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GOTV Essential to Recall Efforts in Wisconsin

WisPolitics has their final ratings out in the Wisconsin recall elections, and they see it this way: two going to the Democrats, two going to the Republicans, and two toss-ups. One of those Democratic races, the Randy Hopper-Jessica King race, was seen as basically a toss-up in polls yesterday, so it could be that there are three toss-ups, and Democrats need two out of three to take the state Senate.

The outcome will probably be decided by turnout, the big wild-card in these elections. The high interest in the elections nationally and the millions of dollars spent on the race could be a boost to turnout, but at the end of the day you still have a normally unscheduled midsummer election. In general, however, people expect big turnout today:

State Government Accountability Board officials are not releasing turnout projections because of the unusual, difficult-to-predict nature of the election. But people on both sides of the races were predicting healthy turnouts.

Fond du Lac City Clerk Sue Strands estimated an exceedingly high turnout Tuesday of 75% to 80% of registered voters in her area, where Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Empire) faces a challenge from Democrat and former Oshkosh Deputy Mayor Jessica King. Strands said the volume of calls, voter registrations and absentee ballot requests that her office has been receiving is comparable to those in a gubernatorial race.

Wisconsin generally has high turnout, but those are really big numbers. The conventional wisdom would suggest that this benefits those who initiated the recalls, who presumably have a higher level of enthusiasm. But it’s hard to say.

We can say that the get out the vote machine on the Democratic side is absolutely massive, and in a close election, that could make the difference.

Thompson is just one man in an army of volunteers and organizers here in Wisconsin banging on doors, handing out campaign flyers, calling potential voters, and drumming up support in one of the biggest get-out-the-vote drives in recent memory. Officials with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), labor unions, and other left-leaning groups say they never anticipated such an outpouring of energy in an off-year election, in the dead of summer, and in mostly Republican-leaning districts. “We haven’t hit our volunteer numbers like this since the Obama campaign in 2008,” says Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party.

The numbers tell the story. This past weekend, 8,234 people volunteered for the state Democratic Party to support the Democratic challengers in Tuesday’s recalls. Volunteers made contact with nearly 785,000 voters last weekend alone, according to the Dems’ estimates. All told, the party says total voter contacts have surpassed 2 million. We Are Wisconsin, the coalition of labor unions that’s been a powerful force in the recalls, said it knocked on nearly 200,000 doors over the weekend—40 doors a minute statewide—and deployed hundreds of volunteers. “To have mobilized so many ordinary citizens, many of whom have never been involved in politics, to stand up and take their government back from Scott Walker and his enablers in attacking Wisconsin’s working families is nothing short of astounding,” says Kelly Steele, a We Are Wisconsin spokesman.

If today winds up successful for the burgeoning youth/labor/progressive movement in Wisconsin, with victories in state Senate districts that went Republican in the Democratic wave year of 2008, the boots on the ground will have made the difference.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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