Early voting wraps up with big turnout

Early voting wraps up with big turnout

Early voting wrapped up across Wisconsin Friday evening, and the turnout was significant in and around Madison.

While most clerks’ offices shut their doors to early voters at 5 p.m., Madison stretched its deadline to 7 p.m. Everyone who was in line at that time could get in to cast a ballot, and in the end, 2,395 people came out to the polls in Madison on Friday.

Lines weaved through the city-county building downtown, and even stretched outside.

This year, Madison clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl counted 18,758 in-person absentee ballots. That’s 950 more voters than the last presidential election in 2008.

“It’s a little surprising that we surpassed the 2008 number in a lot less time,” Witzel-Behl said.

Back in 2008, Witzel-Behl said there were four weeks of early voting. This year, there were just 12 days.

Even through it took some people about two hours to get through the line, Witzel-Behl said the city’s system gets people through in a quarter of the time compared to 2008.

“We just focus and move through as efficiently as we can, but we also want to be accurate, so we can’t really rush things,” Witzel-Behl said.

In Belleville, deputy clerk/treasurer Darlene Hendrickson said things have been very busy.

“It’s like two weeks of Election Day. We’ve been pretty busy, people coming on and off,” Hendrickson said.

About 300 people had dropped by the office to vote early as of Friday afternoon, more than 20 percent of registered voters in the village. She said that turnout is more than the last presidential race.

“This is just such a controversial election that a lot of people are wanting to get in and make sure they’re voting,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said some people think they’re beating out the crowds or helping out the clerks, but especially in places like Belleville, that’s not really the case.

Hendrickson said they will have significantly more staffing on Tuesday. On top of that, she said it takes longer to process those ballots than ones cast on Election Day.

Witzel-Behl added that ballots sealed off and locked away during early voting are sent to the polling location that voter would have visited on Election Day where election officials feed it through.

“It’s not that it saves work on Election Day. It’s just that the election officials will be handling your ballot,” Witzel-Behl said.

Early voting wraps up with big turnout

Witzel-Behl thinks the wait will be shorter after early voting wraps up.

“The lines will be shorter at your polling place on Election Day than they are here at the city clerk’s office,” Witzel-Behl said.

Final numbers for absentee ballots across the state have not been released by the Government Accountability Board.