Milwaukee dems take stock of 40,000 'vanishing voters'

Posted at 10:30 PM, Jan 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-19 23:55:39-05

MILWAUKEE -- As Donald Trump prepares to take the presidential oath of office, some Milwaukee Democrats are taking a hard look at an election they expected to win.

They are also searching for some 40,000 voters from Democratic strongholds who decided to sit this election out.

That includes Milwaukee voter Jasmine Wright.

When a presidential election rolls around, Wright says she is a dependable voter and a dependable vote for the Democrats.

"Oh, yeah. I was out for Obama. The whole hope idea, getting to a better place. But that dream surely sailed," she said from the front porch of her home on the city's west side.

After casting a ballot in the last two presidential elections, Wright decided to sit 2016 out. She believed neither Trump nor Clinton were worthy of her vote.

"Even if we vote for you, you're not addressing us, the little people, you're moreso addressing the big man and not the little one," she said.

Wright is one of 41,006 Milwaukee voters who cast a ballot in 2012 but vanished for 2016.

That drove down turnout all over the city, with 307 of 328 wards reporting fewer voters than four years ago.

So where did those voters go?

The I-TEAM looked at voter records from the last three presidential elections to get some answers.

We focused on two wards that saw drop offs of about 40 percent, the 111th and 145th. We then talked with more than 20 voters in those wards, like Jasmine Wright.

Like the man on North 26th St. in Ward 111, who said he decided not to vote because "whatever happens is gonna happen." Though he is "not happy with the outcome."

A woman one block over on North 27th Street said she "never voted until the first black president," though this time around -- she stayed home. Her choice was "none of the above."

On his path to victory, Trump won Wisconsin by 22,478 votes.

In the history of statewide elections, that is by no means a big win. But it was enough to earn Trump Wisconsin's ten electoral votes.

At a victory rally last month in Pennsylvania, Trump credited some of his win to democratic apathy.

That includes many African-American voters who came out for Barack Obama, but stayed home for Hillary Clinton.

"They didn't come out to vote for Hillary. They didn't come out. So thank you to the African-American community," Trump told his cheering supporters.

The biggest drop-off came from the heart of Milwaukee's black community, in an area that includes most of Russell Stamper's 15th aldermanic district.

From Locust to Vliet, from highway 43 to 41... Turnout was down 38% from 2012.

The heart of the city's African-American community rallied for Obama, but sat on its hands for Clinton.

Stamper puts that on Clinton -- who did not visit Wisconsin once during the campaign.

"If you want somebody's vote, you have to ask. And I don't know the degree those candidates asked for those people's votes," Stamper said.

If there is a lesson here, it's that black votes matter. Jasmine Wright said that's something candidates need to realize, along with all the voters who stayed home.

"If we, the minority, would have got out, yeah, I don't think [Trump] would have got very far," she said.

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