Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The Wisconsin Primary - Polling Day

The second post in my three-part series on the Primaries here in Wisconsin comes as voters across the state head to the polling booths to select their Presidential nominees and local representatives.

On the ground in Milwaukee, the only campaigns visible as we walk around are those of Senator Bernie Sanders and local Alderman Bob Bauman. A volunteer for the latter was stood right across the street from where we are staying, and revels in telling me about the representative's local work after we approach him: "I know him personally", he says, "he's a real good man who gets things done". He does a lot for students as well, I'm assured, which is why the Alderman is standing once more to represent the student-dominated 4th district.

It's in this district where the Sanders campaign too is campaigning hard. Right in front of the University Library I find a campaign volunteer from Michigan. He's adorned from above-head to toe in Sanders attire, prompting one student to pose for a picture with him (which I gladly took).

He tells me that they're campaigning here to make sure the students get out vote, telling me "the most important thing is getting students out to vote, many of them don't know actually what they have to do". Changes in local voter registration rules in Wisconsin mean voters now have to bring photo-ID in order to be presented with a ballot card. A deeply unpopular move which critics say will confound turnout issues in both the student and socio-economically deprived communities.

Our volunteer however is confident of "an easy win" in the area, a feeling shared by a second volunteer who comes to join us as we chat. She tells me she's "shifted around 120 voting cards" while at her station, and has come back for more. The interest in their literature is not surprising given the number of students passing us wearing Sanders badges and pledging their support. Predictably, Sanders seems to be sweeping up the student vote here.

As I move up past the student bubble and further North into an African American majority neighbourhood, gone are the candidates and campaign teams who are replaced by rows upon rows of signs. Interestingly, they are almost exclusively for local and Supreme Court candidates. On this straw 'sign' poll, Alderman Bauman seems very popular. The only Presidential signs present in the neighbourhood were a handful for Sanders and a five-house cul-de-sac which seemed to be the local hub for Ted Cruz fans. People here seem to be very happy openly backing their local candidates, but keeping tight lipped about their Presidential choices.

Across the City, from downtown to the suburban neighbourhoods, there was a constant stream of voters coming in and out all of the polling booths we visited. An early estimate had turnout in Milwaukee up 600% on the last round of Primaries in the state, and it was evident that there was a certain buzz about the contests around today.

Both the Sanders and Cruz camps are becoming increasingly confident of victory. Both candidates are still here today too, campaigning until polls shut at 8pm. On today's evidence that I've seen, Sanders' campaign team will have much to be cheerful about in central Milwaukee. But Milwaukee is just one city in a large state, where many different battlegrounds will decide the outcome of this important step in the Presidential race.

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