Voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary for town supervisor in Lac du Flambeau, as it was elsewhere in Vilas County and the state, was very low.
The fact that it was a primary with just one statewide race on the ballot – that being for Wisconsin State Supreme Court – played a large part in the low turnout.
The other factor, Lac du Flambeau town clerk Nancy Edwards said, is the time of year.
Lac du Flambeau has 2,415 registered voters. Of those, 226 voted.
“We were told that everyone would average about 10 percent,” she said. “That’s (the 226) 10 percent.”
There were 392 total votes cast in the primary for Lac du Flambeau town supervisor, which had five candidates and needed to be dropped to four in preparation for April’s general election.
Edwards said voters were allowed to vote for two in the town primary.
Ginger Schwanebeck, one of two incumbents running for re-election and the top vote-getter in the town primary with 139 votes, said she is very grateful for those who voted for her.
As a former town clerk, she agreed the low turnout under the circumstances wasn’t unusual.
“I was the town clerk for 22 years before Nancy [Edwards] and this is a very, very typical voter turnout for a primary election, especially with so little on the ballot,” she said. “I’m not at all concerned about the turnout and I know in April it will be bigger but obviously, it’s not going to be the same as for a presidential [election] or something with a lot more items on the ballot. This is a very typical turnout.”
In one of his responses to questions posed to the candidates by The Lakeland Times and published in the Feb. 15 edition, the primary’s third place finisher with 89 votes, Bryan Hoover, had mentioned the length of the town board’s regular meetings being an average of five minutes.
“I think that it is very unfortunate that currently, the average town board meeting only lasts about five minutes,” Hoover wrote. “The existing town leadership does not possess the motivation or passion to truly take advantage of the opportunity they have been given, do something extra beyond the normal routine, and properly serve the community and the people who elected them.”
Schwanebeck, again recalling her years as town clerk, said that’s been the case as long as she can remember.
“We typically don’t have a lot on the agenda,” she said. “If people are accustomed to the tribal agendas, they’re very lengthy and their meetings last a long time ... they have a lot of issues that come before them and we really don’t.”
Schwanebeck said if the board has someone who’s coming to speak to the board or dealing with an issue with which a number of residents might be interested, then the meetings last longer.
“We don’t turn people away,” she said. “If somebody wants to give input, we listen. But, we don’t make work for ourselves. We react and respond to things that need attention, need addressing and we don’t try to think up extra stuff that is going to cost the taxpayers more money.”
The primary’s second place finisher, incumbent Mike Christensen, had 94 votes, five votes ahead of Hoover. Of the five candidates, he was the only one who declined to respond to questions posed by The Lakeland Times before the primary. He could not be reached for comment before press time.
Hoover said he is happy with the results of the primary and also wanted to thank those who voted for him in the primary and for the opportunity to be on the ballot in April.
He admitted he was surprised by the numbers and acknowledged he has a lot of work to do.
“I’m still a little surprised at the level of support the incumbents get given the disconnect between the town board and the rest of the community,” he said. “I feel good but I know I have a lot of work to do and I’m going to be working hard and looking for more support in the April election.”
Joe Boyle, who came in fourth with 44 votes, said he’s happy to still be in the running.
“I really didn’t campaign at all so making it through the primary means I’ll campaign more before the general election,” he said. “They’re all good candidates. I just want to see if I can get in there and make a difference for everyone in the community. That’s pretty much what I’m going to do ... get the word out a little bit more and good luck to everyone else because they’ve been doing a fine job for a lot of years.”
The primary eliminated from contention the candidacy of William “Joe” Graveen, who had 25 votes.
Brian Jopek may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.