Voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary election was an unofficial 47.4 percent, according to Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (GAB). That exceeded their previous prediction of 40 percent.
Marquette University Political Science Professor Amber Wichowsky said that made for the highest voter turnout in a Wisconsin primary election since 1972.
In Milwaukee County, the Election Commission said turnout was almost 58 percent of registered voters.
“The lines were very long,” said Ashanti McCloud, who voted on the south side of Milwaukee.
Alex Mueller, a senior at Marquette University, said he waited for hours to vote at the polling place on campus.
“I got in line about 9 a.m. and I probably stood in line waiting to register for a good two and a half hours,” he said.
Mueller said he thinks many of his peers were motivated to vote because of the presidential primary race on the ballot. He said that’s why he voted.
“The interest in the election I’ve seen from other people my age is definitely not normal,” Mueller said.
Wichowsky said the increase in voter turnout at the polls was likely due to Wisconsin’s presidential primary being the only one in the country held Tuesday.
She said that meant candidates from both parties focused on the state, with both the Democratic and Republican nominations still up for grabs, and drew interest to the race.
“You had candidates coming to Wisconsin frequently and getting their volunteers out,” Wichowsky said.
She said whether turnout in November’s general election also exceeds expectations will depend largely on who the presidential nominees are.
Wichowsky noted the most recent Marquette Law School Political Poll showed a hypothetical, general election matchup between Sen. Ted Cruz and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a tight one in Wisconsin.
“If that holds, and we get that kind of race, I expect turnout to be up in November,” Wichowsky said.
But she said it would be hard to predict what businessman Donald Trump’s supporters would do if Cruz ends up as the GOP nominee.
“Trump, in some sense, has drawn support from voters who very well could stay home in November if he’s not on the ballot,” Wichowsky said.