Milwaukee County voter turnout plummets in 2022 compared to 2018

While Milwaukee County had 9,000 more registered voters - it had about 46,000 fewer votes.
milwaukee voting
Posted at 4:05 PM, Nov 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-09 18:26:57-05

MILWAUKEE — Initial numbers indicate voters in the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee did not show up to the polls in big numbers on Nov. 8. That's despite strong efforts by a variety of groups and volunteers, to get city residents to vote in the midterm elections.

On Twitter, John D. Johnson, a research fellow at the Marquette Law School Lubar Center, reported Tuesday that voter turnout in Milwaukee dipped below 2018 election levels.

In contrast, Johnson said Dane County voters cast more votes for Evers in 2022, than they did for President Barack Obama in 2016 and 2020.

“I’m surprised Milwaukee voters didn’t show up more,” said Milwaukee resident and UWM graduate, Joe Joe Scott. “I made sure to vote. It seemed like this year there was an even greater push to make sure people were making plans to vote. I got a lot of text messages and phone calls.”

“It’s very frustrating and disappointing,” said Daniel Gutierrez, who volunteered to help get out the vote.

Gutierrez believes that amid all the political advertisements, and noise leading up to the election, the message itself was lost.

“Despite all the talk, I feel like a lot of people did not know what was at stake in this election,” he said.

“I think right now there’s great distrust in the overall government,” Scott said. “I know many black men in our city feel like the political process is sort of a lost cause, full of empty promises. If you haven’t seen change after previous elections, your community is still underserved, and you don’t feel like you’re ever being heard, I can understand why some people of color feel like voting doesn’t really matter.”

The question is how we work to change that.

“I think this is a learning point for future elections,” Gutierrez said. “What do we need to do differently? How can we really reach people in a different way.”

Milwaukee County elections: Breaking down the numbers

Milwaukee County Clerk George Christensen tells TMJ4 News that during the 2022 election, voter turnout was recorded at 68 percent. That's compared to in 2018, when voter turnout was at 79 percent.

In 2022, Milwaukee County had 510,015 registered voters and 350,905 ballots cast. In 2018, the county had 501,143 registered voters and 397,189 ballots cast, according to Christensen. So while the county had 9,000 more registered voters - it had about 46,000 fewer votes.

Now let's think back to 2018. Wisconsin Democrats dominated statewide races, unseating two-term Gov. Scott Walker and holding onto Tammy Baldwin's U.S. Senate seat and three seats in the U.S. House. Republicans maintained control of the State Assembly and State Senate, however, and kept five seats in the U.S. House.

Just a handful of votes can make or break a campaign in Wisconsin, as many of you were reminded again and again by the election advertisements.

Close races characterized Wisconsin since at least 2016, and the 2022 midterms were no exception.

TMJ4's Charles Benson pointed out the "30,000-foot view" of Tuesday's election, writing on Twitter that in the last four elections (2016, 2018, 2020, 2022), a statewide race was decided by fewer than 30,000 votes.

These are the rounded vote totals the winners won by in their respective election years:

  • 2016 - Donald Trump - 23,000 votes
  • 2018 - Tony Evers - 29,000 votes
  • 2020 - Joe Biden - 21,000 votes
  • 2022 - Ron Johnson - 27,000 votes

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