UPDATED: Voter Turnout in Milwaukee Suburbs Climbing Toward 50 Percent
State elections officials predict turnout of 60 percent, but some local election officials say the number could go higher.
State election officials were estimating turnout for Tuesday's election at 60-65 percent, but it appears suburban Milwaukee communities could smash that mark. Patch is compiling anecdotes and voter counts from throughout the area. If you have news to share of high turnout or your experience at the polls today, Tweet us @SEWisconsnPatch or email email@example.com.
Shortly after noon at McKinley Elementary School in Wauwatosa, 600 of 1,340 registered residents in Ward 17 had voted, or 45 percent, the highest figure in a sampling of voting sites.
Shorewood Village Clerk Sherry Grant said turnout was close to 50 percent in the entire village before 2 p.m.
"I think we are going to exceed what the state has been predicting (for voter turnout)," Grant said. "I originally was thinking 70 to 75 percent (turnout), now I'm thinking more than that."
The Whitnall School District meeting room in Greenfield was packed with voters Tuesday afternoon, and it has been all day, said poll worker Denise Collins.
"We've had over 50 percent already," Collins said of Ward 9. "And we've had a lot of new voters, which is good."
At Peace Lutheran Church in Mount Pleasant, voter traffic hadn't let up since 7 a.m. and poll workers didn't have time to eat, said Chief Poll Inspector Jeannie Christiansen.
Washington Park High School senior Nikki Wilson was in line there to register to vote for the first time. She said she didn't mind waiting in line for over 20 minutes in order to cast a ballot, even though she was missing the last two hours of school to do it.
"It's an important election and I want my vote to count," she said.
So why not just come after school? Wilson said she's volunteering at the Racine Labor Center for a get-out-the-vote effort.
In Sussex, Kasey Fluet, the village's assistant development director, was helping Village Clerk Sue Freiheit register voters as they walked in the door. She said the crowd is certainly keeping poll workers busy.
“I’d say we’ve easily registered 150 new voters just today,” Fluet said. “We have about 6,500 registered voters, and that’s just the number for the Village of Sussex.”
And as voters continue to stream into polling sites, they brought their passion along.
“I voted for Scott Walker,” said one Sussex woman. “I’m a Republican, and I think Tom Barrett is a – you fill in the blank.”
Attitudes were the opposite in traditionally liberal Shorewood.
"Walker is a cretin," said voter Kit Vernon. "He has an ultra-conservative point of view and unlike all the media reports that say it's about collective bargaining, it's not. It's about women's issues, it's about the environment and it's about education. I'm somewhat empathic to the unions, but that's not what it's about."
When the polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday at a local elementary school in Port Washington, voters were already waiting outside.
In 10 minutes, the school gym was packed, and there were another 20 people waiting to get into the hallway in this Ozaukee County community, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker took 66 percent of the vote in the 2010 election against Democrat Tom Barrett.
"I've never seen anything like it," said an eight-year veteran poll worker.
Similar scenes could be found throughout the Milwaukee suburbs on Tuesday morning as voters flocked to the polls to cast their ballots in Wisconsin's historic recall election.
State elections officials were predicting voter turnout of between 60 percent and 65 percent, and some local election officials said the numbers could exceed that.
In the GOP stronghold of Waukesha, where Walker won in 2010 with 65 percent of the vote, one election official said early turnout was higher than in the 2008 presidential election.
"At 6:30 we already had our first lady in line,” said Jane Neill, chief inspector at the Waukesha West High School polling location. “And we had a line before we opened at 7.”
Within the first hour of the polls opening at West High School, 306 voters had already cast ballots, which is 10 percent turnout for that location.
Neill said the line to vote stretched to the street very early in the morning, which signaled a massive turnout. She said the line wasn’t even as long that early for the 2008 presidential election.
In nearby Menomonee Falls, also in Waukesha County, voters also showed up before the doors opened at 7.
Although the line wasn't out the door, it did snake around the corridor leading into the community room at the library in this village, where Walker took 69 percent of the vote in 2010.
However, voters didn't stand in place long, as the line was moving steadily. The library was fully staffed with poll workers.
The big turnout wasn't just limited to the GOP strongholds.
In Shorewood, a North Shore Milwaukee County suburb where Barrett took 72 percent of the vote against Walker last time around, three lines of voters were spilling out of the gym of Lake Bluff Elementary School.
At 8:19 a.m., the ballot-counting machine read 314. At 8:34 a.m. it read 375. And the lines actually got longer during those 15 minutes as voters continued to stream into the school.
"We've had good lines from the time the polls opened," said Chief Inspector Catherine Flaherty.
Throughout southeastern Wisconsin, voters interviewed by Patch said this election is too important to miss.
In Brookfield, where Walker topped Barrett by more than 40 percentage points in 2010, Jeff Freisleben, one of the first voters to cast his ballot, said he voted for the incumbent.
"I like that he went into office and did what he said he would do," Freisleben said. "Tom Barrett doesn't have a plan and can't answer the questions when asked."
Amy Hawthorne voted in Wauwatosa, the governor's hometown. She is behind the incumbent.
"I think it's time to have some conservative fiscal policies in our state and in our country, and I think we're running into some serious budget problems that I don't want my children to have to deal with in the future," she said.
Also supporting Walker was high school student and aspiring teacher Emily Sparks, 18, from Greendale.
"I want to see what he is trying to do with his plan on making it better and with me going into it (teaching) I want a fair opportunity to rise in my position," Sparks said. "The way he’s doing is that he’s going about it fairly quickly and I’m kind of nervous about it, but I still trust him and I think he’s doing some of the right things."
In Greenfield, former Milwaukee County worker Jean Zingshein voted for Barrett because she didn't like Walker's budget repair bill that eliminated collective bargaining for most public employees.
"They took away a lot of my benefits and my union," Zingshein said. "That was a big thing for us. That’s the reason I voted for Barrett. I liked my union."
Outside St. Louis Church in Caledonia, resident Ray Kujawa said he voted for Barrett because of what he viewed as dishonesty by Walker.
"The man cannot speak straight," he said, as he stood next to a woman wearing a sticker that said, "I am a senior and my taxes went up this year, Mr. Walker."
For some voters, who are just weary of the drawn out recall campaign and the nonstop barrage of commercials, casting their ballots provided them with a sense of relief.
"It's just glad that it's over. I'm very happy to get this done. What a relief," said Menomonee Falls voter Richard Held, who cast a ballot as soon as the polls opened. "It's a good idea to just get out here early and get it done."
Patch staffers Carl Engelking, Matt Schroeder, Lisa Sink, Viviana Buzo, Denise Lockwood, Jim Price, Andy Ambrosius, Adam McCoy, Heather Asiyanbi, David Cotey and Joe Petrie contributed to this report.