MADISON – Early in-person voting kicks off Tuesday for Wisconsin’s primary, but many people are turning to mail voting instead because of the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 785,000 voters have asked to have absentee ballots sent to them. That’s more than 10 times as many early ballots as were cast in the 2016 primary, whether by mail or in person.
The difference will only grow as more voters request absentee ballots for the Aug. 11 primary.
Nearly 1 million Wisconsinites voted by mail in the April election for state Supreme Court — a figure that shattered the past record but that is expected to be broken this fall.
Milwaukee offers a good glimpse at how interest in mail voting is surging. More than 74,000 requests for mail ballots have been fulfilled, said Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission. Typically, about 58,000 Milwaukeeans vote in August primaries, whether in person or by mail, she said.
Those who want to vote in person will have a chance to do so starting Tuesday.
In Milwaukee, early voting will be offered from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends at three locations: the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building, 841 N Broadway, Room 102; Manitoba School, 4040 W Forest Home Ave.; and Midtown Center, 5700 W Capitol Drive.
In addition, a dozen other locations in the city will offer early voting on one or more days over the coming two weeks.
Curbside voting is available for those who cannot enter the polling sites.
Early voting ends Aug. 9.
Local officials decide the hours of early voting and where ballots can be cast. Many communities allow early voting during normal business hours in the runup to elections, but some smaller towns provide it by appointment only.
As usual, Madison offers the most opportunities for early voting in the state. Eight sites will be offering drive-up voting most days, and many more will make it available on weekends.
In recent years, some clerks have been offering early voting much sooner than they are this time. Early voting now is limited to two weeks before election day because a federal appeals court in June reinstated a state law that put restrictions on early voting.
Races on the Aug. 11 primary ballots are for congressional, legislative and county races that have more than one Republican or more than one Democrat running in order to narrow the races to head-to-head matchups for Nov. 3.
Contact Patrick Marley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.