‘I had to do the math a couple times, but that’s a 1327% increase!’: Local clerks marvel at unprecedented voter turnout ahead of Feb. 16 primary

After a record number of ballots were cast in Dane County last fall, the first election of 2021 has almost arrived.

In-person absentee voting begins today, Feb. 2. Already, local clerks say they’re seeing an unusual amount of interest.

“We are seeing a holdover in civic engagement on the part of voters,” said Maggie McClain, from the Madison City Clerk’s office.

A record number of Wisconsin voters are already casting their ballots in the state-wide spring primary, two weeks from Election Day.

“We probably have more than 20,000 absentee ballots that have gone out so far,” said McClain, who called that “highly unusual” for a February primary, especially during a pandemic.

“Because of last year and how many people voted absentee, I think people are becoming more comfortable with the process,” she added.

Across Dane County, voter interest remains high after a record-breaking 80% turnout last November.

In Verona, Deputy Clerk Kayla Martin said, despite there being only one race on the ballot (State Superintendent), hundreds of people are requesting to vote absentee.

“I guess f you can vote at home and not wait in line, why not?” Martin said.

In neighboring Oregon, 842 voters have already requested ballots, up from just 59 in 2018, according to Deputy Clerk Candie Jones.

“I had to do the math a couple times to make sure I was doing it right, but that’s a 1327% increase,” Jones said, stunned.

While the pandemic’s changed how many people are voting, the bottom line is they are voting.

“I hope that it’s something we’ll continue to see,” said McClain.

Voters have until February 11th, the Thursday before Election Day, to request an absentee ballot for the spring primary. Ballots must be returned by the 16th to any polling place or dropped in any of the secure ballot boxes outside most fire stations.

Click here to find your polling place.