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Turnout 7.2% for Wisconsin spring primary
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Turnout 7.2% for Wisconsin spring primary

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Turnout in Wisconsin's spring primary election barely topped 7%, one-tenth of what turnout was just three months ago in the November presidential election.

The only statewide race on Tuesday's ballot was the nonpartisan contest for state superintendent of schools. The race drew little attention in the days leading up to the vote and the low turnout was not a surprise. Election officials had said they expected few voters to cast ballots.

Just shy of 325,000 people voted in the superintendent's race, based on unofficial numbers. That is nearly 7.2% of the voting-age population. Turnout in the presidential election was 72%.

In 2017, the last time there was a state superintendent race, turnout was just 8.3% of the voting-age population in the primary, about 374,000 people. In 2018, when there was a primary for a state Supreme Court seat, turnout hit 12%, or nearly 542,000 people.

Across the country, local officials faced an extraordinary challenge this year: How to allow Americans to cast ballots in the November election without exacerbating the ongoing pandemic or overwhelming the postal system. That meant changing everything from how ballots were collected to how polling places worked. But in Madison, the record voter turnout and quick counting process suggest success. On this episode, Abby and Natalie talk with Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl and Jennifer Haar, a member of the city’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiatives' Core Team, which conducted an equity analysis of the April election, about what worked in November, what’s still left to fix, and what changes may stick post-pandemic.

Jill Underly, superintendent at Pecatonica Area School District, and Deborah Kerr, the former Brown Deer superintendent, advanced from the field of seven candidates in the state superintendent race. They will face each other in the April 6 general election.

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