Debunked: Wisconsin Turnout 89% Impossible High [Actually 72%]

Mick West

Staff member
The real turnout numbers
Wisconsin had more than 3.6 million registered voters heading into Election Day, and more than 3.2 million Wisconsinites voted in the presidential race.

But those aren’t the numbers used to calculate turnout here.

For starters, Wisconsin allows same-day voter registration, so that number of registered voters goes up throughout the day. In 2016, for example, 12.7% of voters registered on Election Day, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Even more important, registered voters is the wrong figure entirely for calculating turnout. Voter turnout in a same-day registration state is based on the percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot.

So when you divide the number of votes cast in Wisconsin — 3,278,963 as of Nov. 5 — by the voting-age population in Wisconsin (4,536,293 as of 2019, according to the elections commission), you get a turnout rate of 72.3%

That’s the highest rate ever behind the 2004 election, but solidly in the range of past presidential contests here.

Recent presidential election turnouts in Wisconsin:
  • 2020 — 72.3%
  • 2016 — 67.3%
  • 2012 — 70.4%
  • 2008 — 69.2%
  • 2004 — 72.9%
  • 2000 — 67%

To verify the turnout numbers in the USA Today Article, we can download the official turnout statistics from the Wisconsin Election Commission:

The first link there is: Voter Turnout Partisan-NonPartisan Through August 2020.xlsx which gives us:


The bold figures are the percentages of the voting age population who voted in Presidential election years (2016 being the last one).

Looking at the results with 99% reporting (Source AP/Google):


1630570+1610031+38415+5253+5206 = 3289475. (Verify)

We can add this to the empty slot in the spreadsheet, and we get 72.5% (slightly above the USA Today number, which was calculated earlier)


So high, but not really super high. Lower than 2004.

The false claim uses the registered voters number. The State of Wisconsin had 3,684,726 active registered voters on November 1, 2020. So 3289475/3684726 = 89.3%, which is a false representation, as discussed above.


  • Voter Turnout Partisan-NonPartisan Through August 2020.xlsx
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