Voters cast their ballots last November at the Zwingli United Church of Christ in the Dane County community of Paoli. (Photo by Andy Manis/Getty Images)
Voters cast their ballots last November at the Zwingli United Church of Christ in the Dane County community of Paoli. (Photo by Andy Manis/Getty Images)

No “both parties are the same” false equivalency this time. Ballots were cast with fervor for Biden or Trump.

Students at UW-Stout in Menomonie offered different reasons for why they voted Tuesday for President Donald Trump or his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, but they were of one mind in one sense: They strongly supported the candidate of their choice. 

Those voting for Trump said they backed his economic policies and his tax-cut measures. They also said his pro-police stance appealed to them. 

“A lot of what [Trump] has been saying really resonates with me,” said Elliott Nelson, a senior at UW-Stout. “I really like his policies on jobs and taxes.”

Others were critical of Trump’s presidential tenure, saying he has failed to contain COVID-19 and his policies have significantly harmed the environment and relations with US allies. Another four years with Trump as president could prove disastrous, they said. 

UW-Stout student Jourdan Reindl, 22, said the environment and women’s issues motivated her to vote on Tuesday. 

“In today’s political climate, what’s happening in the world makes it way too important not to vote,” she said. 

Whether they backed Democrats or Republicans, students said they noticed more interest on the part of their peers to vote in this election. Many did so via absentee ballot, while others showed up at polling places. 

UW-Stout’s Johnson Fieldhouse was a busy site Tuesday afternoon as students registered and voted. Voting numbers were low in the morning, the site’s chief election officer Laurel Fuhrman said, but that number picked up during the afternoon. 

“It’s been pretty steady in here for a couple hours,” she said shortly after 3 p.m. 

Shift in Power?

Patty Schachtner’s surprise victory in a January 2018 special election for the 10th Senate District traditionally held by a Republican ensured it would be a hotly contested seat in this year’s race for the seat. 

Besides the presidential race, the contest for the 10th between Schachtner (D-Somerset) and her challenger Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) was one of the main attractions for voters in west-central Wisconsin to cast ballots. The race is among the most-watched in the Legislature in Tuesday’s election. 

“Voting in that race, the 10th, that’s right after the race for president in terms of what I’m excited about voting for,” said Garry Dunn, of rural St. Croix County.

Dunn, a Republican, said he supports Stafsholt because of his fiscal policies and “good old conservative stances.” Winning the 10th, composed of three Assembly districts that have been Republican in recent years, could prove challenging for Schachtner to hold onto, he said. 

However, Lorena Wolfe, who lives in rural Pierce County, sees the race differently. Schachtner represents the common-sense values of many of her constituents, Wolfe said, and had been a strong advocate for the region as a lawmaker.

Wolfe said she believes Joe Biden will win Wisconsin, and she believes that success will benefit other Wisconsin Democratic candidates, including Schachtner.

“I think you’re going to see Patty and other Democrats with some wins, and you’re going to see a shift in the balance of power in this state,” Wolfe said.  

The Senate district includes portions of St. Croix, Pierce, Polk, and Burnett counties. 

‘My Vote Shows Minorities Exist’

Kiana Xiong of Green Bay voted for Biden on Tuesday, although she felt conflicted about her choice.

“It’s very hard to know that I’m voting against what some of my family’s beliefs are,” said the Green Bay resident. “Although I do share some beliefs with the Republican Party I just can’t get myself to vote for someone who thrives off of anger—I don’t want to necessarily say evil—but thrives off of people’s rage and off of people’s inability to understand someone else’s point of view.”

It was her first time voting as she had just turned 19.

“It’s pretty exciting, especially because it’s such a big debate, it’s such a big election, and it’s very, very divided,” she said. “I feel that our country right now is very divided. It’s important that you take preventative measures for things that could happen in our country especially with so many people being hurt, so many people being rejected in a sense from our people.”

She also said it was important to her to vote as a Hmong-American. 

“I want to take my vote, use my voice, and make sure that people know that minorities exist,” she said. 

Voting Quick and Easy, Deciding a Little Harder

Pat Bauer of Green Bay said voting on Tuesday was a “piece of cake.”

“In and out,” he said. “It’s funny. My daughter said I’d be in line forever, and actually, I was in and out very quickly.”

Bauer said he didn’t think either candidate was a good choice for president after watching them in the first presidential debate.

“I sat there after, looked at it and said, ‘Boy, this is embarrassing,'” he said. “I was not very impressed with either candidate or how they handled themselves.”

He said he paid more attention to the down-ballot races, which in Green Bay include Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District and State Senate District 30. 

“If we’re going to change what’s happening at the top that starts with the congressional and local elections,” he said. “And it’s hopefully electing good, solid, honest, decent people.” 

Marking 100 Years

Shea Hanson, a mother of six from West Bend, said she was pleased with the voting process on Election Day. She felt safe with the precautions taken, she said.

One of the biggest reasons she participated was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

“This election was very important to me,” she said. “I am a female, and the fact that we are celebrating 100 years of women voting is very near and dear to my heart. I am so thankful to be part of this election honoring those women who fought so hard for us to have 100 years of voting rights.”

Dark Days, Uplifting Moments

Less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump finished up his final Wisconsin campaign rally in Kenosha, the voter registration line at the Kenosha Public Museum was steadily growing late in the afternoon as more and more people got out of work.

Kenosha is a reliably Democratic city, but Kenosha County is regarded as a swing-vote county. One of about two-dozen “pivot counties” in Wisconsin that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, Kenosha County broke for Trump by just 238 votes in 2016.

One voter who registered at the museum, Tony Gonzalez, said it took him 20-30 minutes to register but he was able to quickly cast his ballot after that. 

Gonzalez, a Biden voter, said he is feeling “not too good” about the state of the country but that he thinks he would feel better if Biden ends up winning the election. 

“A little bit reassured, but not completely until changes go in effect for what’s going on,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the police shooting of Jacob Blake and ensuing riots and unrest did not sway his vote. 

Reyes Cruz-Ramirez, another Biden voter at the museum, said it was Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus and its crippling effects on the economy that solidified his vote for Biden, he said.

“It kind of made my decision more [clear],” Cruz-Ramirez said. “I wasn’t against Trump. I was open-minded about it, but after seeing a lot of things, a lot of the race issues, I mean, I kind of… Okay, yeah.”

Whatever happens with the election, Kenosha County will likely be a nail-biter.

“It’s just gonna be one of those nights where everybody’s on edge—a lot of anxiety,” Cruz-Ramirez said.

Whatever the political persuasions of those casting ballots at the museum, they may have all agreed on the need for the little moments of common enjoyment which, for them, came from a three-piece combo bringing what sounded like a little bit of New Orleans from the bed of a pickup truck.