Election results show a polarized Wisconsin that could create gridlock in the Capitol

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(WSAW) -- The results of Tuesday's votes will create a dynamic not unusual for Wisconsin, but given the political climate, more challenging than in the past. Democratic Governor-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul will take their positions among a republican controlled legislature come January.

By simply looking at which regions voted for which candidate in the tight race for governor, recently retired UW-Stevens Point political professor Ed Miller said the votes show Wisconsin is polarized.

Portage County is a good example of what was seen across the state. Miller said Tony Evers won the votes of urban areas and university communities like Stevens Point, while Scott Walker won the majority of rural voters.

Miller said there was surprising unity seen by voters too, as referendums throughout the state passed.

"I think it's signaling that there's been these cost controls that are imposed from Madison and the amount of money that is going from Madison as to shared revenue has been virtually flat," he said. "There's a recognition of the need for improving schools and other services."

Roads and infrastructure are part of those pieces victorious republicans and democrats said post-election that they want to focus on in the immediate future. It is an issue local governments have had to tackle through things like wheel taxes.

The challenge in getting that work done will be in the way those efforts will be paid for.

The Wisconsin government-to-be is one of many cycles that has seen party power differences between branches, but Miller said this time is different.

"Even when it was split, we got compromise, we got policies that came out of the legislature. But as polarization has taken place, it becomes much different than it used to be," he said. "Now, Wisconsin can make it easier to compromise because we've got this strange situation in Wisconsin where the bulk of the policies from the governor are in the budget and in most states that's not true. You have a budget, which is financial, and then you pass individual bills having to do with the policies."

He said by sticking everything in the budget, there are more opportunities for negotiating policies and financing between the branches.

Miller said Wisconsin has another interesting governmental trait that will play a part in passing policies.

"We have the strongest veto in the country. No one has the veto that we have," he said. "So, other states have the general veto or the item veto where you have to veto a whole item. Wisconsin has a so-called partial veto."

He explains that has been interpreted to mean details as small as single words can be vetoed. He said these unique pieces of Wisconsin government will be the places where polarized politics and parties might be able to find compromise on common goals like building up roads and education, or where parties will fight to stick to their issues.

Given that Scott Walker will still be governor until January, Miller said he expects the legislature to go back into session before he leaves to pass legislation, though he is not sure what those items specifically will be. Miller explained normally the legislature does not go back into session in non-budgetary years after their fall recess.

He also pointed out the significance of the change of power in the attorney general's office. Beyond being the chief law enforcement officer for the state, the attorney general has the power to put Wisconsin in class action lawsuits like the one to repeal the affordable care act. That is a lawsuit both Kaul and Evers have said they want to leave.