How the Milwaukee metro's electorate is shifting in 2022

Changes to prevailing election patterns in Wisconsin's largest metro stand out in 2022 as Democratic and Republican campaigns seek to boost turnout among Black, Hispanic and suburban women voters.

Milwaukee PBS

October 25, 2022 • Southeast Region

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Milwaukee PBS

By Scottie Lee Meyers, Milwaukee PBS

DeAngelo Bester, the executive director for the Center for Racial and Gender Equity, is one of the lead organizers behind a National Voter Registration Day party at the Sherman Phoenix Marketplace in Milwaukee on Sept. 20, 2022. Democrats hope events like this could lead to higher turnout among Black voters, a key constituency for the party.

“What we’re trying to do is educate the voters here in Milwaukee and even across the state about making sure to register to vote, make sure they have all the information they need to register to vote,” Bester said.

Milwaukee’s Black voter turnout was down in 2020. Stricter voting laws and the pandemic are two big reasons experts often cite for the decline. That’s why Bester and his team are knocking on a lot of doors right now.

“We’re hoping to knock on about 40,000 doors total in the state between when we started in around June through Election Day,” said Bester. “We want to have around 15,000 conversations with voters and we’re hoping to get 70% turnout for the people that we actually have conversations with.”

Republicans are looking to increase their support among Hispanic voters with a new initiative called Operación ¡Vamos!, which launched in several key swing states, including Wisconsin. Latino voters have typically favored Democrats, but not always by wide margins. They’re not leaving in droves, but there is a measurable shift.

“I know that Hispanic voters have been basically taken for granted by Democrats,” said U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida.

Scott is helping to lead these outreach efforts, which have sent campaign workers to knock on doors in neighborhoods in Milwaukee and throughout the state trying to make inroads with Wisconsin’s largest minority group.

“Hispanic voters are fed up with the public school system around the country right now. They want a better economic market. They don’t wanna see inflation. They wanna live in safe communities,” Scott said. “If we talk about those issues, then we’re gonna win elections.”

“You wanted the Mandela?” asked Deb Dassow.

“Yes, please,” was the reply.

During an interview with Dassow, chair of the Democratic Party of Ozaukee County, people kept coming in to request yard signs. Residents are probably seeing more in the area than ever before. Though still red, Ozaukee County recently saw the biggest increase in Democratic voters in the state. Waukesha County is second on that same list. It’s part of the purpling of the suburbs.

“I do get a sense that it’s changing,” Dassow said. “I’m not gonna say it’s like a ginormous swing, but it is, as I said, we’re just picking up a couple percentage points every single year.”

At the center of the suburban swing are women who Dassow says have energized the party after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“I had a woman stop in right after the Dobbs decision,” said Dassow. “She came in with her two little children and she had a ‘My Body, My Choice’ T-shirt on, and she said, ‘I’ve never voted for a Democrat before. I’ve always been a Libertarian.’ She was young, I’d say in her 30s, and she said, ‘Sign me up, what can I do?'”

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