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Monday, May 20, 2024
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A student votes in the Wisconsin primary elections at Memorial Union on April 2, 2024.

What to know about Wisconsin’s spring election results

Wisconsinites approved two constitutional amendments and selected presidential candidates in the state’s Spring primary election.

Wisconsin voters approved two constitutional amendments and voted in partisan primaries for 2024 presidential candidates during Tuesday's spring elections. 

The state's two largest counties, Milwaukee and Dane, both saw a voter turnout of 34%, according to preliminary data. Dane County’s turnout was lower than the 64% percent turnout in 2023’s spring election and 54% in 2020’s presidential preference election, both of which featured a state Supreme Court race. 

Wisconsin has proven to be a crucial state for presidential candidates in previous elections. President Joe Biden won the battleground state by a thin margin of around 20,000 votes in 2020, while former President Donald Trump secured the state by around 23,000 votes in 2016.

Voters will now see a rematch between these two candidates in the November presidential election. 

Here’s what you need to know about results from the April 2 Wisconsin primary election:

Two statewide referendums on elections rules passed 

Voters on Tuesday approved two referendum questions that altered Wisconsin’s constitution and made changes to state elections rules. 

The first question, which asked voters to prevent use of private funds for administering state level elections, passed with 54.4% of the statewide vote. The second question, which asked voters to limit who is involved in the voting process, passed with a slightly higher 57.9% of the statewide vote. Both questions were placed on the ballot by Republican lawmakers

The questions, which supporters say aim to protect the Wisconsin election integrity from outside influences, will immediately go into effect for future elections, including the partisan primary election this August and the presidential election this November. 

For question two, the major concentrations of “no” votes came from the counties of Eau Claire with 50%, Milwaukee with 50% and Dane with 69%. These are also areas home to large college student populations with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison. Rural counties, such as Taylor and Rusk in northwestern Wisconsin, voted overwhelmingly yes with 71% and 72%. 

The first referendum question follows a 2020 controversy over election grants provided to some Wisconsin cities from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. The group donated $6.8 million in grant money to Wisconsin’s five largest cities to help facilitate 2020 presidential election operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Republicans in the state Legislature said these dollars, which some referred to as “Zuckerbucks,” went to “left-leaning cities” and illegally benefited Biden, though rulings from state courts and the Wisconsin Elections Commission later determined the grants were accepted legally. 

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A bill passed the Legislature in 2021 preventing cities from taking grants from private organizations but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, leading to the questions appearing on the ballot. 

Proponents of the measures included Sen. Eric Wimberger, R-Green Bay, and Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva. Other conservative organizations including Election Integrity for Wisconsin, law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and Wisconsin Voter Alliance also encouraged voters to support the measures. 

State Democrats along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin (ACLU), Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and All Voting is Local Action Wisconsin opposed the measures and encouraged voters to vote no. 

Biden, Trump declared primary winners, but ‘uninstructed’ lingers behind  

Biden and Trump were declared the winners of their respective primaries. 

With nearly all votes counted as of 12:57 p.m. Wednesday, Biden received 510,447 votes to Trump’s 475,363. 

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley garnered 12.8% of the Republican vote, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis trailed with 3.3%, despite both previously dropping out of the race. 

The “uninstructed” vote trailed Biden in the Democratic primary as part of a recent movement to protest against Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war. 

Over 48,000 Wisconsin voters, or 8.3%, chose the “uninstructed delegate” option as of 12:57 p.m. Wednesday, more than double the 20,682-vote margin Biden won Wisconsin by in 2020. However, no uninstructed delegates will be sent to the Democratic National Convention because Wisconsin requires uninstructed delegations earn at least 15% of the statewide vote to receive delegates.

On the Republican ballot, there were comparatively 12,900  uninstructed votes.

In Dane County, Biden secured roughly 83% of the Democratic vote while the “uninstructed delegation” received 14.5%. 

The “uninstructed delegation” vote reached 12% in Milwaukee and Vernon counties. 

In Racine County, 20% of the total vote went to former Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips, who ended his campaign in March. 

Both presidential candidates scheduled visits to Wisconsin within a week of the presidential primary. Trump visited Green Bay on Tuesday to endorse Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde, and Biden will stop in Madison on Monday to tout lowering inflation. 

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Gabriella Hartlaub

Gabriella Hartlaub is an arts editor for the Daily Cardinal. She also reports state politics and life & style stories. Follow her on Twitter at @gabihartlaub.

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