Voter turnout breaks record for presidential election in Madison, nearly all absentee ballots processed before polls close

MADISON, Wis. – The city of Madison clerk is crediting a large number of poll workers with meeting the goal of processing absentee ballots by the time polls closed as the city breaks a voter turnout record.

According to City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl, at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the city was at 82.4% voter turnout. That alone would be a record for a presidential election in recent years, she said, with statistics released from her office going back to 1984. The final total will be higher once all poll inspectors bring election materials in to the clerk’s office.

That’s the highest voter turnout has been in recent years since the November 2018 election, which drew nearly 93% of Madison’s registered voters.

By 7 p.m., 90 of Madison’s 92 polling places had completed counting absentee ballots, and Witzel-Behl said workers at the final two polling places were on pace to finish by the goal of 8 p.m.

“It’s not a surprise,” Witzel-Behl said. “We had so many people who signed up to work at the polls.”

While previous presidential elections had about 3,000 poll workers, Witzel-Behl said more than 5,000 poll workers, about 4,000 of which were new election officials, were helping out.

“It really did help, because it takes humans to process the absentees,” she said. “We had enough space at our polling locations. The businesses and the school district and other government entities such as the UW were very generous with their space so that could allow for social distancing and for more election officials than we ever had work in the past.”

Poll workers processed ballots throughout the day alongside in-person voters.

“We want the voters to be able to see what is happening with these absentee ballots,” Witzel-Behl said. “So if you do walk into the polling place while processing absentees, you’ll see officials continue to process absentees, because we’re trying to be transparent about what’s happening.”