Wisconsinites Are Getting to the Polls Early in a Big Way

Wisconsinites Are Getting to the Polls Early in a Big Way


By Julian Emerson

October 20, 2020

Voting early and in-person began Tuesday and continues through Oct. 30.

Vehicles lined both sides of a street just outside of Eau Claire City Hall and filled a nearby parking lot Tuesday morning, a sign that early in-person voting will be a popular way to cast ballots in Wisconsin for the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The drive-up early voting site opened at 7 a.m., and already vehicles snaked along nearby streets as motorists waited to vote. Some motorists were waved into a parking lot and presented with ballots, which were then collected from them after they voted. 

More than 200 people had voted by 9:30 a.m., Eau Claire City Clerk Carrie Riepl said. By 4 p.m. that figure rose to 1,283.

Election workers, donning bright-yellow vests, shuttled from vehicle to vehicle, bringing and collecting ballots amid a snowfall. 

“It’s been like this all morning,” Riepl said shortly after 11 a.m. as she surveyed long lines of traffic and a jam-packed parking lot. “It’s been busy non-stop.” 

Eau Claire resident Sandra McKinney is voting through the drive-up method, which she first did in the August primary election. Doing so is “easy, fast, and safe,” she said. 

Tuesday marked the first day of an 11-day early, in-person voting period in Wisconsin. Voters can cast ballots in person at designated locations through Oct. 30, although some communities can choose to allow voting as late as Nov. 1. They can also vote in the traditional way at polling places on Nov. 3. For more information about voting, visit the MyVote site

Wisconsinites Are Getting to the Polls Early in a Big Way
A poll worker helps a voter seal and witness her absentee ballot Tuesday afternoon at the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building in Milwaukee. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

Some other locations across Wisconsin reported busy early voting as well. In Wausau, more than 250 people had cast early ballots, a figure that grew to 563 by day’s end. Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg said city staff worked diligently to clean voting booths and provide germ-free pens to voters to protect against COVID-19. 

“I’m super pumped to see this level of engagement in the (voting) process,” Rosenberg said, noting the city will have drive-up voting this weekend. 

In Green Bay, voters waited in line for two or three hours to cast their ballots because of high turnout for early in-person voting, 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. 

Reports from earlier in the day indicated voters stood in line for an hour or more at some locations in Milwaukee, such as Washington Park Library in the Sherman Park neighborhood and the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building downtown. Voters there could vote early at 14 locations, compared to three such voting sites in the 2016 presidential election.

Wisconsinites Are Getting to the Polls Early in a Big Way
Eau Claire election workers collect ballots from voters participating in drive-through early voting near City Hall Tuesday morning. City Clerk Carrie Riepl said about 100 people per hour were voting during morning hours Tuesday, the first day of early in-person voting in Wisconsin for the Nov. 3 election. (Photo by Julian Emerson)

By 4 p.m. there was a fast-moving line of about a dozen voters at the Zeidler building, and by 4:30 p.m. early voting at Washington Park Library had shut down, though a drop box remained for voters to leave filled-out ballots.

Early in-person votes are technically counted as absentee votes. Wisconsin voters are seeking an unprecedented number of absentee ballots as coronavirus cases continue to spike across the state. So far for the Nov. 3 election, 1,416,108 absentee ballots have been requested and 915,965 returned as of Tuesday, according to the Wisconsin Election Commission.


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