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Money, Photo ID, Negativity: Factors in the WI Primary?

What factors may have influenced Wisconsin's primary election? A political scientist has some thoughts. (CharlieAJA/
What factors may have influenced Wisconsin's primary election? A political scientist has some thoughts. (CharlieAJA/
April 7, 2016

OSHKOSH, Wis. - Wisconsin's primary election brought well over 2 million voters to the polls, representing a turnout of more than 47 percent, exceeding the predictions by a large margin.

It was the highest Wisconsin primary turnout since 1972. Millions and millions of dollars were spent on ads to influence voters in the Presidential primary and in the statewide race for state Supreme Court.

Most of the ads were negative, according to UW-Oshkosh political science professor David Siemers, who believes that the average voter is so turned off by negative ads they really don't have a big impact.

"A lot of people aren't even seeing the commercials any more," says Siemers. "What the predominant factor is, is how many people turned out on the Republican side to vote, and how many people turned out on the Democratic side to vote. It looks like there were significantly more Republicans who turned out."

Figures from the election show that of the 2.1 million people who voted in the primary, about a million of them voted for Democratic candidates, and about 1.1 million voted for Republicans.

Progressives in the state believe the requirement for photo ID in the primary election limited the number of people who actually voted, while supporters of the more restrictive voting rules say the new law had little effect.

Progressives estimate the new voting laws kept between 180,000 and 300,000 Wisconsinites from voting.

Because of the more stringent ID requirement, observers say lines at some polling places were more than two hours long, which some say caused people to turn around and go home without voting.

Siemers says political analysis is a data-driven profession, and more study is needed to determine the impact of the new laws.

"There are anecdotal pieces of information about people waiting long times in various polling places," he says. "And if someone wants to do the research on that to figure out where that happened and why that happened and what we can do to limit waiting times and that sort of thing, that would be helpful."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI