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RACINE COUNTY, WI — Thousands of people headed to the polls Tuesday night in what appeared to be an unprecedented midterm election turnout that reflected a deep divide politically, culturally and economically.

The divide also reflected a deep frustration with both parties, with some telling the Racine County Eye that they used to vote for all Democrats, but now they voted for both parties. Others said they used to vote for all Republicans, but now they vote for all Democrats.

Nothing seemed the same for some Racine County voters. And for others, voting became a right of passage.

Jermaine Weatherspoon Sr. brought his son, Jermaine Weatherspoon Jr., to vote for the first time at Festival Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

For them, voting became a vehicle to send Republicans a strong message of non-support. They preferred that women have the right to choose whether they wanted an abortion. They preferred to have an acknowledgment of their cultural reality as Black men.

“My dad explained to me who the right people are to vote for, that support our culture,” Weatherspoon Jr. said.

A member of the NAACP, Weatherspoon Sr. felt strongly about voting for someone that understood the significance of Juneteenth. This holiday commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. When Congress passed a bill that made Juneteenth a national holiday and Johnson opposed it, Weatherspoon took note.

“That kind of rubbed me the wrong way because that should be a national holiday, it’s our emancipation day, and it’s our July 4,” Weatherspoon Sr. said. “Why would you force us to celebrate the 4th of July when we were still slaves then? That wasn’t independence for our culture.”

By about 5:30 p.m., about 611 people had cast their ballots at Festival Hall in Downtown Racine. But this did not include any absentee ballots. Those votes were being counted in a central location at Racine City Hall.

But for Weatherspoon Sr., going to the polls wasn’t enough. He had to ensure that at least two or three others got to the polls.

“I told my son, ‘This is your right; you got the right to power now,'” Weatherspoon Sr. said.

Higher turnout reported in some Racine wards

Some Racine wards that notoriously had a low turnout saw numbers skyrocket.

Credit: Denise Lockwood

Bonnie Harlan, the chief election officer for the Tyler-Domer Community Center, said she was surprised by the number of people who showed up to vote. Typically they have about 100 to 150 people show up to the polls, but this year they had 683 people vote by about 6:30 p.m.

Sharon D., who did not want us to use her last name, said she used to vote only for Democrats but no more. This year, she voted for both parties. Sharon pointed to Milwaukee’s housing issues, the streets’ condition and drugs. She also wants to see reform around policing.

“I had to pick through it,” she said. “I don’t want to say who I voted for, but I know I’m happy with the current situation in Wisconsin.”

Sharon did share that she voted for Gov. Tony Evers primarily because she wants to see if Evers and the State Legislature can come to terms on abortion. While she feels people should have the right to choose, she doesn’t think women should be able to terminate a pregnancy in their third trimester.

Still, the economy was better two years ago, Sharon said. That’s why she voted for people in both parties.

“People emphasized how they hated Trump. But to me, that wasn’t a problem,” she said. “The problem for me, when I go to the grocery store, I’m paying $22 for chicken wings, $14 for some chicken legs, and beef – hamburger meet – $32. So for two years back, I don’t care what they said, we were not paying this.

“I think if they stopped making Americans suffer, it would be better,” she said.

Healthcare and abortion dominant drivers for some voters

In Mount Pleasant, about 2,200 people of the 3,192 registered voters had cast a ballot by about 7:30 p.m. Those numbers didn’t include all the absentee ballots, as staff processed them throughout the evening. Early in the morning, the voting machines were down at 7:30 a.m. due to issues with the voting machines.

Credit: Denise Lockwood

Jamie Vranak, a nurse, cast her ballot at about 7:45 p.m. But this wasn’t the first time she had been at the polling location. She initially showed up Tuesday ready to vote but said she couldn’t wait in line for 40 minutes because of the issues with the machines. So she came back.

She said she focused her voting decisions on healthcare.

“How people feel about the issues I care about are more important to me than a political party,” Vranak said. “Also, a big thing to me… is how people behave on social media. If someone is uncivil and never talks about what they are doing to make it better, I have no interest in putting them back into office.”

Lawrence Smith, of Mount Pleasant, said he would like to see Wisconsin legalize marijuana, that women’s rights were huge, and he felt religion had too much of an influence on the country.

“I don’t think the Democrats are all that great, but I’m not a real big fan of the Republicans either,” Smith said. “I was a diehard Republican for years. But I’m a business owner, and I was all into tax deductions and all that. But I got away from that.

Smith voted for Romney and Obama. But what became the final wedge was Trump.

“He was a grifter, and I wasn’t interested in anything he had to say,” he said.

Why did you vote for the people you voted for? Tell us in the comments section.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.