For part 3 of our Tuesday November 6 election preview, we finish up our interview with UW Oshkosh Professor of Political Science Dr. David Siemers. See part 2 here, part 1 here.
OI: There have been numerous referenda on ballots throughout the state, and there are several on the ballot here in Winnebago County. What impact do you believe these have on local and state policy?
Dr. David Siemers (DS): The Winnebago County referenda on the ballot are advisory. They won’t change policies. They do serve a purpose in alerting the public to some public policy issues that they might not otherwise know about. One is about how large retail stores are taxed and the other is about whether we should have a nonpartisan body draw electoral maps. Both are worth serious consideration by the public, and by our state legislature.
OI: We hear about the risk of our elections being tampered with, either by Waukesha County or Russia. Are we at risk of having our Wisconsin or Winnebago County vote tampered with?
DS: The interference with elections in 2016 was mostly through the internet, with people around the world trying to influence Americans’ voting behavior. Using the internet to manipulate people may be easier in presidential years, when the focus is on the contenders for that office. The 2016 elections did not seem to have much systematic under or over-counting of votes, thankfully. We rely on the integrity of voting machines, poll workers, and civicl servants, and generally our trust in them is not misplaced.
OI: What is the main surprise of the election season
DS: So far the surprise of the 2018 election is that there have been so few surprises. People are tired of politics and bickering and name calling and manipulative ads. They talk less about it with their neighbors and friends because it is so divisive.
Whether it is indicative of what will happen Tuesday or not, we have not seen much movement in projections of outcomes from the summer on. It’s as if we had a campaign and hardly anyone paid it much attention. In a way, this is the new normal. Candidates gather in money so that they can run TV ads as before, but almost no one under 60 sees them because of the way we now view media.
We will get surprises and interesting results on election day, but the ability of pollsters and prognosticators to pick up on these beforehand is pretty seriously curtailed in an environment where so many people are turned off by politics.
The lead story on Wednesday is still most likely to be that the Republican party suffered a significant blow by having the US House of Representatives change to Democratic control.