Election marked by low turnout

Students were asked Tuesday to participate in the statewide election that would determine, among other things, Eau Claire City Council members and state Supreme Court justices.

Senior Jeff Kern, one of the few students who came to Davies Center to cast a ballot, said that it was his duty to come to polls despite what the outcome might be.

“I believe that it is your responsibility to vote,” he said, saying that nobody knows the outcome or how it will affect the community until after the election, but that deciding on the issues is relevant to all community members.

“If it wasn’t important, they wouldn’t hold an election.”

Kern was one of the 6.2 percent of eligible voters who cast their ballots in Davies Center, a number that is low but not surprising to experts.

“It’s not a surprise – we know students don’t vote when they don’t see an issue that directly affects them,” political science professor and expert in voting behavior Geoff Peterson said, adding that students generally do not see the importance of city council elections.

Election workers at the polls in Davies Center also said April elections are generally slower, noting a high turnout when Eau Claire alumnus Brandon Buchanan ran for a seat on the Council last year.

Both junior Bria Paul and senior Krystal Kizewski said they were among the many who did not vote.

“I don’t really follow politics that much,” Paul said.

On this year’s ballot, six seats for the City Council were up for grabs but none were contested.

This means that economics professor Thomas Kemp will be filling the District 3 spot vacated by Toby Biegel.

Kemp said he plans to help boost business opportunities in the city and make those opportunities available to students – all a part of what he calls a “sound development” plan.

“I am interested in creating opportunities for students at UW-Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley Technical College to own their own businesses in the city and become aware of other job opportunities (in Eau Claire),” he said, adding that it goes hand-in-hand with the downtown revitalization discussed by the City Council in the previous session.

Kemp said he also hopes to stop the urban sprawl that Eau Claire is facing before it gets out of hand, saying that it would save money for the community and bring the community together.

He also said he appreciates the student vote and encourages them to contact him with issues or concerns regarding city issues.

Also on the ballot Tuesday was the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court, in which residents elected circuit judge Annette Ziegler as Wisconsin’s newest justice for the court for the next 10 years.

Wisconsin is one of 38 states that hold elections for Supreme Court justices, according to the American Bar Association.

Although the race between Ziegler and attorney Linda Clifford was a high profile race that garnered much media attention, Peterson said it generally doesn’t affect turnout.

“Voters in general don’t think the Supreme Court affects their daily lives,” Peterson said.

Voters in Eau Claire also elected Ken Faanes, Mike Bollinger and Brent Wogahn to the Eau Claire Area School Board, and voted down the $21.6 million referendum to cover budget shortfalls in the Eau Claire school district.