Portage election turnout doubles expectations

April 3, 2019

Turnout at the city of Portage’s polls Tuesday was about twice as high as predicted, according to poll workers.

And, based on questions from voters, one reason for the interest in the spring non-partisan elections was the District 6 Common Council race, in which Kyle Little, 36, and Eric Shimpach, 26, vied to become the youngest of the nine members on the council.

None of the precincts in Portage had returned election results by 9:45 p.m. Tuesday for the Daily Register’s press time.

Rick Dodd was unopposed in his effort to win a second three-year term as mayor.

Council members Mark Hahn and Jeffrey Monfort also were unopposed for re-election, as was Allan Radant, who recently was appointed to fill the unexpired District 1 council seat, vacated when Mary Hamburg moved out of Portage. Radant was required to stand for election after his appointment.

Christine Procknow, a non-partisan volunteer at the city of Portage’s polling place in the lower level of the Municipal Building, said 1,421 people had voted as of 7 p.m., an hour before the polls were scheduled to close. That’s about twice the number city officials had previously predicted, between 600 and 700, she said.

Procknow noted, too, that several voters, upon being presented with their ballots, asked why the ballots didn’t include the names of Shimpach and Little.

“They wanted to know why they couldn’t vote for a person they wanted to vote for,” she said.

The answer, of course, is that only people living in District 6 -- an area bounded on the north by West Wisconsin and Charles streets, including parts of West Conant and West Pleasant streets -- may vote in the District 6 election.

The contest between Little and Shimpach generated numerous letters to the editor in the Portage Daily Register, and yard signs for each candidate were posted on many lawns outside of District 6.

Both Shimpach and Little said they had been knocking on neighbors’ doors since January, and each had visited most residents of District 6, in many cases multiple times.

Both also were regular in attendance not only at Portage Common Council meetings, but also at various city boards, committees and commissions.

The winner of the race will replace Council Member Bill Kutzke, who opted not to seek re-election.