Madison continues to break records for early absentee voting, building off momentum from record-setting numbers in November’s election.
As of Sunday, 5,325 Madison residents voted absentee in the April 4 spring election, setting a new record for the number of absentee ballots cast in-person for a spring election that did not include a presidential primary. Last year, 5,550 residents voted absentee during in the presidential primary.
Prior to the November presidential election, 26,527 people voted early, smashing the previous record of 18,752 absentees cast in person in November 2012.
The city clerk’s office issued 8,930 absentee ballots for Tuesday’s election, and 1,652 absentee ballots have not yet been returned. April 4 — Election Day — is the the last day to return absentee ballots.
Voter turnout has increased since a federal court ruling in the One Wisconsin Institute case in July 2016 lifted a state prohibition on municipalities offering more than one location for in-person absentee voting.
Data from the city clerk’s office shows that wards near UW-Madison’s campus reported a significant increase in voting in February 2017 compared to previous spring elections, which the city clerk’s office said are “indicative of students’ interest in civic engagement.”
The Red Gym, located on UW-Madison’s campus, counted 121 votes compared to 19 in 2015 and 20 in 2013. Gates of Heaven Synagogue on East Gorham Street reported 590 early absentee voters compared to 174 and 171 in 2015 and 2013, respectively.
Ald. Zach Wood, District 8, attributes the higher in-person absentee turnout numbers to events at the federal level including the election of President Donald Trump and recent actions from Secretary of Education Betsy Devos.
“The fall election galvanized people for the spring,” Wood said. “It’s their next opportunity to get involved, at least electorally.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Gates of Heaven and the Lowell Center counted 60 and 20 total in-person absentee ballots, respectively.
Wood is up for re-election and is one of five incumbent Madison City Council alders who face challengers Tuesday. John Terry, Jr. is running for the District 8 seat and said he can bring a new perspective to the Council as a formerly homeless man.
Districts 1, 10, 11 and 14 are also contested.
- David Handowski is challenging incumbent alder Barbara Harrington-McKinney in the first district.
- Steve Fitzsimmons is vying for the District 10 seat, which is currently held by Maurice Cheeks.
- Arvina Martin and Bradley Campbell, two City Council newcomers, will competing for the District 11 seat.
- José Rea is challenging incumbent alder Sheri Carter in District 14.
Also on the ballot, Madison School Board candidates Ali Muldrow and Kate Towes are competing for Seat 6. Nicki Vander Meulen was challenging incumbent Ed Hughes for Seat 7 until he ended his re-election campaign in March.
Lowell Holtz is challenging two-term incumbent Tony Evers for the state schools superintendent position.
Jill Karofsky, the director of the Office of Crime Victim Services in the state Department of Justice, and Marilyn Townsend, a municipal judge for the Village of Shorewood Hills, are running for Circuit Judge Clayton Kawski’s Branch 12 seat.