By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Every United States citizen has the right to vote, but they don’t always have the opportunity to. Earlier this week, Mayor Tom Barrett, announced the city’s decision to expand early voting dates and sites for the upcoming election.
“I get very excited about today’s topic,” Barrett said.
Barrett remarked that over the past seven years, laws and regulations have been put into place that makes it harder to vote. It’s an issue that affects the entire nation, he said. The solution to countering these changes is voting. In this country he said and specifically in this city, every resident who can vote should be able to.
“We want you to vote,” he said.
Ten years ago, only one location was available for early voting: the Zeidler Municipal Building located on Broadway. After the 2016 elections, the city created three more. For this election round, there will be eight early voting/in-person absentee voting sites.
According to Barrett, this is the largest expansion of early voting the city has ever seen.
The locations are as follows: Zeidler Municipal Building, Midtown Center, Mitchell Street Library, Zablocki Library, Center Street Library, Mill Road Library, UW-Milwaukee’s Helen Zelazo Center and MATC.
Early voting will begin as early as Sept. 24 at the Zeidler Municipal Building, Midtown Center and Mitchell Street Library. The rest of the locations will open on Oct. 15 through Nov. 4. Residents will have the opportunity on any given weekday including a few Saturdays and Sundays, to visit the centers and cast their vote, although there will be some exceptions.
“Our democracy is strongest when more people are engaged,” Barrett said.
In addition to announcing the early voting sites, Barrett wanted to tackle the myth behind the photo ID. The purpose of the photo ID is to let people know who you are, not where you live, he said. Even if the ID has an old address on it, it can still be used to vote.
He hopes that when this next election comes to an end the news will focus on who won and who lost, and not on the voting process.
Neil Albrecht, Executive Director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, was one of the leaders behind the expansion campaign. According to him, the purpose of the campaign was all about helping Milwaukee vote and minimizing the barriers that have prevented people in the past.
Part of this process included recognizing the hardships like registration and transportation, as well as managing an election day schedule. Some people work multiple jobs, so their schedules may not permit them the opportunity to vote. He’s hopeful these additional locations will change that.
“If you let people vote, they will,” said Albrecht.
Albrecht noted that when people are engaged in the democratic process that they display a “tremendous enthusiasm” for it. Among those interested are students, he said, but there tends to be a lot of confusion about where they should vote.
To counter this, two of the additional sites are UW-Milwaukee (UWM) and MATC. While students, faculty and surrounding neighbors will be allowed to vote and register at UWM only MATC students and faculty can access their location.
“UWM is thrilled to partner with the city on this initiative,” said Keri Duce, UWM’s Director of External Locations, adding that the university wants their students to be engaged in what they view as an educational opportunity.
To find out what hours the polls are open visit https://city.milwaukee.gov/election.