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Tuesday, September 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 50.0° F  Overcast
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Recall election turnout in Madison, by the numbers
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Total voter turnout for the city was at 73% of pre-registered voters, with 120,739 people casting votes.
Total voter turnout for the city was at 73% of pre-registered voters, with 120,739 people casting votes.
Credit:Carolyn Fath

Honors for the highest turnout in Madison go to Ward 70, which votes at the Bridge-Lakepoint-Waunona Community Center polling location, where 106% of pre-registered voters showed up to vote in Tuesday's recall elections. How do you have a turnout number exceeding 100%? By having a lot of voters who register on Election Day, explains Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl.

In the case of this south side ward, 951 voters were pre-registered, but 1,017 cast a ballot. Witzel-Behl attributes the high turnout to the number of voters who registered Tuesday at the polling place: 177. Democratic gubernatorial challenger Tom Barrett received nearly four times as many votes there as did incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker: 790 to 219.

Ward 3, which votes at City Church off Cottage Grove Road, also broke 100% turnout, with 868 voters casting ballots for a 102% turnout. Voters cast 602 votes for Barrett, 267 for Walker.

Witzel-Behl says some polling places were swamped Tuesday with same-day registrations. State GOP lawmakers pushed this year to eliminate this option, but the measure did not advance.

On the other end of the scale, Gordon Commons, which serves mostly students living in UW-Madison dorms, drew just 7% of 3,987 registered voters, as many are gone for the summer. Two hundred votes here went for Barrett; 96 for Walker.

Total voter turnout for the city was at 73% of pre-registered voters, with 120,739 people casting votes. It's a high number, but not the 119% being predicted around 5 p.m. Tuesday after early heavy voting during the day. What happened? "People voted earlier than they typically do," says Witzel-Behl.

Still the numbers are higher than in 2010, when Walker first prevailed over Barrett; that year, 67% of registered voters (109,671) went to the polls.

For the 2008 presidential election, 81% of voters, or 141,456 voters, turned out to vote in the energized environment that saw Barack Obama become the nation's first African American commander-in-chief.

Witzel-Behl had planned for high turnout for the recall election. In fact, she ordered enough ballots for 100% turnout -- 158,690 ballots. But some polling places reported Tuesday afternoon that they were running low so the clerk's office quickly printed another 5,000 ballots and distributed them to the polls. Witzel-Behl says not all the ballots ended up being used, though.

The clerk's office is still accepting and counting absentee ballots, as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday and are received by Friday. In all 16,681 absentee ballots were issued and as of Wednesday 1,844 were outstanding. But Witzel-Behl says a "full tote" of absentee ballots had arrived that day in the mail and were waiting to be counted.

Early absentee voting at the counter was especially brisk for the recall election. In less than two weeks, 9,152 ballots were cast; in 2010, over the course of four weeks, 11,377 were processed.

Turnout in the city of Madison was higher than in Dane County overall, where 66% of registered voters cast a ballot, an 8-point increase from 2010.

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