Wisconsin voters turned out Tuesday to cast their ballots in the Republican presidential primary election and decide a bevy of local races.
Despite the state's presidential primary, Madison-area clerks said that voter turnout on Tuesday appeared to be falling short of estimates. Clerks said that they expected a larger turnout on Tuesday because of politically charged atmosphere in Wisconsin in the last two years. However, initial estimates find the number of voters disappointing. They believe turnout is lower than the last presidential primary in 2008.
Despite the turnout, there were several countywide and local races on the ballot for people to decide.
In the Dane County Circuit Court judicial race for Branch 11, challenger Ellen Berz defeated incumbent Judge Roger Allen. Berz, a state public defender and adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, had 46,781 votes, 55 percent of the vote, with 189 of 193 precincts reporting. Allen, who was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker, had 37,785 votes, or 45 percent of the vote.
Dane County voters also decided more than a dozen Board of Supervisors races. In District 2, Heidi Wegleitner defeated Adam Plotkin with 83 percent of the vote. In District 3, Nick Zweifel had 1,442 votes, defeating Hariah Hutkowski, who had 1,066 votes. Leland Pan won over John Magnino with 55 percent to claim the District 5 seat. In District 7, incumbent Matt Veldran had 66 percent of the vote, defeating Jon Snowden. Incumbent Paul Rusk held on to his District 12 seat, defeating Rick Raulin with 70 percent of the vote. Incumbent Ronn Ferrell had 56 percent of the vote, beating Susan Bailey for the District 15 seat. For District 17, Jeff Pertl bested Donald Imhoff with 68 percent of the vote. Maureen McCarville defeated Terri Kelso with 1,425 votes to 1,055 votes in District 22. In District 25, Tim Kiefer won a close race against Brian Raemisch, with 1,416 votes to Raemisch's 1,364 votes. In District 30, incumbent Patrick Downing had 57 percent of the vote, fending off challenger Mary Jane Anderson. Jerry Bollig beat Roe Parker in District 31 with 55 percent of the vote. Erika Hotchkiss defeated incumbent Mike Willett in District 32 with 1,725 votes to Willett's 1,569 votes. In District 33, Jenni Dye defeated incumbent Jack Martz with 55 percent of the vote. Incumbent Patrick Miles held onto his seat in District 34 with 54 percent of the vote, beating Sandy Bakk. In District 35, Carl Chenoweth had 53 percent of the vote, defeating Paul Lawrence.
A majority of Dane County voters also backed an advisory referendum that referred to the collective bargaining debate that dominated the state Capitol most of last year. More than 65,000, or 68 percent of voters, said yes to the question, "Should all Wisconsin workers have the right to seek safe working conditions and fair pay through collective bargaining?" Thirty-two percent, or 31,171 voted against the measure. County Executive Joe Parisi authorized the referendum late last year.
In Madison, voters weighed in on the future of the Madison's schools. In the race for two seats on the Madison Metropolitan School Board of Education, School Board President Arlene Silveria was reelected by a 65 percent margin over rival Nichelle Nichols while Mary Burke won a spot over Michael Flores, 61 percent to 39 percent. (Read more)
In Baraboo, the city's Economic Development Commission member Mike Palm won a term as the new mayor. Palm captured 1,412 votes, or 65 percent, over Alder Michael Plautz, who received 770 votes, or 35 percent. Plautz represents District 3 and his term expires next year. Current Mayor Patrick Liston didn't seek another term and endorsed Palm during the campaign.
Two school referenda in Pardeeville were approved by voters. One measure asked to exceed levy limits to spend $925,000 for two years and passed 58 percent to 42 percent. The second question sought to spend $1 million on maintenance and technology and was passed 62 percent to 38 percent.
Voters in Beloit backed a $70 million referendum for the Beloit School District. The district wanted to spend the money on renovating nine buildings, including six schools. About 2,888, or 53 percent of voters, cast a "yes" vote for the referendum versus 2,543, or 47 percent, who voted against. It's estimated that the average Beloit homeowner would see taxes go up nearly $70.
Also in Rock County, voters in the Parkview School District strongly backed a $5 million referendum. The district plans to close two schools, and it wanted to build a new elementary school. About 1,053 people voted in favor of the question, or 76 percent, while 339, or 24 percent, voted it down. Taxes for a home valued at $100,000 would increase about $117.
Some Voting Problems Reported
Some election workers in some Wisconsin municipalities were wrestling with absentee ballot problems. Workers in Milwaukee, Madison and Sun Prairie grappled with absentee ballots that were too wide to fit into recording machines.
Election officials said printing companies cut the ballots too wide. Workers caught the problem before the election and had other companies produce right-sized ballots, but the change came too late for some absentee voters. Workers had to copy votes from the ill-sized ballots onto properly sized ones.
Workers in six Portage County municipalities had to copy some absentee votes onto new ballots, too, after a printing company put the wrong computer codes on ballots. Workers caught and fixed the problem before the election but not before some absentee ballots went out.
State elections officials have received almost no reports of problems related to the suspended state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.
Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney said there were reports from one polling place in Fitchburg that voters were erroneously asked to show IDs during Tuesday's primary. Magney said no other similar reports came into the GAB.
The photo ID requirement was in effect for the February primary. But since then two judges put the law on hold, saying it was unconstitutional.
The state Supreme Court is considering whether to take up the case. But it did not make a decision, or issue a ruling, before Tuesday's primary meaning no photo ID was needed to vote.
Stay tuned to WISC-TV and Channel 3000 for continuing coverage.