For the first time ever, Madison is opening multiple doors around the city for residents and students to cast early and in-person absentee ballots.
In addition to early voting, the Madison City Council approved expanding voting hours and locations a full six weeks before the Nov. 8 election.
Starting Sept. 26, residents will have the ability to cast absentee ballots at locations other than those in the downtown area, City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said.
Twelve locations around the city, including nine public libraries, will accept early and in-person absentee voters. The University of Wisconsin will offer a location for early and absentee voters as well.
As election day is always on a Tuesday, Steven Wright, a clinical instructor at the UW School of Law and expert on voting rights, said giving a bigger window of time will expand opportunities for citizens to cast their ballot.
“The concern in our country is Tuesdays are often work days, so people are busy and sometimes put off voting until the last moment,” Wright said. “With more opportunities, like early voting, citizens won’t have to sacrifice their ballot.”
With nearly 20,000 non-residents on UW’s campus, in-person absentee voting provides the chance for students who are not registered in Wisconsin to vote.
While students can register to vote in Wisconsin, there are still many that want to vote in the communities they came from, Wright said. Absentee voting then becomes very important in making sure those students’ voices are heard, he added.
At the moment, Witzel-Behl anticipates about 18,000 absentee ballots to be cast for the upcoming November general election.
Despite increased access to early voting, proper voter identification is still required when casting ballots early and as absentees.