MADISON, WI – As Wisconsin voters spoke Tuesday, the state’s election systems worked with relatively few problems, according to the non-partisan Government Accountability Board.
“This was a relatively event-free election thanks to advance planning and the dedication of Wisconsin’s local election officials, thousands of poll workers and millions of voters,” said Kevin Kennedy, the state’s chief election officer. “Preliminary returns indicate that 49.56 percent of Wisconsin’s voting-age population of 4.37 million people cast their votes, either in-person or by absentee ballot, which is in line with our earlier projection of a 50 percent turnout.”
Reports from polling places Tuesday do indicate some problems with aging voting equipment, Kennedy said. “The optical scanners used to count paper ballots in approximately 90 percent of polling places, many of which have been in use since the early 1990s, are nearing the end of their useful life,” he said.
At some polling places, voters needed help feeding the ballots into the scanners because of variations in the printing of the ballots. There were also some reports of voting machine malfunctions. But these were the exceptions. G.A.B. staff and local clerks stepped in to ensure all ballots were counted.
“I consider it a successful election when most voters have a pleasant experience and remember its outcome rather than any issues at the polling place,” Kennedy said. “Based on the feedback we have received and media reports, this was a successful election.”
“We appreciate the voters’ patience and participation in the democratic process,” said Nat Robinson, administrator of the G.A.B.’s Elections Division. “We also had reports from the field that more electors were informed about their rights and prepared to cast their votes.”
Even though turnout in this off-year election was significantly less than the 69 percent turnout in the 2008 presidential election, 6 percent more voters used the state’s Voter Public Access website (https://vpa.wi.gov) this Election Day to check their registration status, find polling places and review sample ballots. There were 69,885 sessions on Election Day, a new single-day record.
Robinson urged voters to continue using Voter Public Access throughout the year to check their voting history and find contact information for all their elected representatives.
“We started planning for this election two years ago,” Kennedy said. “It was relatively event-free because of the commitment of the G.A.B. staff, the thousands of local election officials and the millions of voters who came out to exercise their franchise. We appreciate the cooperation of other groups with the shared goal of ensuring fair and transparent elections, including the two major political parties, local law enforcement, the Attorney General’s Task Force, and voter advocacy groups. They were all part of a successful election in which voters have confidence in the outcome.”
The preliminary turnout of 49.56 percent was calculated using unofficial returns (3,597 of 3,609 precincts reporting) from the Associated Press, which indicate the greatest number of votes, 2,167,079, were cast in the U.S. Senate race. There are an estimated 4,372,347 eligible voters in Wisconsin in 2010. The official turnout number will not be known until early December, when reports come in from all 2,834 polling places and 3,609 precincts (wards). The turnout number will likely increase because there are still approximately 2,000 military and overseas ballots that have yet to be returned by the November 19 deadline and some voters who did not participate in the U.S. Senate race will be included in the final number of participating electors when their voter history is updated in SVRS.
Reid Magney, public information officer, 608-267-7887