Recapping a 'Strange' Day At Oak Creek Polls
Oak Creek had short lines at the polls and a surprising number of same-day voter registrations, but voted along familiar party lines.
City Clerk Catherine Roeske had one word to describe how things went at Oak Creek polling places when we spoke late Tuesday afternoon:
It certainly seems apt.
West Middle School was the first stop of my day Tuesday shortly before 9 a.m. Much to my surprise, I didn't find long lines of voters waiting to cast their ballot — only about 10 people were in line when I showed up. The chief inspector told me that lines stretched out the door and down a hallway shortly after the polls opened at 7 a.m., but dissipated after that time.
The same story was told at the other five polling places in Oak Creek: a huge early-morning rush, then quiet the rest of the day. It picked up a little in the late afternoon/early evening, but not dramatically so. And certainly not the hours-long wait that normally accompanies a presidential election.
Oak Creek's turnout was 88.6 percent, topping the 86 percent from the 2008 presidential election. So it's not like people didn't vote. One obvious factor that provides some explanation — almost 30 percent of Oak Creek registered voters cast a ballot prior to Election Day.
But that still doesn't entirely explain the short lines. Nor was it the only strange thing about Tuesday in Oak Creek.
The city saw a high number of same-day voter registrations. That normally wouldn't be surprising for a presidential election, but it was in this case because Wisconsin just had a gubernatorial recall election in June when 76 percent of Oak Creek registered voters came out to the polls.
The same-day registrations came from people of all ages. One was a 73-year-old man who told Roeske he was voting in his very first election. Another was a middle-age woman who said she had hadn't registered to vote to avoid jury duty.
At 7:15 p.m., more than 50 people were in line waiting to register at the Oak Creek Community Center. Those who were already registered had no wait whatsoever.
"It seems like a lot of new voters that have never registered before," Roeske said.
One thing that wasn't surprising, however, was how Oak Creek voted.
Mitt Romney and Tommy Thompson easily won the majority of the Oak Creek vote with 54 percent and 53 percent, respectively. After Republican nominee John McCain got just 51 percent of the Oak Creek vote in 2008, Romney's numbers looked more like those of George W. Bush, who got 55 percent in Oak Creek in both 2000 and 2004.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, while he lost his bid for vice president, easily won another term to represent the 1st District and got 58 percent in Oak Creek.
Republican state Rep. Mark Honadel also easily carried the city, getting 62 percent of the vote against Democratic challenger Bill Kurtz and winning re-election to his sixth term in the Legislature.
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All results remain unofficial until certified by the Board of Canvassers.
After six elections this year, any Oak Creek voters said they were just happy to be done with the political campaigns for awhile.
"I'm ready for it to be over," said Jennifer Lawrence as she left voting at Parkway Church. "A little extreme this time."
Jaime Dugan said she tried to keep an open mind as the election progressed, but "I didn't really gain any new insights from the beginning of the election to the end of the election."
And as far as the political ads, "Exhausting. Tedious. Daunting. Emotionally draining."
Joy over the end of political advertising: perhaps the only thing we can all agree on.
— Patch correspondent Samantha Nash contributed to this report.