Milwaukee Officials Report Brisk Early Voting

Aug 6, 2014

Officials in Milwaukee are seeing high numbers of voters for a  typically low-turnout fall primary.
Officials in Milwaukee are seeing high numbers of voters for a typically low-turnout fall primary.
Credit Erin Toner

Milwaukee has been experiencing brisk turnout during the early voting period for Tuesday’s primary. Big numbers are not the norm.

They follow Gov. Walker signing a bill into law limiting early voting. Wisconsin now allows it only on weekdays before 7 p.m. and during the two weeks prior to elections.

Neil Albrecht is election commissioner for the City of Milwaukee. He says fall primaries typically attract very few in-person, absentee voters.

“We’ll maybe see 10 to 25 people per day, so the fact that we’re seeing anywhere from 110 to 125 per day right now really demonstrates a great voter interest in this particular primary. Once early voting is over, we’ll probably have seen anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 residents compared to normally, we’d have less than 250 early voting. So, (there’s) great enthusiasm toward this fall primary. We’re excited. It means it will be busy at the voting sites on Election Day,” Albrecht says.

He says the fact that there are numerous contests on the primary ballot is likely pushing up voter interest.

“There’s a vacancy, no incumbent, for the 19th Assembly district, a lot of candidates running for that office. The (Milwaukee County) Sheriff race seems to be attracting a lot of public attention. But it’s a full ballot. You’ve got the governor, lieutenant governor, Assembly races across the city. You’ve got some of the state Senate districts, Congress. It is a full ballot for voters,” he says.

Albrecht says he’s seen a sprinkling of get-out-the-vote efforts recently, but expects those to pick up over the next few months.

“Last week there were a few downtown rallies and voters came in and voted after those rallies. We’ve also been in contact with some of the groups that traditionally do get-out-the-vote activities and we know that they’re really organizing. Their focus, though, right now, is on the November general election and really making sure that voters turn out for that. As important as the primary is, we always call it a 'selection,' not an election because no one gets elected out of August 12, but a lot of eyes are on that November general election,” he says.

One of the early voters at City Hall Wednesday was Chris Johnson. He says he came because he had the time and didn’t want to wait until next Tuesday. He’s interested in a few races.

“The Gwen Moore, Gary George election is exciting and I wanted to make sure I spoke my voice,” he says.

Johnson is also closely watching the race for Milwaukee County Sheriff.

“Especially after the revelation that the advertising was going to increase for (Chris) Moews,” Johnson says.

Moews is challenging incumbent Sheriff David Clarke. You can read more about that race here.

Attorney Christine Lindstrom voted during her lunch break.

“I’m not sure what my schedule’s going to be on the day of (the election), so I thought, get it done early,” she says, adding there isn’t one specific race that brought her to the polls.

“All of it I’m interested in. I mean, this is an important process, so I took every vote to heart,” Lindstrom says.

She says it was nice to be able to vote without having to wait in line.

“Very easy, very fast and they’re very helpful in there.”

Lindstrom’s colleague, Megan Zabkowicz, says it’s a good feeling to know her vote is in.

“They make it so easy to vote early that it’s almost preferable. Do it, get it done, know it counted and you don’t have to worry about it on Election Day,” Zabkowicz says.

Milwaukee Election Commissioner Neil Albrecht says voters don’t need to declare a reason or have an excuse to vote prior to election day. He says anyone can vote early, in person at City Hall through 7 p.m. Friday.