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Importance of Local Elections Touted as WI Holds Primary

Wisconsin's presidential primary is still several weeks away, but voters are casting their ballots for local primary races this week. (Adobe Stock)
Wisconsin's presidential primary is still several weeks away, but voters are casting their ballots for local primary races this week. (Adobe Stock)
February 18, 2020

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin voters will head to the polls today (Tuesday) for the spring primary election. They won't be voting for presidential nominees, but they will consider candidates for local office.

Today's primary covers races in several cities for mayor, city council and school boards; some county executive seats are up for grabs, too.

The nominees will then move on to the Apr. 7. election. That's the same day Wisconsin voters will get their say in the presidential primaries.

Reid Magney, public information officer for the Wisconsin Election Commission, said while every person has the right to refuse to take part, the turnout for these elections tends to be lower.

"Turnout in Wisconsin, especially for a spring primary, tends to be low -- maybe 10%, maybe 20% at the very most, of the voting-age population," Magney said.

Many political scientists have long stated that local races can have a more direct impact on a voter's quality of life, but are still largely ignored when compared to state and national races.

In addition to local contests, Wisconsin voters also will consider candidates in a state Supreme Court race. And there will be a primary for the special election to fill the seat in Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District. The general election for that seat will be May 12.

Meanwhile, at a time when election security is a big concern, Magney noted that Wisconsin has taken steps to protect itself from those wanting to disrupt the voting process.

"We have done a great deal of training for local election officials, so they know to do things securely," he explained. "We've put in a number of safeguards to protect the state's voter-registration system."

He said some of those safeguards include adding log-in steps for election clerks to access the system, as well as enhanced monitoring of devices tied to the system.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI