I’ve been saying for a while that turnout would be the X factor in the Wisconsin recall, particularly in the heavily Democratic areas of Madison and Milwaukee. The Government Accountability Board predicted near-Presidential level turnout of around 60-65% a few days ago. But even the preparations made for those numbers have been insufficient:
Heavy turnout in Milwaukee led the city Election Commission to call out the reserves Tuesday.
Extra poll workers were sent to polling places at Becher Terrace, Bradley Tech High School, Keenan Health Center, Morse Middle School, Rufus King International School Middle Years Campus and Cass Street, 53rd Street, Grantosa and Parkview schools, said Sue Edman, the election commission’s executive director.
The backup workers were needed to handle long lines, partly because a significant number of new voters were registering at the polls, Edman said.
“We knew things would be busy, but we didn’t know how busy,” Edman said.
It hasn’t exactly gone smoothly. Because of Wisconsin Republicans jamming through redistricting before the ward lines were done, splits in various districts meant that habitual voters did not have their usual polling place, and they were not listed in the polling books. There’s an additional issue with students being blocked from voting today, because of potential shifts in their residency, from their college to their hometowns.
But at a macro level, big turnout in Milwaukee is precisely what Tom Barrett would need to pull off what would be an upset, given the polling. There was a dropoff of about 90,000 voters in Milwaukee between the 2008 Presidential election and the 2010 gubernatorial election. Barrett won Milwaukee by almost 50 points, so that’s almost entirely votes that he would pick up. Putting them back into the electorate would cause a 2% shift, and if PPP’s last poll is accurate, that would put us into legitimate toss-up territory.
There is exit polling in Wisconsin, so we will have a sense (albeit an imperfect one) of where the electorate is headed by the time the polls close at 8:00pm central time. There are hints that the early exits are showing a battle that will be decided entirely by turnout.
Again, I would consider a Barrett win an upset at this point. But upsets happen. Maybe a silent majority is forming in Wisconsin.
…More updates on turnout, including from the Weekly Standard. As I said, this includes turnout in Republican areas like the Milwaukee suburbs, big-time Walker country. Ultimately, the effect could be muted. We’ll have to see.