Primary election turnout low, much different come November

Many factors at play when determining turnout for general election

As expected, voter turnout on primary election day was low.

Tuesday’s primary saw incumbents such as Jennifer Shilling and Paul Ryan winning by wide margins.

According to the La Crosse County Clerk’s Office, only about 17 percent of registered voters participated in this election, but they expect that number to be much higher come November.

Tuesday’s election was a quiet one at the polls.

“I think their attention is more focused on the presidential election already, and it kind of gets overlooked,” Ginny Dankmeyer, La Crosse County Clerk, said.
But come November, experts said the voting booths will be a lot more busy.

“It is the highest type of turnout election we have,” Joe Heim, a UW-La Crosse political science professor, said. “People want to vote for the president. For whatever reason, the number one thing in most people’s minds. He’s the leader of the free world, he’s the leader of the free world. So he or she, will, in fact, take on a very powerful position.”

However Heim said this year’s unusual presidential election could impact turnout.

“The outsiders. The dissident people. They showed up for Trump. They showed up for Bernie Sanders. Will they show up in the fall to increase the turnout? Or, will people say, ‘I’ve really had enough of this. I’m kind of tired of politics I don’t like Trump, or I don’t like Hillary Clinton, so they’re going to stay home.’ That would lower the turnout,” Heim said.

Heim also said local elections will also be key in driving up turnout.

“You’ve got, for example, Kapanke-Shilling, it looks like a real strong contest, it’s going to draw people out,” Heim said. “Same for the Feingold-Johnson race. If those two races ended up very one-sided, and sometimes it shows up in polls, people tend to say, ‘This is already decided. I’ll stay home.’ So competition in competitive races will increase turnout.”

So whether the turnout is 20 or 60 percent come November, voting booths will be ready, regardless.

“I think November, things will still go smoothly, but our phones will be ringing off the hook calling of where to go vote, because of more people going to vote,” Dankmeyer said.

Heim said redistricting, or a practice known as “Gerrymandering” is also playing a big role on turnout.

The practice is when voting districts are drawn-up due to political interests, leading to less competitive races.

The general election is November 8th.