What You Should Know About Early Voting in Wisconsin

Oct 20, 2014

The Zeidler Municipal Building in downtown Milwaukee was busy during the noon hour on Monday.
Credit Marti Mikkelson

Early voting began Monday in Wisconsin. Voters can cast in-person absentee ballots in city clerks’ offices across the state through Friday, October 31.

For people who plan to vote early, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Big turnouts are expected in Milwaukee, but not in some suburban communities.

Milwaukee’s Election Commissioner Neil Albrecht expects long lines to form at times at the Zeidler Municipal Building in downtown Milwaukee. He says, in the past, early voting for big elections drew up to 30,000 people.

To find out where your municipal clerk's office is, visit myvote.wi.gov.

If you want to avoid lines, "the first week is actually relatively slow, we usually have people in an out within five to ten minutes,” Albrecht says. "So if any of your listeners know who they are going to be voting for and want to cast their ballot, this is the week to do that."

The busiest times to vote early are during the noon hour, as well as before and after the traditional work day, he says. The downtown polling place will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.

One person who intends to drive people to the municipal building is Matt Brusky. He works with the group, Wisconsin Citizen Action. Brusky says members have been spreading the word, the past few weeks.

“We’re in the neighborhoods and in the churches, particularly in Milwaukee’s African-American community,” Brusky says. "That’s where predominantly we get our rides, but if somebody calls and needs a ride, we’ll take it any way."

Brusky says in the 2012 presidential election, the group gave rides to more than 300 people during the early voting period.

While he and Milwaukee election leaders promote early voting as a way to avoid long waits on Election Day, officials in Brookfield discourage the practice - if it’s only for convenience sake. Kelly Michaels is city clerk. Her office has been telling people to vote early only if absolutely necessary.

“We’ve been doing a lot of education in our newsletter, just talking to people in the community about absentee voting, how costly it is and how you have to be really careful when you vote absentee because you’re not at the polls to feed your ballot into the tabulation machine and that machine is programmed to tell you when you’ve made a balloting error that would potentially cause your vote not to count,” Michaels says.

Ballots cast early are secured until election night, when workers feed them into tabulating machines. Michaels expects about 1,000 Brookfield residents to vote early, down about 4,000 who did so in the 2012 presidential election.