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UPDATE: In-Person Absentee Voter Turnout Remains High

By: Phil Levin Email
By: Phil Levin Email

UPDATED: Thursday, November 1, 2012 --- 6:30 p.m.

Long waits are greeting early voters this week in Madison, where nearly 2,000 people are lining up each day this week.

Early absentee in-person voting is also strong in other bigger cities, including Janesville, seeing more than 500 people per day.

Statewide, absentee voting is on pace to meet levels seen in the 2008 presidential election. So far, about 10 percent of eligible voters have cast a ballot in person in Wisconsin or requested one to mail. But about 60 percent of absentee voters are coming in to their local clerks' offices.

In smaller cities, early voting is less consistent. In Portage, as of Thursday almost an identical number of absentee ballots were distributed compared to 2008. In Baraboo, absentee voting is down slightly. In Jeffercon county, the clerk's office is seeing a surge.

Friday is the last day for in-person absentee voting in Wisconsin.

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UPDATED: Thursday, November 1, 2012 --- 9:30 a.m.

From the Wisconsin G.A.B.:
In-Person Absentee (Early) Voting Update

MADISON, WI – More than 412,000 Wisconsin residents have requested absentee ballots so far – including more than 256,000 in clerks’ offices – for the November 6 General Election, according to the Government Accountability Board.

“Based on our limited numbers, absentee voting continues to be robust around the state,” said Kevin J. Kennedy, Wisconsin’s chief election official. “One week ago, 225,209 absentee ballots had been requested.”

As of late Wednesday, at least 412,611 voters had requested absentee ballots, according to Wisconsin’s local election officials who track them using the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS). There were 256,277 ballots requested in clerks’ offices, and 156,334 ballots requested by mail and other methods.

Comparable pre-election numbers from four years ago are not available. In 2008, 21 percent of the 2.99 million ballots cast (633,610) were absentee. Clerks are not required to report absentee ballot numbers until after the election. However, more than half of municipal clerks track some or all absentee ballots in SVRS, including all the state’s large cities.

In-person absentee voting in the clerk’s office runs through 5 p.m. or the close of business on Friday, November 2, whichever is later. Some clerks are offering extended hours to handle demand. Voters should check their municipal clerk’s office hours. Some clerks, especially in smaller municipalities, do not have regular 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. office hours. In some places, voters may need to make an appointment.

Elections Division Administrator Nat Robinson urged voters to visit the My Vote Wisconsin website, where they can find their clerk’s location and contact information, as well as see a sample ballot and check their voter registration status: http://myvote.wi.gov.

Additional information about absentee voting is available on the Board’s website: http://gab.wi.gov/voters. The G.A.B. will release updated numbers on Monday, November 5.

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UPDATED Friday, October 26, 2012 --- 11:50 a.m.

From the Wisconsin G.A.B.:
In-Person Absentee (Early) Voting Off to Robust Start

MADISON, WI – More than 225,000 Wisconsin residents have requested absentee ballots so far – including more than 100,000 in clerks’ offices – for the November 6 General Election, according to the Government Accountability Board.

“We are seeing long lines at many municipal clerks’ offices around the state,” said Kevin J. Kennedy, Wisconsin’s chief election official. “One in five ballots (633,610) cast in 2008 were absentee, and we expect to see similar numbers in 2012.”

As of late Thursday, at least 225,209 absentee ballots had been issued by Wisconsin’s local election officials who track them using the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS). There were 101,253 ballots issued in clerks’ offices, and 123,956 ballots issued by mail.

Comparable numbers from four years ago are not available. About one third of municipalities track absentee ballots in SVRS, including all the state’s large cities.

In-person absentee voting in the clerk’s office runs through 5 p.m. or the close of business on Friday, November 2, whichever is later. Some clerks are offering extended hours to handle demand.

Kennedy offered these tips for voters who are thinking of voting early in the clerk’s office:

Check your municipal clerk’s office hours. Some clerks, especially in smaller municipalities, do not have regular 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. office hours. In some places, you may need to make an appointment.

Remember that voting is at municipal clerks’ offices, not county clerks’ offices.

You can find your clerk’s location and contact information at My Vote Wisconsin: http://myvote.wi.gov.

While you are at My Vote Wisconsin, make sure your registration information is current. If it is not, you can fill out a registration form online, print it, sign it and bring it with you to the clerk’s office. Your information will be waiting in the clerk’s computer system.

If you are registering at the clerk’s office, be sure to bring an acceptable proof of residence document because the open registration period ended October 17. You can find a list of documents under “Information About Voting” at the My Vote Wisconsin website.

Consider waiting for Election Day to vote. The lines may well be shorter, especially if you vote at off-peak times.

“In the 2008 election, there were 633,610 absentee ballots, and two-thirds were cast in the clerk’s office. The numbers of absentee voters continues to grow,” said Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B. “There could be many reasons – voter enthusiasm and convenience.”

Elections Division Administrator Nat Robinson said in the past, the G.A.B. has received reports from clerks that a few people who come in to vote are confused about the difference between Wisconsin’s practice of in-person absentee voting and true early voting offered in other states.

“Some people who vote in the clerk’s office expect to be able to put their ballot into a tabulating machine or a ballot box,” Robinson said. “Under Wisconsin law, these ballots must be put into sealed certificate envelopes and sent to the polling place or a central count location on Election Day, where they will be opened and tabulated by election inspectors.”

Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, and must be received by the clerk by 4 p.m. the Friday after the election.

Kennedy noted that there is a popular misperception that absentee ballots are not counted unless an election is close. “Every absentee ballot that has been properly cast will be counted,” Kennedy said.

Because of the popularity of absentee voting, many political parties, committees and interest groups mail out absentee ballot applications to voters they believe will support their candidates. The G.A.B. and municipal clerks around the state continue to receive complaints about these mailers because they contain political messages. But a bigger problem is that some mailers may have an incorrect address for the clerk’s office where they need to be sent, which could delay or prevent a voter from receiving an absentee ballot.

The deadline for clerks to receive a request for an absentee ballot by mail is 5 p.m. Thursday, November 1. Voters who request an absentee ballot using a flier they received in the mail should double check the clerk’s mailing address in the event of an error, Kennedy said.

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UPDATED Monday, October 22, 2012 --- 10:45 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- In-person early voting has begun across Wisconsin, with some people camping overnight outside of city clerk offices to be among the first to cast ballots.

About 75 people were lined up outside the city of Madison clerk's office before it opened at 8 a.m. Monday.

Sandra Rivera-Derickson arrived at 5:30 a.m. to be the first person in line. The 66-year-old retired teacher says she wanted to make a statement that every vote counts. She voted for President Barack Obama.

The campaigns of both Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney were crisscrossing the state over the weekend and on Monday to encourage people to vote early. The in-person early voting period ends the Friday before the election on Nov. 2.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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Posted Monday, October 22, 2012 --- 8:00 a.m.

In-person absentee voting is now underway in Wisconsin for the November 6th election. In-person absentee voting runs until Friday, November 2.

The photo was taken from the City of Madison Clerk's Office, where a line formed early Monday morning.

***From the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board***

In-Person at your Municipal Clerk's Office:

In-person absentee voting runs for two weeks before an election, ending at 5 p.m. or the close of business (whichever is later) on the Friday before the election. Please check with your municipal clerk for regular office hours.

If you apply for an absentee ballot in your municipal clerk's office, you must vote immediately, seal your ballot in the proper envelope, and return it to a member of the clerk's staff. No ballots may be taken from the clerk's office.

***From the City of Madison:***

Absentee In-Person Voting Hours in the City Clerk's Office for City of Madison Voters:

Weekdays: Mon, Oct 22 - Fri, Nov 2: 8 a.m.* to 7 p.m.
Weekend: Sat, Oct 27: 8 a.m.* to 4 p.m.
Sun, Oct 28: Noon to 6 p.m.

*Please note that our office opens at 8 a.m., but it may take a few minutes for us to get the voting computer program and other materials ready, so voting will start a little after 8 a.m. We appreciate your patience and understanding.


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