2 examples- one involving the higher-turnout 2011 recount election between Joanne Kloppenburg and David Prosser, and last year's lower-turnout easy victory for Ann Walsh Bradley over James Daley.

2011 Supreme Court (high turnout, close election)
Dane County 12.16%
Waukesha Co. 8.34%
City of Milwaukee 8.08%
Rest of Milw. Co. 7.19%
Brown County 4.05%
Racine County 3.39%
Outagamie Co. 2.91%
Washington Co. 2.71%
Winnebago Co. 2.65%
Rock County 2.46%

2015 Supreme Court (low engagement, not close election)
Dane County 12.36%
Waukesha Co. 7.79%
Rest of Milwaukee Co. 6.22%
City of Milwaukee 5.02%
Brown County 4.58%
Racine County 3.53%
Marathon Co. 2.84%
Rock County 2.56%
Outagamie Co. 2.54%
Washington Co. 2.43%

A factor here is the City of Madison having Mayoral elections in both of those years, and Chris Abele getting elected as the executive of Milwaukee County in 2011. Both likely make those areas' figures a bit higher than they usually would be, but it still shows Washington and Racine counties pulling a disproportionately large share of the vote, and Milwaukee's figures nosedived in 2015 with no local race on the docket.

Now I want to throw in is the totals from April 2008, which had a low-turnout Supreme Court race where crooked Michael Gableman won by less than 3% over Louis Butler. and much lighter-contested County Exec and Mayor’s races in Milwaukee. In that election, there were 86,000 votes cast in the City of Milwaukee, and while that is much less than the amount that turned out in either November election, it still resulted in the 414 having an outsized impact on the total statewide numbers in that race.

2008 Supreme Court (low turnout, close election)
City of Milwaukee 10.43%
Rest of Milw. Co. 8.79%
Dane County 8.60%
Waukesha Co. 7.87%
Brown County 3.54%
Racine County 3.42%
Outagamie Co. 2.91%
Washington Co. 2.69%
Winnebago Co. 2.46%
Kenosha County 2.45%

Look at how those Milwaukee figures rise to the top compared to the other races. Also look at the dropoff in Dane County, which has its lowest share of the vote out of all of these elections. It appears that most college students and many others in that area figured their duty was done after voting in huge numbers in the February 2008 presidential primary. The April Supreme Court election had less than half the number of Dane County voters that the February presidential primary did (by comparison, Milwaukee County had a dropoff of less than 40% between the two elections).

The upshot is that while Butler won Dane County with more than 72% of the vote in 2008, because Dane County’s turnout was so low, Gableman was able to slip by. By comparison, I’d be surprised if Dane County’s share slips below 10% in the 2016 Supreme Court race, when presidential primaries also on the ballot, and the City and County of Milwaukee also stand to have higher voter totals. This means that the share of the state’s two largest counties will likely be a lot closer to what we saw in the presidential year of 2012 than the other years where more Republican counties have had a higher share of the state’s voters.

To give you an idea of the amount of extra votes that may be cast in Milwaukee County, take a look at April 2004, where there were contested races for both Mayor and County Executive. Over 160,000 ballots were cast in the City of Milwaukee that day without a presidential primary on the ballot, so I’d estimate that 160,000 as a floor for April 2016 this time.

And that overly large Milwaukee turnout may just be what Joe Donald is counting on, as a Milwaukee County judge that isn’t that well-known in much of the rest of the state when this campaign began. The AM talk radio sheep are going to vote for Rebecca Bradley, and JoAnne Kloppenburg has a decent amount of name recognition from when she was screwed her run for Supreme Court in the aftermath of the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising. But if Donald can get a large amount of votes from a large turnout in Milwaukee County, then perhaps that enables him to not only squeak by in today’s primary, but then be in good shape to win the overall election in a pro-Milwaukee, higher turnout situation.

We’ll see if that gamble pays off for Judge Donald, but what the voter turnout history in Wisconsin does show us is that the turf should be more favorable for any Dem-leaning candidate in this Spring’s Supreme Court race than it usually is for these lower-turnout elections. And that reality might go a long way toward explaining why the right-wing oligarch groups decided to drop so much coin on Ms. Bradley Foundation ahead of today’s vote. They see that their usual Spring election advantage of an overly white WOW County electorate will likely not hold up in 2016, so they figure they must need all the media exposure and dishonest ads that they can throw out there.

The bottom line- VOTE YOU FUCKERS! You know the bad guys will, so you may as well cancel them out.


  1. Did my part for Joe Donald...despite not going very far, hopefully he was some of the votes Bradley didn't get.

    1. I think it's the opposite- the overwhelming majority of Donald votes will go to Kloppenburg, because the RW sheep are the only people voting for Ms. Bradley Foundation. Pretty much all other votes were "Not Bradley", much like how Abele has a similar problem in his race.

      Given that over 55% of the votes were "Not Bradley" yesterday, and a lot of other "Not Bradley/Walker" voters will be jumping in on April 5. Now it's time not to rest, but to drive that reality home, and start the process toward reclaiming our state back