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Voters Turn Out In Record Numbers in Wisconsin's Open Primary

Author: Greg Parker
Created: 06 April, 2016
Updated: 16 October, 2022
2 min read

The voter turnout in the Wisconsin primaries Tuesday surpassed expectations and broke records. Around 1.1 million voters turned out in the Republican primary while 1 million showed up on the Democratic side. It was the highest primary turnout in the state in decades.

The 49% voter turnout smashed the 40% projection made by the Government Accountability Board, even beating the 47.7% turnout of 1972 when George McGovern (D) and Richard Nixon (R) won their respective primaries.

The only state with a higher voter turnout so far this election cycle is New Hampshire, an open primary state where 52.4% of the eligible voting population showed up. The average turnout among the other primary states so far is about 29%. Caucus states such as Iowa and Utah tend to bring out a much lower percentage of voters, averaging at about 13% of the eligible population.

Independent voters played a large role in breaking the state’s turnout records. Thanks to the state’s open primary system, registered voters who weren’t affiliated with a party were still able to cast a ballot for their preferred presidential candidate.

The results in Wisconsin's open primaries provide a striking contrast to those of the closed primaries in Arizona two weeks ago, where only 20.2% of the voting population was counted. Thousands of independents went to the polls assuming they could vote for one of the main party candidates, but most of them were forced to cast a provisional ballot because they weren’t registered as Republican or Democrat.

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan said that most of the provisional ballots would not actually be counted. The public’s response to Arizona’s mess of a primary was so outspoken that Governor Doug Ducey came out in support of open presidential primaries.

“One way we can fix things is to simplify them,” Gov. Ducey said in a statement. “That means allowing independents to vote in presidential primaries, just as they vote in all other Arizona primaries.”

Open primaries in states like Wisconsin and New Hampshire have proven to bring out larger numbers of voters and ultimately foster a more representative nomination process.

Photo Source: AP