Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay: How Wisconsin’s biggest cities could impact the vote

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s choice in the 2020 election could depend on the way some of the bigger cities in the state choose to vote.

“Wisconsin’s odd in that a lot of the population is already sort of baked into the vote,” said Philip Chen, an assistant professor of political science at Beloit College. “So it’s these smaller centers that are going to be sort of potentially the point that tips the state.”

Chen said Green Bay and Appleton are a key piece of that — a true battleground when many places have historically already been spoken for.

Charlotte Goska, a co-leader of the Coalition of Voting Organizations, or COVO, Brown County, takes that seriously as she and her colleagues help educate people and get them registered to vote.

“We just see a lot of confusion out there,” she said, “people not knowing even who to ask for questions.”

COVO has had to make changes, such as creating a website for the first time, to reach people during the pandemic, but Goska said the goal remains the same as years before.

“You just hope that on Nov. 4 we did everything we could do to reach as many voters as we could and make sure everyone who wanted to vote was able to vote,” she said. “That’s my ultimate goal.”

Turnout in Goska’s area of Wisconsin plays a different role than in other parts.

Democrats and Republicans expect Madison to go blue, same with Milwaukee. The difference in these places is how many Democrats turn out, especially coming off an election when so many stayed home and not just because of a candidate.

“A significant number of people stayed home because of the new voter identification laws that went into effect in 2016,” Chen said. “So we can’t just, it can’t be purely a campaign-based story. It also has to be a legal framework story and a voter rights story.”

BLOC, or Black Leaders Organizing Communities, formed after the 2016 election to help get the north side of Milwaukee, which had large numbers not vote, more engaged in all levels of politics. Before the pandemic that meant knocking on doors, and since the organization has updated its approach, using Facebook events to educate voters on how to make their voices heard.

The organization’s efforts to increase turnout in this area of the city could play a role in the way the state leans.

“Increased turnout in Milwaukee County, the city of Milwaukee is probably a bad sign for the Trump campaign,” Chen said.