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Wisconsin Voters Could See Earliest-Ever Voting This Fall

Federal Ruling, Law Combine To Offer Possibility Of Earlier Absentee Voting

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo

Some Wisconsin voters may vote earlier than ever before in this year’s presidential election because of a recent court ruling coupled with an earlier fall primary.

In 2012, a federal law required Wisconsin’s fall primary be moved from September to August, giving city clerks earlier access to finalized ballots for November.

Last month, a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s restrictions on early voting hours, including bans on weekend in-person absentee voting, officially opening the door for clerks to use that early access to ballots and bump up the start of early voting in the state.

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Last week, Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl announced the city would have the earliest-ever kick-off for early voting: Sept. 26.

Witzel-Behl said the increased hours will allow her office spread out the substantial workload of processing in-person and mailed absentee ballots.

In recent years, her office has had to process more than 1,000 ballots per day, she said.

“We’ve had high turnout and such restrictions on the hours we could have absentee voting at the counter – it was really hard to meet the demand,” she said.

According to numbers from the Elections Commission, early voting has been steadily rising in Wisconsin since 2000.

The state Department of Justice submitted a request for a stay of the federal judge’s decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday. If approved, the stay would put early voting restrictions back in place for November.

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