Wisconsin Primary Election Turnout Hits 40-Year High

By Christina Lorey

August 15, 2022

Why that’s a big deal and what it could mean for this November.

More than one-quarter of Wisconsin voters cast a ballot in last week’s partisan primary, according to unofficial results from the Associated Press. The 25.8% turnout was the most since 1982, when 26.9% of Wisconsinites voted.

The unofficial numbers may be lower in cases where voters skipped certain races, such as not voting for governor or senate candidates. An estimated 693,000 Republicans voted in the governor’s race, where Tim Michels defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.  Approximately 501,000 Democrats voted in the Senate primary: significantly less than the likely turnout, had Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes not already clinched the nomination after all three of his closest challengers dropped out before Election Day. 

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is expected to publish official results—once they have been canvassed and certified—by the end of the month.

“Tuesday’s primary has left us confident that our clerks can deliver successfully-run elections to their communities and are well-prepared to do so again for the November General Election,” the state’s top election official, Meagan Wolfe, said after the primary.

Why It Matters & What This Could Mean for November

Simply put: Your vote– and ever vote– matters. Wisconsin has become nationally known as the land of cheese and close elections.  Donald Trump won the state by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. President Joe Biden took it back for Democrats by fewer than 21,000 in 2020—when a record 3.2 million Wisconsinites voted.

Higher turnout usually means Democrats win.

Biden received about 250,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton did in 2016, while Trump exceeded his 2016 numbers by only 200,000 votes. (In the end, Biden won Wisconsin by more than 20,600 votes.)

In the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary, which featured a large field of candidates hoping to challenge then-Governor Scott Walker, turnout reached 23%, well-above the primary average of 18.7% turnout reported between 2010 and 2020. 

What’s Next

The biggest races on Wisconsin’s ballot this November feature Gov. Tony Evers and Republican challenger Tim Michels, and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Democrat challenger Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.
Election Day is about 80 days away, but you can register today. Click here to check your status, find your polling place, or learn more about what’s on your ballot.


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.



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