John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Election results

So I imagine you’re all wondering how the election turned out yesterday.

From an administrative standpoint, it went very smoothly. I have a well-trained, experienced crew working with me at my polling place, so we had no problem dealing with the new requirements put in place for this election and making sure each voter got the correct one of the three different ballots we had on hand.

Why three ballots? Two reasons. First, my polling place hosts two wards, 18 and 21, so we always have at least two ballots, though they’re usually identical. But the two wards are in different aldermanic districts, only one of which had a primary election this year, so it was particularly important we kept Ward 18 voters from voting in Ward 21 and vice versa. Not that we don’t try to keep that from happening in any election, of course, but in a case like this, given a Ward 18 voter a Ward 21 ballots would have meant denying that voter the opportunity to vote for his or her representative on the Common Council. Further complicating the issue was that part of Ward 21 lies within the boundaries of the Sun Prairie School District, so we needed a second Ward 21 ballot that didn't include the Madison Metropolitan School District primary that was on the other one and the Ward 18 ballot.

(An aside of little interest to anyone but me: the ballots are kept straight by means of header codes, a machine-readable bar code found in the upper right corner of the ballot:

Sample ballot header

What I realized yesterday while sitting at the greeter table staring at the three sample ballots is that the header code is a simple binary bar code. The bottommost bar represents 1; the one above it, 2; and so on in that manner up to 128. So in this sample, where the bars representing 1, 4, and 8 are filled in the header code is 13, just as it says in traditional Arabic digits right next to it. I have to admit, my brain felt very smart when I figured that out.)

We were assisted in keeping things running smoothly by the Madison City Clerk's office, which thoroughly trains its election workers and has developed a set of very sound practices for running elections, and by the voting populace, which stayed home in droves. We ended the day having handed out 167 ballots in the two wards combined — a 7.65% turnout, approximately. Ward 18 had a slightly higher turnout rate than Ward 21, 8.3% to 7.0%, but both were well below the city average of 11.1%. It's not that hard to keep things running smoothly when you're averaging fewer than 13 voters an hour. But it's also not that hard to close the polling place and get home when the turnout is that small, which counts for a lot when you've already been there for 14 hours and you're on your 7th election in 12 months. The polls closed at 8:00 PM; we were out of there by 9:00 PM, and I had dropped off the results tapes at the Clerk's Office and was on my way home by 9:30 PM. Back in November 2012, I didn't get home until after 1:00 AM.

As far as the results were concerned, all the candidates I voted for advanced to the general, though only one received the most votes in his race. Luckily, it was the one I was most interested in: the 15th Aldermanic District race, where I was personally acquainted (by way of being an election official, coincidentally) with one of the candidates. And there was one result that puzzled me: Ward 18, which like the City of Madison in general leans reliably left, gave a plurality of its votes in the Supreme Court primary to the conservative candidate. It was probably just a matter of name recognition — the Club for Growth is already running a lot of ads for her, whereas the other candidates advertised lightly if at all — but on the other hand, Ward 21 didn't do likewise, and moreover Ward 18 did the same thing in the 2011 Supreme Court primary. It's generally true that Republican turnout is higher in primary and off-year elections than Democratic, but the Republican turnout in Madison so small that I can't imagine that making very much of a difference.

So on to the general election on April 2! And then, no more elections for the 10 months. How heavenly that sounds.
Tags: elections, politics, wisconsin: madison

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