Top state election officials said Monday they expect the Wisconsin State Primary Election to have a much lower turnout than the 2020 presidential election but that it should be on par with past February spring primary elections.
The only statewide race on the ballot for next Tuesday is the primary election for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, for which seven candidates are competing for the position.
As the State Superintendent’s office is nonpartisan, all seven candidates will run against each other on Feb. 16. The two candidates with the most votes will then advance to the Spring General Election on Apr. 6.
Other noteworthy races on the ballot include special elections for Senate District 13 and Assembly District 89, as well as 101 elections for municipal offices across the state.
Senate District 13 was vacated by former Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) after he was elected to represent Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District last November. Assembly District 89 was also left vacant after Republican John Nygren resigned last December for a career in the private sector. The winner of the Democratic and Republican primaries in each district will face off against each other in the April general elections.
In Madison, the Feb. 16 election will also feature an alderperson election for City Council District 8, where the majority of constituents are UW-Madison students. The race will not feature an incumbent, as Ald. Max Prestigiacomo reached out to the UW BlPOC Coalition to fill his seat instead of running for a second one-year term.
The candidates for District 8 are UW BIPOC Coalition founder Juliana Bennett and Impact Demand organizer Ayomi Obuseh. Both candidates are current UW students and activists who have emphasized the disproportionate effects Madison’s issues have had on people of color during their campaigns.
The WEC also announced their report on the November 2020 General Elections Monday, which found Wisconsin had minimal issues and a record turnout of over 72 percent — an almost 10 percent increase from the 2016 presidential election.
“Thousands of election officials across the state worked countless nights and weekends to deliver a well-administered election, despite the challenges of an ongoing pandemic, a battle against election misinformation and a heightened level of scrutiny which often unfairly villainized them for simply doing their jobs,” WEC administrator Meagan Wolfe said. “They deserve our gratitude.”
Despite the success of the November elections, Wolfe stressed that there is still room improvement, especially regarding absentee ballots.
“The massive increase in by-mail absentee voting this year revealed public confusion about the process and differing opinions about previously obscure statutory provisions,” Wolfe said. “The concerns expressed by many residents after the election suggest election officials should continue to seek greater transparency, simplicity and clarity in election processes. Sharing data openly, as we do with this report, is one step toward that goal.”
Absentee voting is once again popular this election season. As of Monday, 304,698 absentee ballots had been requested, and 38,104 of those had been returned. The Wisconsin Elections Commission recommended in a press conference Monday that all absentee voters return their completed ballots as soon as possible, as all ballots must be received by 8:00 P.M. on election day.
For those wishing to vote in-person, early voting will be available until Feb. 13 in Madison at polling sites across the city. All residents can vote on election day starting at 7:00 a.m. and ending when polls close at 8:00 p.m. If you vote in-person, you must be registered to vote at your current address and present an acceptable photo ID at your polling site.
Tyler Katzenberger is the managing editor at The Daily Cardinal. As a former state news editor, he covered numerous protests and wrote state politics, healthcare, business and in-depth stories. Follow him on Twitter at @tk_kutz.