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Northern Wisconsin sees high voter turnout as voters express concerns about the economy

Erin Gottsacker

Polling locations near Rhinelander saw a steady stream of voters this Election Day, with several local clerks saying they anticipate turnout to surpass the last midterm election in 2018.

Among those turning out to vote were many new voters registering to vote in Wisconsin for the first time.

“We’ve had someone at voter registration all day long today,” said Rhinelander City Clerk Austyn Zarda.

One of those first-time voters is Isaac Freeman. The issue motivating him to cast his first ballot is the economy.

“Put it this way, I’m in college full time, 40 hours a week,” he said. “And then I have to work when it’s pitch black afterwards, so I’m limited and can only pull about $275 a week. It’s really rough with the way gas is, the way food is. It’s terrible.”

Freeman is not alone in this concern.

Polls from Marquette University Law School consistently showed inflation to be the top concern among Wisconsin voters ahead of the midterm election.

That resonated with people leaving the polls, including another voter, Randy Naug.

“My savings is gone,” Naug said. “I had quite a good savings and my wife is handicap, so that put a really big strain on us. Something’s got to be done.”

But inflation and high prices at the pump were far from the only reasons people cited for turning out to the polls.

Social security, voting rights, climate change and access to reproductive health care all came up.

Arlene Maiuro, for example, said she votes in every election, but she’s especially worried now about abortion access.

“I need there to be safety for my kids, that if they’re raped or hurt or whatever reason they need to have a procedure, that they could have that,” she said. “I had that option when I was growing up and they won’t have that, and that’s terrifying to me.”

Nearly everyone leaving the polls though, no matter their age or party affiliation, did have one thing in common. They said they wanted to have a voice in the future of this democracy.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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