1,000 early in-person absentee ballots cast in Madison within hours of opening
MADISON, Wis. — The opening of the in-person absentee voting period marks the beginning of the final two-week push to Election Day. With 32 early in-person voting sites citywide, Madisonians took action.
By 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, 1,003 voters had vast in-person absentee ballots in Madison according to the city’s clerk’s office.
“These are the elections that really matter,” Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said. “With turnout a little lower, your vote matters that much more. We are a state that’s consistently had these races decided by a few thousand votes.”
Recent AP data shows here in Wisconsin, 52% of sent absentee ballots have been returned. That’s down from the same point in 2020, during which the return rate was 62%, which is still down from 2018 when it was 64%.
McDonell said voting trends are always changing, and right now, they’re headed back toward pre-pandemic levels.
“What we’re seeing overall is some of the numbers starting to return to pre-pandemic numbers,” McDonell said. “So a reduction in the number of people voting absentee by mail, more people voting in-person absentee, which was on the upswing before the pandemic, and a little larger percentage voting in person.”
With more people voting early in person, fewer are mailing in their ballots. McDonell said he doesn’t know what exactly is causing the decline, given rates were still higher pre-pandemic, but notes it may have to do with feeling secure during the election.
“With the return rates, part of me wonders, is it interest in the race? Is it the post office?” McDonell said. “It’s not clear to me where that percentage return is coming from, but we are seeing a change in how people are voting. People really do like to vote in-person absentee and partly because someone will check to make sure they filled everything out correctly; they know that the clerk’s office already has their ballot.”
Whether it’s in-person early absentee, or mail-in absentee, McDonell suggested people take advantage of the option in future elections.
“You never know what’s going to happen on election day, you could have a sick kid, and something could go sideways at work,” McDonell said. “So, you know, take advantage of those two weeks, you know, now until Election Day, to pick a time that you want to go and vote.”
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Election security has become a major talking point nationwide, but Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway has no concerns.
“Your ballots are locked up until Election Day, they’re delivered to the polling places on Election Day and those ballots are actually run the same as any ballot that would be cast on Election Day,” she said. “They’re actually run through the machines right there on Election Day.”
Voters can register at the polls on Election Day or when in-person absentee voting. Rhodes-Conway said voters should remember to bring proof of residence and a photo ID.
The process of early voting varies across Dane County.
“If you live in a village or a township, you’re going to want to go to your town hall, so you can’t just go anywhere in the county,” McDonell said. “In Madison, it’s a little different in that they have their early voting in the libraries, so if you live on the west side but work on the east side you can go to any library in the city and vote.”
All Wisconsinites are eligible for early voting. For a full list of early polling places in Madison, click here.
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