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Report: more voters cast ballots along party lines

MILWAUKEE (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Wisconsin voters used to have a fierce reputation of being independent, and splitting their ballots to pick the person over the party. But that's all but disappeared now. An analysis of voting patterns by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Craig Gilbert shows that only about five-percent of Wisconsin voters are willing to vote for a president, governor, and senator from both parties.

Twenty years ago almost 40-percent of Wisconsin voters split their tickets to re-elect both Republican Governor Tommy Thompson and U-S Senate Democrat Herb Kohl. Thompson carried Milwaukee County a generation ago, but his fellow Republican Scott Walker couldn't do that in his 2012 recall election when he lost in his home county by 39 points. Walker relied on landslides from Milwaukee's suburban counties, which helped him overcome the Democratic strongholds in the state's two largest counties, Milwaukee and Dane. Thompson told Gilbert that he reached out to members of the opposing party when he campaigned, so he could bridge the gap.

Today Democratic pollster Paul Maslin says campaigns don't even try to appeal to the other side anymore. University of Rhode Island analyst Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz said people used to vote poorly -- but now, voters have a better idea of each party's ideology. Gilbert conducted a six-month project at Marquette University which analyzed decades of voter patterns, and how the state's political polarization developed.