A citizen takes to the poll to cast her vote in the recall election against Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 5, 2012. Reuters/Darren Hauck
It may not feel like there’s anything positive to make out of the unsuccessful bid to recall Governor Scott Walker in yesterday’s Wisconsin elections, but there were hints of optimism. Young voters and African-American voters did more than their part to show up, according to exit polls and early reports, despite significant efforts to confuse and challenge them from groups that profess to be fighting voter fraud.
In Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s seven-point loss to Walker, voters aged 18–29 increased their slice of the electorate from 15 percent in 2010 to 16 percent yesterday. Black voters came out mob-deep. John Nichols, who’s been covering Wisconsin inside-out for The Nation, reported, “Turnout was up dramatically, so much so that on election day election clerks had to be shifted to predominantly African-American wards.”
This was mainly true in Racine and Milwaukee, where young people and people of color have seen enough murder and lack of educational and economic opportunity to drive them to the polls, recall or not.
“We had several hundred youth out there showing that they are invested in their future, that they do understand the politics of today and that if folks are willing to listen to us we can help create meaningful change,” said the deputy director of the League of Young Voters, Carey Jenkins, who simply goes by “C.J.” He noted that in the last six weeks, League youth knocked on over 110,000 doors. “It felt like 2008 all over again.” A Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel graph shows the shift in youth votes between 2010 and 2012:
(From the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel online)
It wasn’t enough to carry the whole state, which mostly went to Walker. One takeaway from this election, though, is that massive grassroots organizing is no longer the exclusive domain of Democrats and their civil rights and labor allies. The right wing has found ways to go mob-deep in its own way, as evidenced by the presence of the Tea Party group True the Vote, a group that wants their “poll observer” activities to make voters feel like the police are following them.
True the Vote traveled all the way from Texas for this Wisconsin bout, stringing along hundreds if not thousands of poll observers from around the country. It’s worth examining how close they are working with the Republican Party.