This is it. The citizens of Wisconsin respond to Governor Scott Walker's anti-union agenda today at the polling place with six Republican state Senators facing unprecedented recall elections all on the same day.
If Democrats succeed in winning three of today's races they will wrest control of the state Senate from the GOP in what is clearly being regarded by all sides as a referendum on Walker's radical agenda. (Democrats will also have to defend two seats of their own in two more recall elections next Tuesday.)
Yesterday, Public Policy Polling (PPP) came out with their final round of polls from over the weekend finding, in the four races surveyed, the Democrat with a healthy lead in one district, the Republican with a healthy lead in another, and two races too close to call either way, both statistical dead heats. PPP polled the other two races back in June, finding the D leading in one and the R leading in the other. (Eric Kleefeld at TPM has a few additional numbers from alternate sources.)
According to the pre-election polls then, this thing is believed to be incredible tight all around. Some $40 million is being spent on these races (only $3.75 million was spent on the entire slate of 15 Senate seats and all 99 Assembly seats last November) and dirty tricks are likely to be flying. But the bottom line seems to be that nobody knows what might happen given the unprecedented nature of six recall elections happening at once --- in the middle of Summer. There is simply nothing to compare this to.
The one thing about which all pundits and partisans and partisan pundits seem to agree at this hour: It'll all about turnout.
That's almost true. In addition to turnout, it'll also come down to the electronic vote tabulators used across the Badger State. Most municipalities in WI allow voters to vote on hand-marked paper ballots, but most of those ballots will be tallied only by oft-failed, easily-manipulated computer op-scan systems. Additionally, to their shame, the state has absolutely no mechanism for post-election human examination of optically-scanned ballots to ensure the computers have tallied them accurately. Once the computers (made by Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia) report the supposed results, there is no double-checking of those computer tallies other than in the event of a recount...and readers of The BRAD BLOG know how well those go in the state of Wisconsin.
So we'll be watching as close as we can today, and hope that voters in WI will be doing the same, from the moment wards open at 7am CT through close at 8pm CT and then throughout the tallying of ballots after polls close inasmuch as they can. Photographs and video tapes of ballots bags and poll tapes at the wards at the end of the night will be a very good idea tonight at every polling place.
If you spot any problems or concerns you feel we should know about --- in the media or at the polls --- please feel free let us know. We'll do our best to keep an eye on comments today. In the meantime, we'll be praying for six blowouts...one way or another.