On Tuesday, the state that's home to Making a Murderer's controversial subject found itself in the national spotlight for a reason that (for once) has nothing to do with the murder of Teresa Halbach. In Wisconsin's primary, votes from Steven Avery's hometown reflected the statewide results, rendering Manitowoc County an unassuming blip on Wisconsin's political map. And chances are the quiet town is glad to have blended in, because the flurry of media attention must be getting old. During episodes of Netflix's hit docuseries, Avery's agricultural hometown seemed like another world. In truth, however, it's not far removed from your or my everyday life.
Manitowoc County residents have finally proved that they're not all that different from the average Wisconsinite. Over 50 percent of the county, which borders Lake Michigan, voted for Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. If anything, the county's Republican voters were slightly more favorable of Cruz than other districts. He won 53.1 percent of the vote there, compared to 48.3 percent of the statewide vote. On the other hand, Sanders' 12.7-point margin of victory was nearly identical to the state's average.
Polls closed in Manitowoc County at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, and according to County Clerk Lois Kiel, turnout was impressive this year. Kiel playfully compared Manitowoc City Hall's parking lot to the "County Fairgrounds" in an interview with Appleton's Post-Crescent newspaper:
It was unbelievable. People in Manitowoc County are not accustomed to waiting in line to vote. You walk in, you vote, you walk out, but today, they had to wait. They had to wait, maybe, 15 minutes, but nothing too outrageous.
In July 2014, the United States Census Bureau estimated that Manitowoc County has a population of 80,160 people. Furthermore, 78.8 percent of that population is reported as being 18 years of age or older and therefore eligible to vote. If the population has remained roughly consistent with those numbers, then Kiel wasn't kidding. Over 28,600 Manitowoc County residents showed up to the polls Tuesday. In other words, the county witnessed a turnout that surpassed 45 percent, warranting some much-needed positive media attention. And after Making a Murderer aired in December, that might be exactly what the county needs.
Though Making a Murderer put rural Manitowoc County on the map, the jolt in popularity didn't paint a favorable picture of the region. The series' coverage of Halbach's gruesome murder, which happened over decade ago, opened old wounds. Simultaneously, viewers' outrage toward the county's Sheriff's Department has affected the entire community. Local Wisconsin news channel WISN spoke with Manitowoc County Executive Bob Ziegelbauer, who believes the show attracted unwanted attention:
They have a point of view, and I think the point of view unfairly characterizes us as a community.
By turning out in droves to support the candidates backed by the majority of the state, the county took its reputation into its own hands, showing they're a community just like any other. When it comes to participating in primary elections, however, they might be even better.