Big Turnout Expected in Wisconsin Recalls
MADISON, Wisc. (CN) - Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is expected to win the Tuesday recall primary for Democrats, setting him up to run head to head against recalled Gov. Scott Walker in the June 5 final election.
The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which runs state elections, predicts turnout of 30 to 35 percent of the voting age population -1.3 to 1.5 million people - a busy day for a special election.
Barrett was the choice of 38 percent of likely Democratic voters in the most recent Marquette University Law School Poll of 705 registered voters, who were quizzed by telephone from April26-29.
In second place among Democrats, 21 percent of the vote, is Kathleen Falk, the former Dane County executive who pledged to veto any budget that does not restore collective bargaining.
Barrett said he supports restoration of collective bargaining rights, but would do so with a standalone bill.
Walker, his lieutenant governor and four state senators, all Republicans, were recalled after Walker pushed though his so-called Budget Repair Bill, which drastically curtailed the rights and powers of public worker's unions.
The Government Accountability Board changed the voting rules from past primaries: voters can split their tickets and vote for Democrats and Republicans, instead of receiving a single party primary ballot.
The six primaries are legally separate, but held the same day and on one ballot. Voters cannot vote in both the Republican and the Democratic primary for governor, but they may split the ticket between a gubernatorial candidate in one party and a state Senate candidate from the other.
Recalled were Gov. Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and state senators from Districts 13, 21, 23 and 29.
The Republicans are running phony Democrats, or spoiler candidates, party officials said, so that all the May 8 races would be primaries, and all the June 8 races determinative. Without an opponent, a Tuesday primary could become a de facto final election.
"Wisconsin has never had a statewide recall primary, which makes predicting turnout difficult," said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the Government Accountability Board.
"We typically look at history for guidance in predicting turnout. In the last few decades, turnout for September partisan primaries has ranged from 9 percent to 25 percent, but we believe turnout will be higher in this primary because of the strong public interest in the recall elections."
Kennedy noted that Wisconsin has hotly contested primaries between several candidates for the Democratic nomination for Governor, as and a smaller Democratic primary field for Lt. Governor. The Republican primary for governor also will bring out voters.
Also running in the Democratic gubernatorial primary are Doug LaFollette, Wisconsin's eight-term Secretary of State. The Marquette poll showed him with 8 percent of the vote. Second-term state Senator Kathleen Vinehout was fourth in the poll with 6 percent.
Nineteen percent of Democratic voters said they were undecided.
In a June election between Barrett and Walker, Barrett leads in the Marquette poll by 1 percentage point, 47-46, among all registered voters, while Walker leads by one percentage point, 48-47, among likely voters. Neither result is statistically significant.
Barrett lost to Walker in the 2010 race for governor, 52-46 percent.
Walker leads former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk 49 percent to 42 percent among registered voters and 49 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, according to the Marquette poll.
Voters said their most important issues are: Create Jobs (46 percent), Defeat Walker (25 percent), Reduce Political Divisions (14 percent), and Restore Collective Bargaining (12 percent).
There are 18 candidates on the ballot: three Democratic candidates hoping to unseat Lt. Gov. Kleefisch, and each of the four Senate districts has two Democratic candidates.
"Wisconsin has gone through great political turmoil since 2011, and the recall primaries and elections are the voters' opportunity to have their say on these issues," said Kevin Kennedy, the state's chief election officer. "We encourage the people to get out and vote."
Wisconsin's Voter ID law will not be in effect for the May 8 recall primary election or the June 5 general election.
The Republican-led legislature passed the law last year. It requires voters to present state-issued photo ID when they cast ballots in federal, state and local elections. Other photo IDs, such as college ID cards and veteran ID cards, cannot be used.
The law was blocked last month by two state appeals courts, who found it an unconstitutional abridgement of the right to vote.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice appealed both decisions, but the state Supreme Court refused to hear the cases.
If Walker loses his seat, he will be the third governor to be ousted by popular vote midterm. Even if he retains it, loss of a single Senate seat could throw control of that house to the Democrats, which would slow down Walker's efforts to remake the state.