Friday, April 1, 2016

What to look for in turnout for Tuesday's primary

Before Tuesday's primary, I wanted to see if we should expect any differences in turnout from a typical election in Wisconsin. So I looked at the numbers from the last time there were contested races in both parties (2008), and looked into whether it would be fitting for what we may see on Tuesday.

As a base, let's use the 2014 governor's election, not just due to recency, but also because that election had a turnout slightly above the 40% predicted by the GOP.

top 10 counties, 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%

Now jumping back to the 2008 priamry race, the Democratic Primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was still heavily contested and received much more attention than the Republican Primary, where John McCain had become the clear front-runner at this point. This is reflected in the Dems getting nearly 3/4 of the 2008 primary turnout.

2008 presidential primary
DEM TOTAL VOTES 1,113,753 (73.1%)
GOP TOTAL VOTES 410,607 (26.9%)
TOTAL VOTES 1,524,360

This pattern of "following the heat" translated over into more Wisconsinites voting in the Democratic Primary throughout the state- even in the 262 GOP Bubble-world of Waukesha County, where approximately 60% of the votes went to the Dem race (surprised? I was too). But the Dem strongholds of Dane County and the City of Milwaukee still got a larger piece of the pie compared to the typical election.

Dem top 10 counties
Dane County 12.69%
City of Milwaukee 11.27%
Rest of Milw Co. 7.41%
Waukesha Co. 6.49%
Brown County 3.93%
Racine County 3.35%
Rock County 2.78%
Outagamie Co. 2.78%
Winnebago Co. 2.73%
Kenosha County 2.73%

But just because a sizable amount of Waukesha County voters crossed over to vote in the Dem race, a lot of them still stayed on the GOP side, giving them a disproportionate share of power in that race. You will also see Dane County and the City of Milwaukee (especially) made up a much smaller part of this electorate, and the eastern half of the state played an even bigger role than it does in a general election.

GOP top 10 counties
Waukesha Co. 10.98%
Rest of Milw Co. 10.07%
Dane County 5.99%
Brown County 4.30%
Racine County 3.52%
Washington Co. 3.37%
Outagamie Co. 3.30%
Winnebago Co. 3.19%
Sheboygan Co. 2.62%
Kenosha County 2.56%
(City of Milwaukee 1.63%)

Stretching it out to the overall numbers, you'll see that the City and County of Milwaukee had slightly more pull in 2008's primary than they did in last year's election for governor, which makes sense, given that 2008 was also the same date as local election primaries for Mayor and County Executive, along with Common Council and County Board races in those areas. It seems logical that we'd see that pattern repeat on Tuesday, especially with a heated County Exec race between Chris Abele and Chris Larson. Let's also see if the attention given to the GOP race by the Ted Cruz supporters on AM radio gooses up turnout in the 262 area code. A major indicator is if Washington County slips into the top 10 list in turnout, as it has in Walker's winning elections, but doesn't in presidential-level turnout.

top 10 total turnout, 2008 presidential primary
Dane County 10.89%
City of Milwaukee 9.43%
Waukesha Co. 7.70%
Rest of Milw. Co. 7.37%
Brown County 4.03%
Racine County 3.40%
Outagamie Co. 2.92%
Winnebago Co. 2.86%
Kenosha County 2.68%
Rock County 2.59%

Obviously, this will translate over into the State Supreme Court race between Kloppenburg and Bradley, which areas turn out will probably speak volumes over who wins. There's no doubt Sanders thinks he can get a large turnout in Dane County to help boost him to victory, and increase the amount of delegates he might get in a win. Bernie's coming back to the Madison for the 3rd time on Sunday, with a major rally at the 17,000 seat Kohl Center on the UW campus (and if Kloppenburg's folks have a clue, they should be there as well). These vote total lists should tell you why this is happening, and why paying attention to where people are turning out may be the biggest indicator of who will do well on Tuesday, even beyond exit polling.

UPDATE- The Wisconsin GAB indicates that there have been about twice as many early votes than there was in the (albeit lower-turnout) April 2012 presidential primary.
With early voting wrapping up Friday and mailed absentee ballots coming in for the April 5 Presidential Preference Primary and Spring Election, more than 172,000 absentee ballots have been issued so far, according to the Government Accountability Board.

Of the 172,194 ballots recorded as being issued through Thursday morning, there have been 87,244 early ballots issued in-person in clerks’ offices. Those ballots are stored securely and then counted on Election Day at the polls or an alternate location.
However, there's no indication where the votes were coming from. I'm waiting till election morning, but feel free to drop by your city/county clerk's office if you got time today!


  1. Jake, I saw the Waukesha Co Clerk saying they're expecting 80% turnout and prepping for 100% turnout. This got me worried and thinking back to 2011 Prosser-Kloppenburg with the mysterious open bags of ballots showing up 2 days late. What do you think? Am I being overly paranoid? Threw this up on DK, hoping to maybe turn out a few more election observers in the 262:

    1. I also read that article. Something VERY fishy in that statement, and given how corrupt we know the GOP to be in the 262, I think you have every right to be suspicious.

      If the DPW had balls, they'd be demanding the president and others head to Waukesha and Washington County polling places to make sure there are actually that many voters, and that there aren't pre-marked ballots hanging out in the back closet for "just such an emergency."

    2. Here's an update from the GAB on absentee/early ballots returned. Over 225,000, with a huge number in....Waukesha County. Dane and Milwaukee also have high numbers, but Waukesha's is disproportionately high.

      Keep an eye on this tomorrow.