Spring voting numbers look encouraging

THE NUMBERS IN THE spring general election voting earlier this month were interesting.

In particular, the voter turnout April 3 was unexpected – in a good sense.

In all, nearly 22,000 votes were cast for county, city, town, village and school positions in Sheboygan County.

That’s a turnout of roughly 36 percent.

Compared to voter turnout for major fall elections, such as the quadrennial presidential election, that’s a much smaller turnout.

However, compared to other spring local elections, it’s an encouraging number.

Turnout for the April election generally falls in the 10 to 20 percent range, so this year’s turnout is significant.

There were some contested races on the April ballot, but not really any more than in the past.

The city of Sheboygan featured the most contested races, as the reduction in the size of the City Council from 16 to 10 members resulted in contests for half of the 10 seats being filled. That naturally created greater interest than usual in the campaign and voting in the county’s largest municipality.

Voters in the city of Sheboygan Falls faced a choice for mayor and one seat on the City Council, along with a referendum to create a dedicated fire truck replacement fund – which voters approved – all of which generated great interest and higher turnout there as well.

In the city of Plymouth, however, there were no contested races to spark interest or high turnout.

There was, however, a $31.9 million school building and improvement referendum for the Plymouth School District that was decided April 3, which may account for the stronger turnout than one would expect with no battles for city positions.

District-wide, voters made the right choice and approved the spending package by a nearly three-to-two margin. That means the district can continue to improve and enhance educational offerings to meet the growing and changing needs of the local economy, as well as increase security at school buildings and expand facilities and services for the entire community.

All of that helps to explain the relatively strong voter turnout.

A hotly-contested race for a seat on the state Supreme Court may have played a factor in turnout as well. Both winner Rebecca Dallet and candidate Michael Screnock drew considerable support and spending in that race.

But the state has seen similarly high-profile, high-spending campaigns for the Supreme Court for a number of years, as the supposedly non-partisan races have become more and more partisan, so that may not have been as big a factor in the higher turnout.

Perhaps voters are becoming more cognizant of the fact that the races decided every April have the most direct impact on their daily lives. Perhaps they are more aware that the people elected in April are the ones who make decisions that have the greatest impact on their day-to-day lives right where they live.

If that’s the case, as it should be, we can only hope that turnout numbers remain in the 20 to 40 percent range in future April elections.

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