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Dunn County voting turnout spikes

Students vote at the UW-Stout Memorial Student Center Tuesday. Governor's race voting in student-dominated wards spiked 22 percent from 2014 to 2018, according to unofficial Dunn County results.

Dunn County voters turned out in strong numbers Tuesday.

Turnout was at 79.9 percent countywide, said County Clerk Julie Wathke.

It was a 34-percent increase from the 2014 midterm election.

Both Republican and Democrat-leaning Dunn County voters bumped up for the governor’s race — but Democrats had the bigger increase on Tuesday.

Between the 2014 and 2018 governor’s elections, Gov. Scott Walker voters saw a 12 percent increase.

Voters who cast their ballot for the Democrat candidate increased 22 percent.

Those numbers are still unofficial, but will be verified Tuesday at a Board of Canvass meeting.

However, Tuesday’s turnout didn’t quite reach the fervor of 2016. Turnout for this election was just 7 percent lower than in the 2016 presidential election, Wathke said in an email.

In the county seat of Menomonie, governor’s race voting also shot up, said City Clerk Cally Lauersdorf.

Twenty-six percent more Menomonie residents voted in the 2018 governor’s race than in 2014.

“We were up in the city everywhere,” Lauersdorf said.

Early voting within the city also got a healthy bump — it doubled from 2014 to 2018.

“In 2014, we had 512 absentee voting. In this election, we had 1,027,” Lauersdorf said.

With an increase in poll workers, the election went smoothly in the city, Lauersdorf said. The county’s last precincts reported by midnight.

Lauersdorf expected a large turnout, but didn’t know how large of a wave to expect at the polls Tuesday: “For the August primary, most (college) students weren’t here yet, so student wards had low turnout. It was hard to get a feel for turnout with them being gone.”

The county will verify Tuesday’s results at a Board of Canvass meeting 8:30 a.m. Nov. 13 in room 147 of the Dunn County Government Center, 800 Wilson Ave., Menomonie.

Motivating students

Lauersdorf partially credits voter registration efforts and a jump in student voters for the county’s high turnout.

The numbers confirm it: more UW-Stout students came to the polls on Tuesday.

In the governor’s race, voting in city of Menomonie Wards 5 and 7 went up 22 percent.

Those wards “are dominated by UW-Stout students who vote in the Memorial Student Center,” UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer wrote Wednesday in a blog post.

Meyer is pleased with the student turnout, he said.

“A group of students and dedicated faculty members worked tirelessly to increase student voter turnout this year, and it worked,” Meyer wrote.

In those student-dominated wards, the majority cast their ballots against Walker this year — another departure from 2014.

In 2014, Walker got 53.9 percent of the vote in those two student-dominated wards. This year, his support faltered. He got only 31 percent of those wards’ votes, according to unofficial results.

In the blog post, Meyer credited Stout Votes, a nonpartisan student-run organization, for their efforts.

UW-Stout student Madalaine McConville of Augusta, who co-leads Stout Votes, said the group formed in September and put hours of work into registering and informing their fellow students.

“We realized we have a super low voter turnout at Stout, and we needed to help make it more accessible and let students know their voice really does matter,” McConville said.

Around 12 students and several UW-Stout professors are members of the group.

While student housing dominates two wards, it’s likely the increase in student midterm voters was even higher than 22 percent because of wider-spread student housing, McConville said.

“We’ve had countless people from the community and Stout professors say lines were a lot longer than they’d ever seen them,” McConville said.

The junior, studying social science, history and politics, is pleased with the bump in turnout. But the barriers that keep college students from voting — primarily a lack of knowledge about candidates — aren’t going away, McConville said.

“Hearing from people on campus, it’s more not knowing who’s on the ballot and not knowing what their stances are,” she said.

She credits the school for making voting efficient for students: “We move every year, so we have to change our addresses (each time). None of us really know what we have to bring ... but Stout does a really good job providing the two things you need.”

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Dunn County News editor

Sarah Seifert edits and reports for the Dunn County News. Contact her with tips or story ideas at 715-450-1557 or at editor@dunnconnect.com.

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