One week away from the Nov. 6 election, Madison has already surpassed early voting records in comparable elections.
Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl reported the office had issued 32,332 absentee ballots as of 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Of those ballots, 28,664 have been returned and will be counted at the polls Nov. 6.
Of the total returned ballots, 22,387 were cast in person, Witzel-Behl said.
“Every day this week we’ll have more and more people vote absentee,” Witzel-Behl said.
In 2014, the clerk’s office issued 17,984 ballots. Of those, 15,030 were returned and 8,811 were cast in person. The 2010 governor’s election yielded 12,121 absentee ballots issued, 11,377 returned with 5,550 cast in person.
Two years ago during the 2016 presidential election, the clerk’s office issued 66,834 ballots, Of those, 63,853 were returned and 57,260 were cast in person.
Mayor Paul Soglin encouraged residents to vote, setting a goal of 75 percent voter turnout. During the press conference, the mayor filled out his ballot, stuffed it into the envelope and signed it as the clerk observed as a witness.
“Right now as I finish my ballot and complete it, I’ve just set a new record for the city,” Soglin said.
In November 2016 during a presidential election, 79 percent of the registered voters turned out to vote. During the previous November election with a governor’s race on the ballot, 69.5 percent of those registered to vote cast a ballot.
“Our democracy functions and thrives on the participation of those eligible voters showing up at every election,” Soglin said.
An increase in absentee ballots could be a result of an increase in early voting locations. In 2016, a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s restrictions on early voting hours and that allowed clerks to offer early voting earlier. The Madison clerk’s office also expanded early voting to more polling places.
Soglin attributed the strong turnout so far in Madison to a bigger voter base and increased efforts in improving accessibility to the ballot box.
“As we make it easier and more accessible and people come to understand the importance of their patriotic duty, especially in light of fanatics and some really troubled people who are trying to take that democratic vote away from us, this is a way of asserting yourself and saying, ‘I won’t be intimidated,’” Soglin said.