Did More Than 100,000 Republicans Cross Over to Vote in Democratic Primary?
A closer look at the numbers in Tuesday recall primary indicates that many Republicans cast ballots in Democratic race for governor. If that's true, GOP turnout was much larger than it appears.
There were 614,511 ballots cast in the Republican primary for governor in 2010. That was a contested race between then Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former Congressman Mark Neumann.
Walker, running nearly unopposed in Tuesday’s recall, received 626,538 votes. That’s nearly a 2 percent increase in Republican voters from 2010, despite just token opposition for Walker, and does not include crossover votes of Republicans voting in the Democratic primary (most likely for Kathleen Falk).
To put the Republican turnout in perspective, Walker’s 626,538 vote total was equal to 91.4% of the total votes cast for all of the Democratic candidates and the Democratic protest candidate running as a Republican.
In 2010, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett ran with little opposition from Tim John, but was only able to get 210,921 total votes. Barrett’s total vote in 2010 was equal to only 34% of the total Republican vote in the primary.
So, we can clearly see that statewide Republican voters are very motivated to come out to support their governor.
In Waukesha County, the total number of Republican votes cast for governor in the 2010 primary was 88,705. In 2012, the number of votes cast for Walker was only 79,049 votes. That may help indicate the number of Republicans crossing over in Waukesha County to vote for Falk.
Isaac Weix, the protest candidate for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary, won Waukesha County with 21,622 votes compared to the rest of Democratic candidates’ combined 30,706 votes (Mitchell 17,621, Robins 11,408, scattering 1,677).
If other counties had this kind of crossover voting, the Republican turnout is actually more impressive than the actual Republican votes.
Only 35,087 votes were cast for Democrats (including the 220 for protest candidate Gladys Huber) for governor in Waukesha County, but 52,328 votes were cast for lieutenant governor, a difference of 17,241 votes, and opposite of normal voter behavior (top of ticket usually has more votes cast). If we subtract 17,241 votes from Weix’s total, that leaves 4,381 voters that cast votes in the Democratic primary for governor that also cast votes for Weix, or roughly the number of Republicans that crossed over to vote for Falk.
By the way, that would still mean Waukesha County actually underperformed compared to 2010 by 5,275 votes, contrary to what happened statewide.
In Washington County, we can use the same method to figure out the crossover vote. There were 16,360 votes cast for lieutenant governor, but only 9,893 votes cast for Democrats for governor. Weix, the protest candidate, got 6,769 votes. There were 6,467 more votes cast for lt. governor in the Democratic Primary than for governor. If we subtract that from Weix’s total, we get 302 votes for Weix that also voted for a Democrat for governor, presumably Falk and Huber. So that means it’s likely 302 Republicans crossed over to vote in the Democratic primary for governor.
If we take the method statewide, using the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s reported numbers there were 87,792 more votes cast in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor than in the Democratic primary for governor. Weix received 197,052 votes. If we subtract the 87,792 votes from his total, we learn that 109,260 votes were cast for Weix that also voted for a Democrat for governor. That’s 109,260 crossover Republican votes.
If we were to add the 109,260 Republican crossover votes to Walker’s totals, that would mean 735,798 Republicans turned out to vote, while only 541,018 Democrats turned out to vote.
Of course, it’s just a hypothetical, but it does show just how shocking the Republican turnout in Tuesday’s primary election really was, and which way momentum has swung in the recall battles.
James Wigderson is a Waukesha blogger. This opinion piece first appeared on his blog, "Wigderson Library and Pub."