The presidential election is still two weeks away, but for University of Wisconsin senior Casey Welch it is all over, save for the shouting and campaigning.
Welch was one of many UW students to board a van bound for City Hall Monday to cast an early vote for the November election. For Welch, the decision to vote early came down to a desire to avoid potentially hours-long lines at the polls on Election Day.
“The lines are going to be really long on Election Day, and I’m really interested in voting and I want to get the vote for John Kerry out,” Welch said.
The effort to get students to vote early is being promoted by the College Democrats, who have chartered a shuttle to run between the Memorial Union and City Hall every weekday until the election. The van, which runs every half hour between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., is being funded by the Democratic National Committee, who pledged the money after being impressed by the field operation in Madison.
There are several benefits to voting early, according to College Democrats chair Liz Sanger. Lines at certain locations in Madison reached three hours in waiting time during the 2000 election, time students may not have Nov. 2. By voting early, students are guaranteed to complete the round trip from the Union to City Hall in a half hour.
“Also, if for some reason you don’t have proper documentation, at least you’re getting turned away before the election,” Sanger explained. “And it gives you peace of mind, because it makes sure your vote is counted before the election.”
Sanger said she would like to have at least 1,000 students vote before the election. That way, she said, more students will be available on Election Day to help with get-out-the-vote activities in support of Kerry.
The Democrats are not alone in promoting students to vote early, however. The UW College Republicans are not chartering a shuttle to City Hall, but they are encouraging members to vote absentee before the election, according to Students for Bush vice chair Frank Hennick.
“We’re encouraging our members to vote absentee so they can spend time Election Day turning out the vote for the president,” Hennick said.
In a meeting with the Badger Herald Monday, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz expressed a certain level of consternation with the rise in absentee voting, saying there is “something nostalgic” about everybody going to the polls on Election Day.
“I’m not particularly enthusiastic about this trend, but it appears to be the way [voting] is going in America,” Cieslewicz said.
Still, Cieslewicz said the projected preponderance of early voters could serve as a wildcard in how poll workers are able to handle the rush of voters Nov. 2. He said turnout that day may not be as high in light of the increased number of early ballots cast.
The city will nonetheless be prepared for a large turnout on Election Day, Cieslewicz said. Madison has 140,000 ballots on hand, plus an additional 15,000 in backup, giving the city 35,000 more than have ever been used in one election.