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Democrats and Republicans ramp up “get out the vote” efforts

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MILWAUKEE -- Polls consistently show voters have made up their minds in the upcoming gubernatorial recall election. With so few undecided voters to sway, the political parties are figuring out how to get the voters to the polls.

Political observers say voter turnout will determine the election, and campaign cash may do very little to persuade voters. "In normal politics, persuading the undecided is the main focus of a campaign. Here we are in this peculiar situation where 95 percent of Wisconsinites have made up their mind," UW-Milwaukee Professor of Governmental Affairs Mordecai Lee said.

Lee says the fact that most voters are decided changes the game. "The entirety of the campaign is being sure your base turns out to vote," Lee said.

Both Democratic candidate Tom Barrett and Gov. Scott Walker view the primary results as signs of strength. In the recall primary, Democrats cast slightly more votes than Republicans, with a total of 665,436. However, those votes were for Barrett and the other three contenders. Republicans cast almost as many votes, with a total of 626,538 for Walker, in what was essentially a primary with only token competition.

Republicans have heightened their "get out the vote" efforts. Volunteers have already made two million phone calls in the first five months of the year - more than they made in the entire 2010 election cycle. "Republican intensity is obviously very high in the state of Wisconsin. At the moment, we have more than 20 victory centers throughout the state, where volunteers will be making phone calls from now until Election Day," Republican Party spokesman Ben Sparks said.

Democrats have at least 35,000 volunteers statewide, and according to the party, more than 90 percent of the people who signed recall petitions are registered voters.

Community organizer Anita Johnson went door-to-door asking people to pledge to vote, providing people with registration information and election details. Gregory Lewis of Bethesda Baptist Church in Milwaukee is one of several Milwaukee ministers encouraging his congregation to vote. "Asking people to vote is not telling people who to vote for. I think that's non-partisan. We're just asking people to vote. We're asking people to stand up," Lewis said.

Walker has a huge fundraising advantage with about $24 million compared to about $1 million for Barrett.

Walker says just as much money will be spent by outside groups supporting Barrett, but Barrett says he believes this could be a rare election in which the better-funded candidate doesn't win.

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