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Voter turnout was strong in Lincoln County, but not everywhere

Natalie Jablonski

Participation in nonpartisan spring elections is typically low in Wisconsin, with about one out of every five adults casting a ballot.

That number was slightly higher in much of northern Wisconsin on Tuesday.

In Vilas and Oneida counties, about 30 percent of registered voters turned out, and in Lincoln County about 44 percent of registered voters turned in a ballot.

Lincoln County Clerk Chris Marlowe says the higher turnout could be because the county had contested races for everything from school board to county board.

“I think the amount of candidates brings people out,” he says. “The fact that there is a contested race, you know, some people will look through their sample ballot and won’t see a contested race, and then won’t bother going to the polls. Obviously, referendums bring people out too.”

Marlowe says he thinks some people were especially motivated to vote on those referendums because of the current economy.

“I think everyone is struggling to fill their tank right now, or most people are,” he says.

However, not every county in the region experienced stronger than normal turnout.

Vilas County Clerk Dave Alleman says that while some towns had races of particular local interest, overall turnout was low.

That’s a trend Alleman says is typical for a spring election.

“In the 15 years that I’ve been in this office, I have seen over those years turnout decline slightly probably across all elections, and that may have more to do just with voter apathy,” Alleman says.

Both Alleman and Marlowe say absentee voting has dropped off significantly since the beginning of the pandemic.

This story was produced in partnership with Beyond the Headlines, a program of Wisconsin Humanities, and was funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Democracy and the Informed Citizen initiative. BTH brings members of Wisconsin media and the public together to examine how we can be ready and informed to meet our communities’ challenges.

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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