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For voters casting ballots early, there are 18 in-person absentee voting locations scattered throughout Madison. These places are frequently libraries, though they also include the Madison city clerk’s office and some college campuses. According to Karen, a poll worker at the southern branch of Madison Area Technical College, these sites serve more functions than simply collecting ballots.
“We can witness a ballot,” says Karen. “I issue ballots so that if you haven’t voted yet but you don’t want to vote on election day, you can vote here on this site, otherwise on election day is when you need to show up at your specific polling place. If you have a ballot that you have voted at home and have had witnessed, on election day you can take that ballot to your specific polling place to turn it in there. They will accept your ballot there.”
The upcoming August primary will see Madison residents choose candidates for a bevy of offices. Some races for state senator and state representative, in particular, have a crowded field of candidates. Despite this, Karen says, turnout at her site has not been very high.
“This is a slow election. I only know my site, maybe ten a day.”
She also says that some people have told her they aren’t interested in the August primary. They just want to be ready for the November election.
But while some places, such as the southern Madison College campus, are experiencing low turnout, other areas are far busier. Kevin is a poll worker at the Sequoya branch of the Madison Public Library system, and he says his location is very active.
“Last week was a little bit quieter, I think people weren’t quite ready for it,” says Kevin. “We were getting 30-70 absentee ballots each day. This week it’s been a little bit busier, so we’ve been getting somewhere between 150 and 200 ballots a day.”
Karen at the Southern Madison College locations says that one of the reasons for low turnout there is that because of the pandemic, students are difficult to get ahold of. But UW-Madison and Edgewood campuses have also set up early voting locations, although some are by appointment only.
And while mail-in voting is still an option, ballots must be received by the Clerk’s office at the end of voting next Tuesday in order to be counted. With only five days left for ballots to make it through the mail, dropping ballots off at designated sites throughout the city, or at the City Clerk’s office, is also an option.
According to Andrew, an election official at the Central Library polling location, a person dropped off multiple ballots for different people just earlier today.
“It’s already signed, sealed, and the witness signature is on it, so they could have been helping a friend out who may not be capable of coming out during the COVID time, so they’re doing individuals they know a favor of simply just coming to drop it off,” says Andrew. “And we verify that it’s filled out, and if there are any discrepancies than we have to hand it back to the voter and they have to fix those errors before we can accept it.”
Andrew also says that election officials are able to act as witnesses for people who need a witness in order to have their vote count.
Voters who requested a ballot, but have not yet turned it in, can also drop it off at their polling place on primary day. If you’ve already mailed back your ballot, though, you’re not able to vote in person.
The Madison Clerk’s office says as of today, it has received back 54% of absentee ballots issued.
54% of the 71,060 @CityofMadison absentees we have issued have been returned to be counted. Still need to return your absentee? Bring it to one of our drop-off or drive-up/walk-through absentee sites. https://t.co/G7sxxnYQ62
— Madison WI Clerk (@MadisonWIClerk) August 6, 2020
Sandra, a woman who just recently moved to Wisconsin, says that she went to the City clerk’s office to get registered, and experienced no problems.
“It’s been great,” said Sandra. “No delays, no problems, everyone has been very nice, they provided all the information I needed, so no, it’s been great.”
Many drive-up and walk-up early voting locations are open tomorrow, Friday. If you are not already registered to vote at your current address, you may register to vote, with proof of residence, at any absentee voting location.
This Saturday, voting locations are only open to pre-registered voters.
Polls are open next Tuesday from 7am to 8pm. Voters can register at the polls on Tuesday if they have not already done so.