Spring Election: Fervor Vs. Facts

There is a difficult to explain phenomenon that occurred on Wisconsin’s April 3 Spring Election. Clerks in several predominately liberal counties predicted strong turnout with the media spreading their message. But once the polls closed the reported numbers didn’t live up to their projections.

While many point to the spring election as an indicator of doom for November, it’s important to separate fervor with facts. While many clerks were reporting high turnout expectations to the media, many missed the mark. A GOP source shared with Media Trackers the comparison between what clerks were predicting with the actual turnout percentages:

During the day, clerks in liberal-strongholds Madison and Milwaukee predicted record high turnout, while those in Waukesha and Washington County reported solid turnout but were not nearly so prone to exaggeration:
  • Dane County predicts 50% turnout at 11AM on Election Day.
  • City of Milwaukee said it was a “busier” spring than most, turnout would hit high end of the 25%-35% range.
  • Waukesha “hoping” for 25% at midday.
  • Washington county looking “strong.”
Here’s the reality when you look at voting age population vs. ballots cast. In short, the liberal turnout — while high — was completely over-estimated, while conservative turnout actually exceeded what clerks were predicting.
  • Dane County turnout: 32.08%
    • City of Madison turnout: 32.45%
  • Milwaukee County turnout: 18.23%
    • City of Milwaukee turnout: 13.27%
  • Waukesha County turnout: 29.11%
  • Washington County turnout: 28.01%

The media reported the inflated turnout expectations, creating a sense of momentum that might have actually driven more turnout. Every vote counts, and the media was letting liberal strongholds hype — and therefore, potentially,  create — increased enthusiasm which could produce increased turnout.

Media outlets such as Wisconsin Public Radio wrote that Dane County was predicted to “shatter typical turnout numbers for a spring election in a non-presidential election year.” Numerous other reporters took to twitter who fed and spread the overestimation from clerks. Motive and impact of this effort are unclear.

While the over exaggeration from the media and county clerks doesn’t explain Screnock’s loss, it is concerning that the media is over hyping turnout projections in the middle of an election day, whatever the cause of the inflated numbers.