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Midterm voter turnout in Pierce County substantially higher than 2014

Pierce County voters numbered 17,614 in the Nov. 6 midterm election, not including absentee voters, compared to 14,743 four years ago. File photo

Mirroring national enthusiasm, Pierce County voter turnout in 2018 had a sizable growth from the last midterm election in 2014.

In Pierce, there were 17,614 voters, not including absentee voters, compared to 14,743 four years ago. Nationally, voter turnout for a midterm was at historic rates, with roughly 49 percent of eligible voters participating and over 116 million votes cast, according to data from the United States Election Project.

In Pierce County, the turnout, percentage-wise, actually beat the national figure with over 53 percent of the county's estimated 33,056 eligible voters voting.

"I could tell the turnout would be pretty good, prior to the election," said Pierce County Clerk Jamie Feuerhelm. "Municipalities contacted me and said they we're going through a lot more absentees, more like a presidential election than a midterm."

In Prescott, City Administrator Jayne Brand said the turnout, 1,741 voters, was the highest election the city had ever had, presidential or not. About 68 percent of eligible voters in Prescott voted, she said.

"I think it's the political world altogether that causes the voters to come out and vote," she said.

In a bizarre turn, Plum City had the exact same number of midterm votes, 213, this year, compared to last midterm election, said Roxanne Giles, Plum City's clerk.

She said voter registration and absentee ballots were up this year.

There were few reported election day issues, a relief for the county and community officials who often stick around for long, late nights counting ballots.

Brand said Prescott election officials had to stick around until about 10 p.m., driven by sometimes silly write-in candidates — "Mickey Mouse" or the voter's name — that they have to count individually.

Feuerhelm said he usually has to work with town clerks on elections to figure out why there could be mismatched numbers, where the number of ballots outpaces the number of voters. Typically, it's as simple as a misnumbered ballot or counting an ineligible ballot, he said.

"We didn't have that many [issues,] certainly not more than any other election," Feuerhelm said, and noted Pierce officials left the office around midnight — a typical time for elections.

As a state, Wisconsin outpaced the national average, with over 61.2 percent of the eligible voting population participating. Neighboring state Minnesota had the country's highest at over 64 percent.

These figures are outliers — typically national turnout for midterms is near 40 percent, with presidential elections at around 60 percent.

In Pierce County, over 65 percent of the eligible population voted in the last two presidential elections — over 10 percent higher than this year's midterm turnout.