MADISON, Wis. — Milwaukee and Madison opened early in-person voting Monday, starting with a city garage in Wisconsin’s capital city as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters in the two Democratic strongholds to get others to the polls before Election Day.
Although the first early in-person voting began Sept. 13 in northern Wisconsin’s Land O’Lakes, Monday marked the first opportunity for voters to appear in person to cast ballots in the state’s two largest cities. The Wisconsin ballot includes closely contested races for president and U.S. senator.
The city garage opened in Madison at 7 a.m. Another polling station opened at 8 a.m. in the Madison city clerk’s office. By 8:25 a.m., 40 people were lined up.
John Kraniak, the 67-year-old membership director for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, was one of the first in line. He said he voted early because the clerk’s office is only a block from his office and he wanted to “get it out of the way.”
He cast his ballot for Clinton. “It is Madison, after all,” he quipped, referring to the city’s reputation as one of the most liberal communities in the country. Kraniak added that if Trump became president he might consider moving to Canada.
Clinton’s campaign released a statement Monday telling voters that “Thanks to early voting, it’s easier than ever to make your voice heard” and urging them to bring friends and family with them to the polls.
Asked for a response, Pete Meachum, director of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s Wisconsin campaign, accused Clinton of offering failed and dishonest policies and said only Trump can bring change.
Jim White, a 29-year-old University of Wisconsin-Madison student, cast the first vote at Madison’s city garage. He said he wanted to make sure he cast his ballot for Clinton because no one knows what conflicts might arise that could prevent him from voting on Election Day.
He said his friends, some of whom have voted Democratic for years, don’t believe Clinton is presidential material and he wants to prove them wrong. He added that he can’t tell Trump stands on anything and the outspoken Republican’s behavior is offensive.
“When you have someone who doesn’t seem to care about the process, all he cares about is air time, I don’t see how that person can be president,” White said.
Early in-person voting began in Milwaukee at downtown municipal building at 10 a.m. Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht said workers got a rush of 40 to 50 voters when the doors opened. About 200 people had voted by noon, he said. Usually the city sees a couple hundred early voters in a day, let alone two hours, Albrecht said.
Wisconsin residents can cast absentee ballots by mail or vote early in-person. In neither case do they have to provide election officials with a reason why they won’t vote on Election Day. People looking to mail in an absentee ballot can make a request with municipal officials for a ballot any time they like. Officials can start mailing out ballots as soon as county clerks print them.
Republicans included language in their 2011 law mandating voters show photo idea that limited the window for in-person early voting from between the third Monday before the election to the Friday immediately preceding it. In other words, the legislation gave voters 10 days to cast an early in-person ballot. The GOP passed another law in 2014 that prohibited early in-person voting on weekends.
U.S. District Judge James Peterson struck down the limitations in July as part of a broader ruling invalidating a host of GOP-authored election laws, saying the restrictions create a burden on voters and no weekend voting intentionally discriminates against Democratic-leaning black people in Milwaukee.
Early in-person voting will continue in Madison through Nov. 4. Milwaukee in-person early voting will continue through Nov. 5.
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This story has been corrected to reflect that the name of Trump’s Wisconsin campaign director is spelled Meachum, not Meacham.