Voting Rights Banner

In a year like no other, here is our running update on what the voters are thinking, saying, and choosing. Bookmark this page and check back often for headlines leading up to Nov. 3 and beyond.

Early Voting Proves to Be Popular. Already 1 Million Votes Cast in Wisconsin. 

The first day of early in-person voting attracted big crowds in some Wisconsin communities. The state elections commission office reports at least 79,774 in-person early voters cast ballots on Tuesday. The number is likely significantly higher as many municipalities have not yet reported their Tuesday figures.

Vehicles lined both sides of a street just outside of Eau Claire City Hall for a drive-up site that opened at 7 a.m. City Clerk Carrie Riepl reported 1,283 early voters by day’s end.

In Wausau, 563 people cast early ballots. Mayor Katie Rosenberg said city staff worked diligently to clean voting booths and provide germ-free pens to voters to protect against COVID-19. 

In Green Bay, voters waited in line for two or three hours to cast their ballots, according to the city clerk’s office. In Appleton, city officials encouraged voters to request a mail-in ballot because of long early-voting lines there. 

Likewise, election workers in Onalaska reported long lines of voters waiting to cast ballots, as was the case in Kenosha, where a group of people gathered before leaving the city and marching to Milwaukee to raise awareness about voting. 

Reports from earlier in the day indicated voters stood in line for an hour or more at some locations in Milwaukee.

As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, Wisconsinites have already cast more than 1 million total votes by returning mailed absentee ballots to their local election clerks’ offices (1,027,585), and through in-person early voting (79,774).

Oct. 21, 9 a.m.

Outagamie Co.: Misprinted Ballots May Slow the Count, But It Will Be Done Accurately

Officials in Outagamie County say they caught a technical misprint on a ballot in time for it not to cause an issue for early in-person voting that starts Tuesday, but it will likely delay the counting of ballots already mailed to voters.

The misprint is a scratch that is described as no wider than a fingernail on a timing mark at the edge of the Outagamie County ballot, and it does not impact any contests, candidates or ballot referenda. At least 5,500 absentee ballots are affected, and possibly more, according to an Oct. 15 letter the county sent to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

The county is expected to ask the state Supreme Court for permission to extend its deadline for counting absentee ballots, currently set for 4 p.m. on Nov. 4.

County Clerk Lori O’Bright said in a statement that the county’s testing protocols caught the misprint in time for the print vendor to replace all ballots that will be used for early, in-person voting starting Tuesday.

“Voters who received an absentee ballot with the misprint need not take any action – their votes will be counted,” she said. She expressed confidence in the integrity of the election, pointing out that the system worked as intended.

“This is a perfect example of why we have testing procedures in place,” she said.

Outagamie County Deputy Corporation Counsel Kyle Sargent reiterated that all ballots would be counted, saying there are safeguards in place to ensure accuracy, including having witnesses observe the process.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

He’s Not, and He Won’t

While there is still a lot we don’t know about the novel coronavirus, we have seen instances of reinfection. Accepting a kiss from President Trump would not be medically advised.

Nor is it likely. A self-professed germophobe, Trump speculated that his recent illness from COVID-19 may have been the fault of families who have lost loved ones while serving in times of military conflict. “They want to hug me, and they want to kiss me,” Trump said of meetings with families in mourning.

Read Jessica’s full report on Trump’s campaign visit to Janesville.

Polling Place Etiquette—Don’t Be That Guy

While voting is a constitutional right, that right comes with responsibilities.

So if you vote in-person on Nov. 3, there’s one core tenet to keep in mind, according to Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney: “The main thing is don’t cause a disturbance. That’s sort of the overall principle of things.”

As for whether wearing your favorite candidate’s button or t-shirt constitutes a polling place no-no, read our story on Electioneering.

How to Get an Absentee Ballot, Fill It Out Correctly, and Return It

If we can do it, you can do it, too.

Why Aren’t There Many Competitive Races for the State Legislature

When voters handed power to Republicans in the 2010 election, it not only led to Scott Walker becoming governor, the Act 10 “bomb,” and billions of dollars less for public schools, it also flipped the switch on a new generation of gerrymandering.

The boundaries of legislative and congressional districts were taken in directions never seen before, and the result was the GOP holding a share of legislative seats well beyond the proportion of votes they got statewide in ensuing elections. Here are some related stories:

What Does It Mean to Gerrymander a State?

Gov. Evers’ Commission on Fair Maps Kicks Off Its Campaign to Kill Gerrymandering

Plaintiff in Landmark Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case: Vote to Create a Fair Map System

What Are the Key Legislative Races to Watch on Election Night?

Barring a national landslide, it’s unlikely that there will be major changes to the balance of power in the Assembly and Senate. But there are always a few races that get attention due to competitive racers, retirements that create open seats, and other factors.

So to get our election blog underway, let’s look at the top ten races in the Wisconsin Legislature we’re following.

To 2020 Readers: Welcome! To 2021 Readers: How’d We Do?

Here it is: our first post in what will become our Election Night blog for 2020. We’ll begin with some pre-election stories about the top races, the big issues, the basics of voting, and other items designed to set the scene for the fireworks that are sure to follow.

As we open this page, we are seeing tremendous early turnout from Wisconsin voters, and it warms our hearts. Our neighbors and friends may disagree on issues and candidates, but we are a state full of cheeseheads who still take democracy seriously. We are working hard at UpNorthNews to toot Wisconsin’s horn about our level of civic engagement. We want everyone to head into their polling place feeling the power and the worth of their vote.

We’re also extremely curious about what people will think when they look back on these first pre-election and Election Day entries. As we began preparing this page, we took a look back at several election night blogs from 2016 and we couldn’t help but feel the horror-movie sensation of wanting to shout, “Look out!” It was a late-night surprise ending to a day that had dawned with different expectations. Four years later, you are hard-pressed to find anyone making confident predictions about anything other than how unpredictable 2020 has already turned out to be.

What we can reasonably predict this time around is if Joe Biden has a healthy lead deep into election night, President Trump will make a lot of noise about the system being rigged against him, even though he almost never cracked 50% in a variety of approval polls during his term.

But if the night ends with the outcome still in doubt, we expect a battle royale over all those absentee ballots that are either in the process of being counted or still arriving, depending on deadlines. 

Trump and his supporters will spare no effort in casting doubt on the validity of those legally-cast ballots, looking for judges who will throw a wrench into the process of counting and certification. And if that happens, we expect a weary nation to wonder if this will drag on past December 12, the calendar date in 2000 that marked the end of the lengthy Bush v. Gore battle over ballots in Florida.

Will we have a high tech equivalent of “hanging chads” in 2020?

Will Wisconsin again play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of the presidency?

Will this blog page have a neat and tidy end on the morning of Nov. 4?

Are you 2021 readers screaming, “Look out!”?

Or are you telling us our concerns turned out to be all for nothing?

The only way we’re going to answer those questions and get to the final entry of this blog is to start typing our way up, one story, observation, tip, and result at a time. Let’s do it!