The line outside the Madison City Clerk's office Wednesday morning remained consistent at about five-people long. As soon as one person entered the office, two more joined the back of the line. Each was waiting to cast an absentee ballot ahead of the June 5 recall election of Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
"I'm actually leaving on a plane in an hour to go to Guatemala," said UW-Madison graduate student Collette Fischer.
Others, such as Lynn Najem, said they wanted to avoid the long lines that are sure to come on Election Day.
"I'm hoping Tuesday's going to have a lot of people waiting in line," Najem said.
As of Wednesday morning, 13,250 absentee ballots had been requested in Madison, and 9,120 had already been returned, according to Elena Berg, a municipal clerk.
Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said 12,121 absentee ballots were cast in the 2010 gubernatorial election, but that was over a four-week period. This year, absentee voting began on May 21, just two weeks before the election.
In 2010, Madison came out strong for Democrats and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is again the Democratic candidate for governor. He won all but three wards in Madison.
Similarly, Walker won all but three wards in the city of Waukesha in 2010. While much smaller than Madison, Waukesha is as important to Republicans as Madison is to Democrats. Through Tuesday, 3,313 absentee ballots had been issued by mail or in person, according to deputy clerk/treasurer Gina Kozlik. In 2010, 3,458 absentee ballots were cast, and Kozlik expects to surpass that number this year with three days left for voters to cast early votes.
Statewide, the Government Accountability Board reported in a statement that at least 130,391 absentee ballots had been requested as of midday Tuesday. In 2010, there were 230,744 absentee ballots cast out of a total 2,160,832 votes.
Voters gave varying reasons for the high absentee turnout so far.
Najem pointed out the role of students, many of whom are leaving Madison for the summer but have to vote at their current address because of the 28-day residency requirement of the Voter ID bill.
"People want to vote on this one," she said.
Others noted the strong emotions involved in the election after months of protesting and gathering signatures.
"It's a very controversial election with a lot of interest and a lot of passion on both sides," said Brian Broughton, who voted Wednesday because he won't have time next week.
Nancy Kosseff said people don't want to miss the opportunity to vote in such an historic election.
"I think people are really eager to vote, people have strong ideas about who should win this election," said Kosseff. "Nobody wants to end up not having voted."
The Madison City Clerk's office will be open from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. daily for absentee voting through Friday, June 1. Voters can request absentee ballots by email through Thursday, May 31 at firstname.lastname@example.org.