Record breaking early voting could mean shorter lines at the polls

MADISON (WKOW) — The Wisconsin Election Commission officials say more than 547,000 absentee ballots have been returned for the November 6 General Election. It breaks the record set in 2014 for early voting in a midterm election.

In the City of Madison, the number of in-person absentee voters more than quadrupled since 2014. In 2014, there were 8,711 in-person absentee ballots cast, this year it was 37,338.

Mayor Paul Soglin says he hopes this continues on election day.

“The is the chance to participate and to be in the game and set a record,” he said.

Previously, the best midterm election turnout was 70 percent of registered voters. Mayor Soglin wants to beat that.

“We’re shooting for 75%,” Soglin said. “We don’t want to be satisfied with an easy new record at a little over 71 percent.”

The city wants to make it easier to vote, even setting up a rapid response team to help keep lines to 15 minutes or less.

“We’re treating this election as if it were a presidential election in terms of staffing,” said City Clerk, Maribeth Witzel-Behl.

There are 2,800 volunteers scheduled to staff polls in Madison, 200 more than the 2016 Presidential Election.

Soglin hopes all the early voting will help keep the lines shorter.

“If it hadn’t been for the absentee voting, we might have as many as 90,000 to 100,000 people voting at the ballot box tomorrow,” he said. “But with all the absentees we’ll probably be around 75,000.”

If you don’t know where to go to vote, the most reliable place to find your polling location is Reid Magney with the Wisconsin Elections Commission says this is the most accurate and secure way find out where to go.

“People are getting texts telling them ‘we see you haven’t voted’, or ‘make sure you vote’, or ‘here’s where to go to vote,'” Said Magney. “If you don’t know where it’s from and it’s election information I would say don’t trust it.”

Magney says more than 90% of voters will be filling out paper ballots because the election commission believes this is safest.

“Paper is what gives us a paper trail. That’s what makes sure that we have something to audit, that we make sure that every ballot counts, that nothing that can be hacked.”

If you haven’t registered to vote yet, you’ll need to do that at the polls before casting your ballot. You’ll need to bring proof of residence and an ID, like a driver’s license or passport.

The polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The city expects the longest lines from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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