Although nearly 80% of Dane County voters cast a ballot in the November presidential election, local officials are predicting typical low turnout for the upcoming spring election on Tuesday, April 2.
Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl says she has ordered enough ballots for a 30% turnout, and Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell predicts fewer than 25% of eligible voters will turn out countywide.
As of Thursday, 4,781 absentee ballots had been issued to city of Madison voters, says Witzel-Behl. That is fewer ballots than were issued for the February 2012 primary, which was a special election for Dane County Circuit Court Judge. That year, 4,861 absentee ballots were issued and there was 11% turnout.
On Tuesday, Dane County voters will get a chance to weigh in on a number of races as well as a referendum which asks, "Should the state of Wisconsin continue to allow people to register to vote at the polls on Election Day?"
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and McDonell held a news conference Wednesday to urge voters to support the advisory referendum on same-day registration, which has not gotten much attention or coverage in the media.
"I worry that voters will pass over and not notice the same-day voter registration referendum on the ballot," McDonell said in a news release. "It is incredibly important that Dane County voters send a message to the state Capitol that they support access to the ballot box for all Wisconsin voters" added McDonell, who authored the referendum while still a member of the County Board.
State lawmakers have talked recently about eliminating same-day registration, which has been in place since 1976. Critics suggest the move is an attempt by Republicans to suppress voting in urban areas that tend to lean Democratic.
Parisi urged voters in the news release to "send a direct message to the state legislature -- stop trying to make it more difficult for us to vote."
Voters will have to read to the end of the ballot to find the referendum question.
Two statewide races will top the ballot: incumbent State Superintendent Tony Evers faces challenger Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Hartford) for schools superintendent; and Justice Pat Roggensack faces challenger Ed Fallone for Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The race for the Dane County Circuit Court branch 16 judge seat pits attorney Rhonda Lanford against Judge Rebecca St. John, who was appointed to the bench by Gov. Scott Walker last August after Sarah O'Brien retired.
Appellate Judge Paul Lundsten, Madison Municipal Judge Daniel Koval and Parisi will also be on the ballot, but none have challengers.
School board candidate TJ Mertz will look like he has an opponent for Seat 5, even though Sarah Manski dropped out of the race after winning the Feb. 20 primary. According to state law, Manski's name must remain on the ballot.
In two other Madison school board races, former La Follette High School teacher and low-income housing provider Dean Loumos faces retired Madison police lieutenant Wayne Strong for Seat 3; and incumbent James Howard, the current board president, faces Democratic legislative aide Greg Packnett for Seat 4.
See what the school board candidates have to say about several issues facing the district, including the achievement gap, charter and voucher schools and new superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, in Isthmus' annual "Take Home Test" question-and-answer series.
Finally, 12 of the 20 Madison Common Council seats are being contested.