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As I See It

Find a way to wake up sleepy primaries



One week from today voters in Wisconsin will head to the polls. Actually, most people won’t bother to vote next Tuesday, as is the case with most primary elections. Turnout in primary elections tends to fall between 15 and 30 percent. That means less than one third of the state’s eligible voters are deciding which candidates advance to the general election. Maybe that is because of the way primary elections are conducted in Wisconsin. Like many states, Wisconsin’s primary elections are considered closed elections, meaning there is no crossover voting. Voters can only choose from among Republican or Democrat candidates, but not both. The theory is that a democrat shouldn’t be able to vote for the other party’s weakest candidate, in hopes of getting enough votes to sideline the opposition’s top opponent. But if I want to vote for a democrat for Governor, but a Republican for sheriff, why shouldn’t I be able? Some states allow open voting in the primaries, or hold what are called “Top Two” elections, in which all candidates run on the same ballot regardless of party affiliation. Other states use a voting system that requires candidates to gather at least fifty percent of the vote to advance, often requiring voters to choose their top five candidates for each race. Wisconsin should consider adopting one of these methods of voting to encourage voter participation. Because clearly what we’re doing now isn’t getting voters excited enough to head to the polls in primary elections.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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