By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Early voting for the 2020 election is nearly over – it ends Sunday, Nov. 1 – and to encourage more people to vote early, the mayors of five major cities in Wisconsin have issued a challenge.
Mayor Cory Mason of Racine, Mayor John Antaramian of Kenosha, Mayor Eric Genrich of Green Bay, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway of Madison and of course, Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee held a virtual press conference on Monday, Oct. 26.
During the meeting, Mason explained that the five of them have been having weekly discussions to foster collaboration and share best practices when it comes to voting. In light of the pandemic, cities across the nation are encouraging voters to cast their ballot absentee by mail or in-person at an early voting polling site.
The challenge is this: the five cities are competing to see which can get the highest percentage of registered voters to vote early. And while there’s no official prize, aside from bragging rights, the heart of the challenge is to get people to vote.
Each of these cities offers early voting locations and absentee ballot drop boxes. Milwaukee residents can go to city.milwaukee.gov/414votes for information on drop boxes and early voting sites.
The drop boxes in Milwaukee will remain open until 7:30 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3.
“We are certainly on track to surpass the number of early votes in 2016,” Barrett said.
One of the biggest challenges that Wisconsin is facing is the fact that all votes, including absentee ballots, must be counted on Election Day. In other words, despite the high number of absentee ballots, they can’t be counted until Election Day.
To overcome this hurdle, Milwaukee has purchased 10 high speed counting machines to keep up with the pace, Barrett said. All the absentee ballots will be processed at a central counting location, he added.
Antaramian said the legislature needs to change in order for early votes to be counted as they arrived rather than waiting until Tuesday.
“It’d be helpful to start counting sooner rather than later,” he said.
Polling sites are being equipped with plexiglass, hand sanitizer and social distancing measures to ensure a safe vote for everyone. The protocol being taken show a marriage between the Election Commission and the health department, Barrett said.
Rhodes-Conway said that Madison is learning from what happened in April and August to better inform the November election. Election officials have spoken with 20 organizations to ensure not only a safe environment but an equitable one as well.
“[We are doing] everything to make sure everyone has a way to vote that works for them,” she said.
Genrich said that Green Bay is making sure that its residents know that voting can be fun.
“Democracy is really fun and inspiring,” he said, adding that the city’s “I Voted” stickers have been made by a local artist.
“We want everyone to participate in this election is the safest and most secure way possible,” Genrich said. “Early voting plays a role in that.”
The mayors encouraged that all of Wisconsin join in the challenge to increase the percentage of early voters.
Early voting ends on Sunday, Nov. 1. The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Remember to bring your photo ID. For more information go to myvote.wi.gov.