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Turnout in Midwest battleground states remains feverish

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FILE PHOTO: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker waves after speaking during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 20, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Voter engagement in the 2018 midterm races remains feverish, primaries in notable swing states Wisconsin and Minnesota showed on Tuesday.

Both states showed dramatic increases in participation as voters picked candidates for Congress, Senate and governor, with Minnesota’s turnout surpassing a two-decade high and Wisconsin’s hitting levels not seen for a state primary since at least 2002.

Democrats are hoping to replicate successes seen around the nation throughout the past 18 months in local and state special elections, where high levels of enthusiasm have propelled them to victories in races from Alabama’s Senate seat in December to a southwest Pennsylvania Congressional district in March.

The party is desperately seeking to flip control of both Congress and statehouses across the nation, as Republicans have control of both houses of Congress and the majority of state legislatures.

In Minnesota, around 875,000 voters turned out to vote in a state known for high levels of voter engagement, according to unofficial state figures at 12:30 am EST (0430 GMT). That equals a turnout rate of roughly 22 percent, according to Minnesota’s secretary of state.

It was also the highest for state primary nominating contests since 1994, not including presidential primaries, according to state data. More than 560,000 people voted on the Democratic side.

In Wisconsin, around 950,000 voters cast ballots, or about 21 percent of the voting-age population, surpassing the 14 percent rate posted in both 2016 and 2014, according to state data at 12:30 am EST (0430 GMT).

Turnout was strong in Democratic strongholds such as Madison, the state capital, and the largest city, Milwaukee, but also in Republican suburbs around Milwaukee.

Democrats picked Tony Evers to challenge Governor Scott Walker, who is seeking a third term, while Republicans chose Leah Vukmir as their opponent to Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin. Early polls have shown the governor’s race to be close, with Mr Baldwin holding larger leads in polls of the senate race.

US President Donald Trump became the first Republican to win Wisconsin in 32 years when he edged out Hillary Clinton there in 2016.

All 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate will be decided in November’s contests.

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