Wisconsin Shatters Early Voting Record

Nearly 800,000 Cast Early Ballots In Wisconsin, Previous Record Set In 2012

Gerry Broome/AP Photo

Wisconsin voters have shattered early voting records, according to numbers released Monday by the state Elections Commission.

According to the commission, 797,740 absentee ballots have been recorded by municipal clerks for tallying on Election Day. The previous record was 659,444 ballots, which was set in 2012.

“A number of factors may be contributing to this year’s higher absentee turnout, but the long-term trend has been toward increasing use of absentee voting both by mail and in clerks’ offices,” said Michael Haas, commission administrator, in a prepared statement.

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Absentee voting has grown from 639,913 absentee ballots in 2008 to 659,444 in 2012 and 797,740 this year, according to Elections Commission numbers.

Early voting was expanded this year after a July federal court decision struck down state laws restricting hours and locations for in-person absentee voting.

Some communities, including Madison and Milwaukee, began early voting as early as late September. Madison opened 13 early voting locations; Milwaukee opened three.

The highest early voting turnout was in Milwaukee County, which had 128,492 ballots returned. Dane County had 117,714. Waukesha County had 88,363.

Chris Astrella, president of the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association, said he doesn’t believe the surge in early voting can be attributed to any single factor.

Astrella cited the lifted restrictions, candidates urging voters to cast ballots early, and nice weather as possible turnout drivers.

He also said he expects polls to be busy on Election Day, despite the strong showing in early voting.

“It just might be a little bit quieter on Election Day,” Astrella said. “But I don’t expect it to be quiet – I still expect it to be very busy.”

The Elections Commission predicts 3.1 million people, about 70 percent of Wisconsin’s voting-age population, will vote in 2016 election.