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Local turnout tops 2016 by over 10%
Novak defeats Marion in tight Wis. Assembly 51 race

MONROE – Voter turnout was high across the board in Green and Lafayette counties for the 2020 presidential election Nov. 3. Both counties saw an increase of 10-11% from 2016.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, captured the majority of the votes in Green County (10,850 votes, 50.7%), while Republican President Donald Trump had 685 fewer votes (10,165 votes, 47.5%). About 1.8% of the vote (385 ballots) in Green County went to a third-party candidate or a write-in.

In Lafayette County, Trump received 4,820 votes to Biden’s 3,647. Third-party and write-in votes totaled just 94 ballots.

Wisconsin took longer than most states to get its ballots tallied. State rules didn’t allow the more than 1.88 million absentee ballot votes and early voting totals — more than half the vote totals across the state — to be tabulated until after polls opened Election Day.

By Wednesday morning, with 99%of votes tallied (3,687 of 3,689 precincts reporting), Biden held a lead of less than 0.5%, capturing 1,630,428 votes to Trump’s 1,609,844. A candidate is able to request a recount in the state for any race that finishes within 1% between the top two vote getters.

“Wisconsin’s counting and reporting of unofficial results has gone according to law,” said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief election official, in a statement to the media. “Our municipal and county clerks have worked tirelessly throughout the night to make sure every valid ballot is counted and reported accurately. Those unofficial results are available on the county clerks’ websites.” Wolfe added that Wisconsin Elections Commission staff will be assisting clerks across the state as results are tripled checked.

The national race for president was still undecided by Wednesday morning, as legally mailed-in ballots could take up to a week to be processed and counted in pivotal swing states Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina. Absentee, or mail-in ballots, increased drastically this election cycle.

Typically, military personnel serving overseas, expats and those who know them will be unavailable to vote on Election Day request an absentee ballot. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic widespread, and the United States leading the world in confirmed cases and deaths, many voters opted to request an absentee ballot or voted early in person to avoid large crowds at the polls. In states like Wisconsin where votes had to wait until Election Day to be counted, it slowed down the process of all legal votes being tabulated.

In Green County, a total of 10,731 ballots were requested, with 10,714 sent. Of those sent out, 9,725 were returned (90.7%), with 3,147 (32.3%) returned as in-person drop-offs. The City of Monroe saw 3,577 of 3,772 ballots (94.8%) returned early, with 42.4% coming in the form of drop-offs.

Lafayette County saw similar numbers, with 85.7% of the 2,984 ballots sent returned in one form or another. Combined, the two counties saw 89.6% of absentee ballots returned, with 29.6% coming in the form of in-person drop-offs. In the November 2016 election, Green County had a total of 18,985 votes cast, while Lafayette County saw 7,662 take to the polls.

Novak holds seat vs. Marion

Arguably the most contentious local race was for the Wisconsin Assembly District 51 seat. Incumbent R-Todd Novak led D-Kriss Marion by 1,157 votes (about 4%) with 59 of 60 precincts and 30,387 votes reporting.

“I’m very honored to be re-elected,” Novak said Wednesday. He won for the fourth time and said his campaign team had a great ground game, knocking on over 18,000 doors since August. “This is a very purple district. After three terms, people know me and know my record.”

Todd Novak
Todd Novak

Novak, the Speaker’s Chair on the Task Force for Water Quality, won a state award recently for his work on water, and said he plans to request Speaker Robin Vos to reconvene so that issues paused from the pandemic can be discussed again.

Novak also said that he will request to continue to serve in his current committees, which include Agriculture, Environment, Local Government, Mental Health, Rural Development and Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

Both Novak and Marion have mutual concerns, including water quality and efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Novak said the state budget and responding to the pandemic are at the forefront of the legislature’s issues moving forward. He said that he wants to continue to protect schools and hospitals.

Marion called to concede and congratulated Novak on his victory in the early morning hours Wednesday, adding that she sees him as not just a political opponent, but as a friend.

“Kriss and I go back a few years, and, yes, we’re friends. Her call was very gracious,” Novak said. “We were both probably upset with each other at some point in this campaign.”

Marion, for her part, wished Novak well “in the difficult and important job of shepherding both Dodgeville and Wisconsin through a post-COVID recovery.”

Wisconsin has been one of the hardest hit states of the pandemic, with a state-record 5,771 new cases reported on Election Day. Locally, infections continue to surge, with 14-day test positivity rates of over 22% in Green County and over 31% in Lafayette County this week. Wisconsin had the 11th most cases in the country, despite being the 20th most populated. The 238,000-plus total cases in the state were the fourth most in the country per 1 million residents, trailing only North and South Dakota, and Iowa, which was third.

“We must acknowledge that the narrow margin of victory in this race gives the winner both the burden of accountability, and the gift of independence,” Marion said in an email to the Times. In southwest Wisconsin, "we understand that no one political party has a monopoly on the truth. From the results of this election, it is clear that the representative in this seat must not be the servant of either party. We are all well aware that deep fractions between red and blue are real and raw.”

Marion thanked her supporters that volunteered and donated money to the campaign.

“I am humbled by the love and support of the hundreds of volunteers and thousands of small dollar donors who powered this big, joyful, and tenacious campaign. I’m incredibly inspired by their hope, and the dreams they have for a Wisconsin future that can support our children and grandchildren,” she said. “We didn’t win, but we had a blast trying and succeeded in engaging people of all ages and backgrounds in the hands-on work of democracy.”

Kriss Marion
Kriss Marion

Local election results

There were three Wisconsin assembly races and a handful of other ballot measures, plus a U.S. House race in District 4, which covers south central Wisconsin. Incumbent House District 4 Representative Mark Pocan (69.7%), a Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Peter Theron (30.3%) by 180,194 votes.

•  In the Wisconsin Assembly District 45 race, incumbent D-Mark Spreitzer (55%) defeated R-Tawny Gustina (45%).
•  In the Wisconsin Assembly District 51 race, with 59 of 60 precincts reporting, incumbent R-Todd Novak (52%) defeated D-Kriss Marion (48%).
•  In the Wisconsin Assembly District 80 race, incumbent D-Sondy Pope (65%) defeated R-Chase Binnie (35%)
In local down-ballot referendums:
•  Pecatonica School District measure to allow exceeding the revenue limit by $490,000 per year, recurring: 1,112 yes, 617 no.
•  Town of Decatur, allow ATVs and UTVs to travel on all town roads, not including Sugar River Trail: 636 yes, 413 no.
•  Town of York, make the town clerk and town treasurer positions appointed by the Town Board: 414 yes, 235 no.
•  Town of Sylvester, make the combined office of town clerk and town treasurer a position appointed by Town Board: 418 yes, 220 no.
•  Town of Adams, combine town clerk and town treasurer positions and make it appointed by Town Board: 164 yes, 162 no.
•  Town of Monroe, make the combined office of town clerk and town treasurer a position appointed by Town Board: 464 no, 265 yes.
•  Blackhawk Technical College (Green & Rock counties), borrow $32 million for building additions and improvements: 54,674 yes, 40,048 no.

In uncontested races, Green County voted to re-elect Craig Nolen as District Attorney, Arianna Voegeli as County Clerk, Sherri Hawkins as County Treasurer and Cynthia Meudt as Register of Deeds. See a breakdown of Green County's turnout by municipality here.

In Lafayette County's uncontested races, Jenna Gill was re-elected as District Attorney, Carla Johnson as County Clerk, Lisa Black as County Treasurer and Cathy Paulson as Register of Deeds. Full results are here.