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Wisconsin recall election: Why voters can't wait for it to end

The Wisconsin recall election is leaving many voters with a bitter taste, regardless of whom they supported. They see their state as tarnished, taxpayers' money as wasted, or divides as deepened. 

By Staff writer / June 5, 2012

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker waits in line to vote Tuesday, in Wauwatosa, Wis. Walker faces Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in a special recall election.

Morry Gash/AP

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Bristol, Wis.

For many Wisconsin voters, heading to the polling booth Tuesday for the historic recall election for governor was a bit like heading to the dentist: They didn’t want to be there, wanted it to be over as soon as possible, and didn’t want to return anytime soon.

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“Just appalling,” says Cindy Sheeran, a self-described housewife, as she left a municipal building where she voted in this southeastern Wisconsin town. “I am glad it’s over with. It made the whole state look bad. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.”

No matter which candidate got their support – incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) or Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) – many voters interviewed on Election Day said the recall has taken a toll on their state. Some complained that it wasted millions of taxpayer dollars; others said it created bitterness in their communities, pitting neighbor against neighbor. Some, like George Zarovy, an unemployed architect, said they are “amazed” that they live in a state where such an election was even needed, no less that it polarized so many for nearly 16 months.

“It’s been a rather tumultuous experience. When it’s finally over with, I hope we can talk to each other civilly again,” says Mr. Zarovy, whose vote went to Mayor Barrett. “How can so many people be of like mind and, at the same time, be of opposite?”

Even before the primary in early May, polls showed Governor Walker leading any prospective challenger by a few percentage points. That never changed. In the latest poll, released late Sunday by Public Policy Polling in Raleigh, N.C., Walker was leading Barrett 50 percent to 47 percent.

The dead heat of recent months is expected to result in an election that breaks state records for voter turnout. State election officials say they expect about 65 percent of eligible voters to show up Tuesday; the average turnout in a Wisconsin midterm election is 47 percent, and the state’s previous record was 52 percent for a nonpresidential election, in 1962.

In addition to the governor’s race, the recall ballot asks Wisconsinites to consider ousting the lieutenant governor and four state senators, all Republicans. The Senate race is crucial: It will determine which party controls the state Senate through late fall.

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