Politics
6:31 am
Tue June 5, 2012

Small margin, big turnout expected in Wisconsin vote

Both sides of the recall election targeting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are prepared for a razor-thin margin as the Republican tries to become the first U.S. governor to successfully fend off a recall effort.

Also targeted in today’s voting are Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and majority control of the state Senate.

A record turnout -- estimated as high as 65 percent of registered voters – is expected. Polls opened at 7 a.m., and voting continues until 8 p.m.

Today's election pits Walker against Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The brief but bruising campaign is a rematch of the 2010 governor's race in which Walker defeated Barrett by 5 percentage points. The effort has shattered state campaign spending records and further divided an already polarized state.

Surveys suggest the overwhelming majority of voters already have made up their minds about their vote. And with polling showing Walker ahead but within the margin of error, both sides agree turnout is key.

The state's Government Accountability Board is predicting 60 to 65 percent of Wisconsin's voting-age population, or about 2.6 million to 2.8 million people, will cast ballots today. That would make it the highest turnout for a gubernatorial election in 50 years.

Under Wisconsin law, unregistered voters can register at the polls and vote the same day, which could swell the turnout.

Walker says he's focused on turning out voters who have supported him in taking on public-employee unions. Barrett is seeking to capitalize on the anger over Walker's conservative agenda that began building almost as soon as he took office in January 2011.

Kleefisch, the first lieutenant governor in U.S. history to face a recall election, is facing Democrat Mahlon Mitchell, a firefighter and union leader. Kleefisch didn't play a prominent role in Walker’s controversy, but she was caught up in the same outrage as Walker's second-in-command.

Kleefisch says she's helped Walker create jobs. But Mitchell accuses Kleefisch of being just a rubber stamp for Walker's policies.

With the state Senate currently split 16-16, Democrats are hoping voters oust at least one of four GOP incumbents who are facing recall. If Democrats gain the majority, they won't be able to do much with it. The Legislature isn't expected to convene until January, and they'd have to defend their seats in November.