Early voting begins in Wisconsin, six other states & D.C.

MILWAUKEE -- Hours ahead of the presidential debate on Monday, October 22nd, millions of voters across the country got the chance to cast their ballots through early voting.

In downtown Milwaukee, hundreds took advantage of the opportunity to vote early -- before election day on November 6th.

"It gives people in our state a chance to really have their voice heard and the only way it's going to be heard in this period is to actually get out there and vote. You can sense the energy already, and this is showtime!" Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Mayor Barrett was on hand Monday to welcome the early voters. Actress Ashley Judd was there with the mayor.

"Even as clearly engaged and as passionate as I am, I failed to vote in a pretty important recent presidential election. You have two weeks to vote, not just one day, and that's amazing," Judd said.

Barrett and Judd each stressed how important it is to vote in this election, as Wisconsin is considered a battleground state. Judd says voting early can be a benefit for some.

"Particularly students, working class people, the disabled, the elderly, folks with kids who might get sick on (election day)," Judd said.

Republicans also reminded their base about Monday's first day of absentee balloting. But they're not necessarily encouraging it.

"The early voting, I don't really think it's something that should be expanded upon. I'm more for voting on election day -- unless doing it absentee balloting if you have to be out of town," Keith Best with the Wisconsin Republican Party said.

Democrats and Republicans agree the presidential election has major implications.

Nationwide, approximately 35% to 40% of eligible voters are expected to cast their vote before election day, according to early voting experts. That's 5% to 10% more than those who voted early in 2008.

35 states and the District of Columbia offer some form of early voting - either in person at polling stations or by in-person absentee voting.

Early voting runs from October 22nd through November 2nd. Voting hours are 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

CLICK HERE for voting information and resources from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board via MyVote.WI.gov.