Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl announced a record-setting number of absentee ballots and early votes in Madison this election cycle Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, 26,527 absentee ballots had been cast in person this year, which surpasses the previous record of 18,752 in November 2012.
Besides the rise of ballots cast in person, the number of issued absentee ballots increased by 3,485 and the number of returned ballots increased by 2,042.
An article in the liberal magazine The Nation found the Green Bay City Clerk declined to open an early voting location on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus. One email from her suggested it was because they “lean toward the democrats.”
Witzel-Behl said as a clerk, it is not their job to be concerned with the results, only the process and facilitating the ability to vote.
Soglin said it is “repugnant” to think that any city staff would try to prevent voter turnout. He said if he were mayor of Green Bay, Wisconsin, he wouldn’t restrict places to vote, but to add to them.
“We feel that it’s our job to make the ballot as accessible as possible to everyone,” Soglin said.
He said throughout the city, there are 14 early voting stations, including two on the UW campus. Most of the locations are public libraries, but they are also using other facilities to help people cast their ballots.
Soglin also encouraged people to make sure they have the necessary voter identification, especially if they are unsure.
Witzel-Behl said some people are concerned they will have problems if their address is wrong on their IDs, but it doesn’t matter, the ID is just to prove the voter’s identity.
Soglin said the polling lines on Election Day are longest from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., especially on campus.
Usually, Soglin said, a quarter of the votes are cast by noon, another quarter by 4 p.m. and half are in the 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. slot. He said these busy times even worse on campus.
“Students are in class and it’s before or after dinner that they usually go to vote, so you’ve got two absentee spots on campus,” Soglin said.
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So far, 760 people have voted at Union South and 554 people at the Student Activity Center. Soglin said the student vote makes a difference in state and local totals.
“If you take the student vote out of the total vote, it significantly reduces impact on total votes cast within the county and within the state,” Soglin said.