April 5, 2011- Observers are surprised at the high voter turnout in a pivotal Wisconsin state Supreme Court election today in balloting billed as a de facto referendum on GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s fiscal austerity measures.
State officials had expected 20 percent of the voters to show up at the polls, which close at 9 p.m. Eastern time. But sources on the ground in Wisconsin tell Newsmax that turnout is much higher than that — and could be “unprecedented.”
The higher turnout doesn’t help predicting the winner, analysts say. One one hand, it could indicate success for a massive get-out-the-vote campaign among grass-roots conservatives. But if the votes come from heavily Democratic areas, the turnout could favor anti-GOP forces.
Tea party leaders supporting incumbent conservative Justice David Prosser hope to offset the formidable influx of union money and volunteers pouring into the state on behalf of Prosser‘s challenger, Democrat JoAnne Kloppenburg.
If Democrats defeat Prosser, it would give them a 4-3 liberal majority in Wisconsin‘s Supreme Court. That could be a key advantage if legal challenges to Walker’s budget reforms reach the state’s highest court.
A victory for conservatives would show that they can prevail at the polls even in the face of a full-scale mobilization by organized labor designed to prove that politicians who try to constrain public-sector unions will suffer for it at the ballot box.
Mike McCabe, the executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan good-government watchdog, tells Newsmax that he has heard reports that turnout in heavily Democratic Madison is running as high as 60 percent.
High turnout also has been reported in the Milwaukee area, which tends to lean Democratic.
The higher turnout in Madison and Milwaukee appears to be driven by open county executive seats. The open post in Milwaukee, ironically, is the one that Walker vacated when he won election to Wisconsin’s statehouse in November.
Although a heavy turnout in those two cities could be bad news for Prosser, turnout also is said to be high in other areas of the state.