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U.S. Midterm Elections: What observers have noticed

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Wisconsin will choose a governor, United States senator and members of Congress and the state Legislature in the midterm election today.

Plenty of attention has been paid to early voting, with the Milwaukee Election Commission reporting that more than 36,000 ballots already have been cast – far more than in the past. A turnout of between 60% to 70% is expected, the commission said before voting began.

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Polls are open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. and voters will find a mix of rain, wind, chilly temperatures and in some regions of the state, snow.

According to Journal Sentinel, there are reports of strong morning turnout from around the state, and in some places people waiting in long lines.

Here’s a look at what observers noticed at the polls.

New voters at UWM

10:37 a.m.

More than 100 student voters have registered so far this morning at UWM’s Sandburg Hall and 300 votes have been cast. Neighborhood residents tend to vote early at this polling site and students vote later.

Milwaukee on track for 65% turnout

10:12 a.m.

Neil Albecht, executive director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, said voting Tuesday morning had gone smoothly without any major issues.

He said the city was on track to see a turnout of about 65% of registered voters, or a total of about 200,000 voters, including 50,000 people who voted in advance.

“I think we’re just where we anticipated that we would be at,” he said at a morning briefing.

One polling place in Riverwest reported 150 voters in the first hour of voting, he said. “That’s really significant and that’s what we’ve been hearing from across the city at our polling sites.”

Albrecht said that if voters are in line when the polls close at 8 p.m. they will be allowed to cast a ballot.

Statewide, the Wisconsin Elections Commission said more than 547,000 absentee ballots have already been returned for this election, breaking a record set in 2014 for a midterm election.

A first vote at the Zeidler building

9:30 a.m.

Kathyrn Barndt turned 18 a few months ago and this is her first time voting. She was with a fellow MIAD student, Ruth Chana-Guerrero, who said: “I usually don’t vote in smaller elections, but it’s time to get in a habit of it.”

About 60 people waited in line to register to vote and then cast their ballots at the Zeidler Municipal Building at 841 N. Broadway St. in Milwaukee.

“The last election was a testament to votes mattering,” said Raina Johnson, who just moved here from Florida. “It obviously made a difference last time, and I hope to make a difference this time.”

A first vote for a 60-year-old

9:15 a.m.

Long line at Wauwatosa library

9:10 a.m.Overheard at the Wauwatosa Library: “This is the longest line I’ve seen in 12 years coming here.”

Strong turnout in Oak Creek

8:57 a.m.

In Oak Creek, 215 people had voted by 8:15 at the National Guard Armory. Among them was Anthony Coleman who said he was most interested in the governor‘s race as well as the election to replace Paul Ryan in the 1st Congressional District and the U.S. Senate race pitting incumbent Tammy Baldwin against challenger Leah Vukmir.

Coleman said the most important issues for him were entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security “as well as moral issues with the standing President.“

Coleman admitted he was surprised to see a question about legalizing marijuana use in Milwaukee County. “Here in Wisconsin I didn’t expect to see that on the ballot so quickly,” said Coleman.

Daniel Hively finished voting around 8:40 a.m. A Libertarian, Hively said he was most interested in economic issues and protection of America’s orders.

“I vote for a smaller government. I think the government is bloated,” said Hively.

He was interested in the Senate and House races in southeastern Wisconsin as well as a school referendum in Oak Creek.

“We need better education,” said Hively, who has lived in Oak Creek for three years. “I grew up in the inner city and went to Milwaukee Public schools where instead of fixing the problem they dumbed everything down.”

Hively said he wrestled with the marijuana referendum.

“Being a Libertarian, what other people want to do with their life doesn’t bother me. Though I worry about smoking marijuana and driving. How would they test for that?” said Hively.

Even before voters headed to the polls on Tuesday, Wisconsin voters didn’t just break the record for absentee ballots submitted during a midterm election – they obliterated it.

According to the Wisconsin Election Commission, more than 547,000 absentee ballots had already been cast. That blows away the previous record, which was 374,294 absentee ballots cast in 2014.

According to multiple media reports, in a midterm election, overall turnout typically ranges from 50 to 55 percent of the voting age population, compared to 65 to 70 percent in a presidential election.

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