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Columbia County’s primary turnout at 22%

August 17, 2018

A dearth of local races didn’t keep Columbia County voters away from the polls for Tuesday’s primary.

County Clerk Susan Moll thinks the turnout might be a record-setting, compared to other even-year primary elections in the last decade.

Twenty-two percent of Columbia County’s 44,216 eligible voters, and almost one-third of its 30,772 registered voters, cast ballots. That’s a total of 9,765 voters who either showed up Tuesday at one of Columbia County’s 40 precincts, or cast absentee ballots.

By comparison, turnouts in past partisan primaries amounted to 19 percent of eligible voters in 2012, 14 percent in 2014 and 13 percent in 2016.

Moll said slow early turnouts prompted her to anticipate a showing of between 14 and 15 percent of eligible voters.

“I was pleasantly surprised that it was higher than I thought,” she said.

None of the election’s results will be official until after the canvass, which starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Moll noted the canvass originally was scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, but one of the precincts did not have the necessary documents, and state law allows the official count to be made as late as Tuesday.

Democrats dominated the turnout.

Almost 60 percent of the primary ballots cast in Columbia County were on the Democratic ticket, where there were eight candidates vying for the party’s gubernatorial nomination. Republican primary voters accounted for 39 percent of the ballots, with the remaining 1 percent casting ballots in other parties, such as Green and Libertarian.

Moll said the totals represent not only the voters who marked a party on the ballot, but also those who did not mark a party but followed the rules and cast votes in only one party.

If a voter marked a party, but cast at least one vote on another party’s ballot, then only the votes cast in the marked party’s ballot would count, according to Moll.

If a voter marked no party and voted in more than one party, she said, Columbia County’s vote tabulating machines would automatically offer the voter a new ballot and an opportunity to mark the ballot for just one party. Any voter who rejected that option and submitted the incorrectly-marked ballot anyway would have no votes counted.

The eventual Democratic nominee for governor, Department of Public Instruction Secretary Tony Evers, made a strong showing in Columbia County, garnering 2,440 votes, or 42 percent, according to unofficial counts.

None of the other Democratic gubernatorial candidates had a quadruple-digit vote count in Columbia County. Madison Mayor Paul Soglin got 844 votes to finish second, followed by Kelda Helen Roys with 696, Mahlon Mitchell with 651, Kathleen Vinehout with 412 and Mike McCabe with 334.

For the Republicans, the race that garnered the most interest was for the right to oppose Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin in her quest for a second six-year term.

The nomination went to state Senate Assistant Majority Leader Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, who led the five-candidate field statewide – but she didn’t carry Columbia County.

Kevin Nicholson, who touted his military experience with his campaign slogan “Send in the Marine,” got 1,789 votes, or 49 percent, in Columbia County’s Republican senatorial primary, with Vukmir finishing second with 1,312, or a little more than 34 percent.

There were races of local interest on the ballot, but none of them was contested.

Rep. Jon Plumer, R-Lodi, is running for the District 42 Assembly seat, encompassing a large portion of Columbia County, which he won in a special election two months ago. But he was unopposed on the Republican ballot, and his Democratic opponent for the Nov. 6 election, Ann Groves Lloyd of Lodi, also was alone on her party’s primary ballot.

Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, had no opposition on the Democratic primary ticket for the District 81 Assembly seat, whose area includes the city of Portage. And no Republican is running for the District 81 seat.

For Columbia County’s constitutional offices, incumbent Susan Raimer was unopposed in the Republican primary for clerk of court, as was Roger Brandner, who is alone in running to succeed retiring Sheriff Dennis Richards.

Among 35 municipalities, the town of Leeds in southern Columbia County had the highest turnout – 30 percent of its 636 eligible voters and 39 percent of its 490 registered voters.

Bringing up the rear was the city of Portage, where just 15 percent of the 8,067 eligible voters and 29 percent of the 4,059 registered voters cast a primary ballot.

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