GOP wins in Lake Country
Big GOP turnout not enough to swing state
Lake Country Republican voters delivered big margins for Mitt Romney and Tommy Thompson on Tuesday, but they weren't big enough.
Romney won about 70 percent of the Lake Country vote - higher than Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008 and also wider than the margin by which former President Ronald Reagan won in the region in the 1980s.
Thompson captured about 84 percent of the vote in Lake Country.
Yet Romney lost Wisconsin in his unsuccessful bid to unseat President Barack Obama, and former Gov. Thompson's political comeback was thwarted by Madison Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who became Wisconsin's first woman, and openly gay individual, to be elected to the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) who ranks 14th in seniority in the House of Representatives, was easily elected to his 18th term by defeating Democratic challenger Dave Heaster of Sussex.
Although they lost the top of their ticket, the GOP re-elected all of its incumbent members of Congress and recaptured the majority in the State Senate, which gives them control of state government.
Getting out the vote
The party organization used direct mail, radio ads and robo calls in an effort to squeeze every possible vote out of GOP-rich Lake Country.
In at least two voting districts, the City and Town of Delafield, Republican volunteers were stationed at polling places, reporting to their headquarters lists of voters who had cast ballots so telephone calls could be made to likely GOP voters who had not voted by 3 p.m.
A Town of Lisbon resident reported receiving a telephone call at 7:15 p.m. from a GOP volunteer in Florida reminding the Wisconsin resident to be to sure vote.
Some local election officials expressed surprise at the number of new voters who registered on Election Day. For example, the Village of Sussex registered 474 new voters Tuesday and another 175 during the two weeks leading up to the election.
"I am surprised at the number of new registrations when you consider the amount of people that we registered for the June 5 recall election," said Village Clerk Sue Freiheit.
"Where are all of these people coming from?" asked Nashotah Village Clerk Cynthia Pfeifer.
She noted that, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were about 980 residents in the village of eligible voting age. Yet voter registration exceeded 1,300, including 45 new voters on Tuesday.
But by the end of the day, local election officials were describing the heavy turnout as "typical" for a presidential year.
Although the Village of Pewaukee had the highest turnout - 94 percent, which was about three points higher than 2004 - six other communities also achieved or exceeded 90 percent turnout: the towns Ashippun, Genesee, Ixonia, Lisbon and Oconomowoc and the Village of Nashotah.
Relatively few snafus
The nonpartisan municipal clerks were able to administer the election with relatively few snafus, despite its big turnout and large number of absentee ballots. Some voting equipment in the Town of Merton malfunctioned and had to be replaced.
There was also a hiccup in the Village of Pewaukee, where an error was reported by voter Paul Provinzano at about 9 a.m. because the voting machine's number didn't update after he inserted his ballot. It might have happened again about 10 minutes later, but Village Clerk Nancy Zastrow said she was in communication with both Waukesha County and the Wisconsin Government Accountablity Board about the potential issue.
Zastrow always arranges to have her poll workers hand-count ballots at the end of the day, regardless of any problems, and she assured voters that "every vote will count."
Deputy Clerk Paul Boening said the machines were accurate at the end of the day, which was confirmed by the hand-counts.
There were an unusually large number of ballots where voters "overvoted" in presidential and state legislative races.
Election officials said they could not explain why some voters cast ballots for more than one presidential candidate. In a few cases in the Village of Nashotah, voters wrote Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's name into some state legislative contests, Pfeifer said.
While nearly all of the more than a dozen voters interviewed by Lake Country Publications voiced strong support for Romney and Thompson, particularly on economic issues, it was four Obama-Baldwin voters interviewed who were more in sync with the statewide trend.
"I will be glad to tell you the candidate I am most interested in. It is Obama. I think he is a better candidate. He got us out of a bad economic situation. I think he needs four more years," said Scott Graske as he and his wife, Theresa, arrived at the Summit Village Hall polling place.
"I think he is a much better candidate on women's issues," Theresa Graske added.
The Graskes also said they supported Baldwin because they believed Thompson would represent too many corporate special interests in Washington.
"It is our civic duty to vote, and we are very much supporting Barack Obama," said one man, who, along with his wife, did not want to be identified as they walked out of the City of Delafield polling place at Christ the King Lutheran Church.
"He shares our values," the voter said.
"On national health issues, on women's issues, on gay rights," his wife added.
Women voters in Lake Country appeared sharply divided over the presidential candidates.
One woman in the Town of Delafield - who was wearing a red, white and blue jacket with a stars and stripes design - said she was supporting Romney because "I think it is time that we had a real leader in this country."
Christine Michels of the Village of Dousman and Laura Marek of the City of Delafield both said they disagreed with Romney on some women's issues, but they supported him because of economic positions.
"I would rather have a stable economy," said Marek.
Male voters also weighed in on the economic issues. "I haven't liked the past four years. The job opportunities have not been there. The economy is in terrible shape," said Ken Kruk of the Town of Lisbon.
The tenor of the campaign frustrated Oconomowoc voter Rachel Beatty.
"I think both campaigns have been using scare tactics rather than discussing issues," she said.
"It is unfortunate that national health care and a woman's right to choose have sometimes been on the forefront of the campaigns when there are broader and more important issues that should have been discussed. Women are more concerned about economic issues, but they also are afraid their right to make a choice about their bodies is being threatened," she concluded.
Top stories from the Lake Country area. Tuesday afternoons and Thursday mornings.
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